This is a transcript of Episode 016.. To listen to the Podcast or download resources, Click Here.

Hey Hey Hey!  Welcome to Episode 16 of!

In this Episode, we’re gonna talk about ‘forgiveness’ versus ‘permission’.

I don’t know whether it started with being the youngest in my family (the ‘baby’ of the bunch), my Dad always being my biggest cheerleader, or growing up in California, which was, at the time, the greatest state in the union.

It was likely a combination of all three.

But this whole ‘challenging the status quo’ thing has been my mantra…essentially forever.  AND- it has served me VERY well.

It also started VERY early.

At the age of six, I bought my first batch of “Rose-Scented Floral Bowls” from an outfit advertising in Specialty Salesman Magazine.

These were (as I look back now), very kitschy glass bowls, each containing a plastic rose.  There was a ‘fragrance capsule’ which you opened onto the felt underneath the rose.  Whenever, you took the top off the container- voila!  Rose scent filled the room.

Who knows- perhaps this is where Mike Kittredge got the idea for Yankee Candle!

Anyway- at the time, I just KNEW there was a market for these things.

My mom insisted I had ‘no common sense’ when I brought up the idea.  After all, I had to use every penny I had saved.

When the big box showed up on the porch, I was excited.  Interestingly, my Mom, who was NOT in favor of me getting these things in the first place, WAS willing to take them to their upcoming Square Dance and sell them for me.  She sold out.

I tripled my money in one week and bought the next batch.

Fast-forward to 1982.

I was in the Navy, aboard the nuclear submarine USS Ohio.  At the time, I was in charge of E-Division, and had been sending people home when they got their work done.  After all- we were getting ready to go on patrol, and these guys weren’t gonna see their families, terra firma, or the sun for the next three months!

Master Chief Anderson pulled me aside one afternoon.  He was pissed because I wasn’t getting his ‘permission’ to send people home.  He was [almost] yelling when he said, “If you don’t stop jumping the chain of command, your next Eval is gonna look like the bottom of my shoe.”

Sometime following that little ‘altercation’- I received the first 4.0 Eval of my Navy career.  And by the way- if you don’t know what “4.0” means, it means…perfect.

When I launched the Human Performance Enhancement initiative at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant, I stepped WAY outside of what most would ever consider doing in such a highly-regulated ‘command and control’ environment.  Beyond the greatest sustainable reduction in human error rate the industry had ever seen, I got a promotion…stock options…

I’ll forever fondly remember the site Vice President telling me, “You’re not like everyone else around here.  You’re different.”

That was the greatest compliment I received in 20 years in that industry.

And then there was the Nuclear Industry Human Performance conference in Wilmington, North Carolina.

I went there with an ATTITUDE.  I was sick and tired of hearing the same old stuff being said over and over and over.  I KNEW there was a better way to do things.

I got up there and truly RANTED about what was going on, challenging 150 people in the room to do something different- and then presented a DIFFERENT approach.

One of my co-presenters, at the time the President of GE Nuclear, heard what I had to say.  I was subsequently offered one heck of a job by General Electric.

I could go on and on, but what’s the point?

I’ve conducted my entire life with an underlying mantra.  When it comes to doing what I KNOW needs to be done- it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

And I’ve discovered- when you’re doing what you’re doing for the RIGHT reasons…not for personal gain or recognition, there is absolutely no better way to get things done.

It’s almost magical how powerful it is!

Chances are…in your position…you KNOW what will make things better- whether your focus is reliability, efficiency, productivity, or safety.


You can’t get permission.

You’re told, “It’s not in the budget.”

Or perhaps, my very favorite- “It’s up to the committee to decide.”

In my experience, committees RARELY decide anything that jumps outside of the “way things are normally done around here.”

And on top of that- they take FOREVER…

When faced with ANY roadblocks, I strongly suggest you take the advice of Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway (played by Clint Eastwood) in the movie “Heartbreak Ridge”-

“You improvise…you adapt…you overcome.”

This would be a great phrase to print out and post front-and-center in your work area- IMPROVISE. ADAPT. OVERCOME.

As a matter of fact, while recording this, I got the idea to provide you with a link so you can download an 8.5X11, 11X17, or full-size poster projecting this mantra.  You can download it for free using the link at the bottom of the webpage for this Podcast.

This is powerful stuff.  It’s a great reminder for you to have staring at you every day while you’re doing your work!

I’ve also included a link to the trailer for the Heartbreak Ridge movie.  Watch it.  Pay special attention when you get to the two-minute-five-second point.

As Denzel Washington said in his closing comments during his commencement address to Dillard University in 2017, “Don’t just aspire to make a living- aspire to make a difference.”

In his address to the graduates, Denzel reminds us of many other points related to what we’re talking about in this Podcast.  I highly recommend you watch the video using the link on the Podcast webpage.

I imagine that your current role makes you responsible for and committed to some type of performance improvement- whether as a practitioner or consultant, supervisor of a team, director of a department, or head of an entire enterprise.

This is likely the reason you’re listening right now.

Being in such a role can be exciting, exhilarating- a way to make a true difference.

It can also be as frustrating as herding cats!

I have yet to meet a performance improvement professional who’s just in it for the paycheck.

For us- it’s a PASSION…it’s who we are.

However, your insight about HOW to make things better, often crashes into frustration and disappointment- especially if you’re in a large bureaucratic organization, have a closed-minded boss, or are incessantly told- “there is no money.”

What are you to do?

Improvise.  Adapt.  Overcome.

When you KNOW it’s the right thing to do- do it.

Beware though…when doing so, you’re liable to piss some people off.

As Oliver Emberton put it, “The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important.”

During our period of achieving the 87.5% error-reduction success at the Vermont Yankee Plant, the Site Safety Manager was NOT a fan of mine.

This was interesting, because over 90% of the time someone gets hurt on the job, human error is involved.  “Her numbers”- the site safety numbers- were getting phenomenally better as well.

I don’t think about this often, but when I do, I’m still a bit puzzled.

My speculation is that I likely upset her because “Human Performance”, rather than “safety”, had taken center stage.  She was no longer getting the attention she’d been used to.

Well- I had done what I had done because I KNEW it was the right thing to do.  I wasn’t in it for the credit or recognition.  AND…I worked my butt of to make it happen.

Yes, my friend, it’s much easier…AND much more productive to beg for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.

This only works, however, when you’re doing what you’re doing for the right reasons.  Not for personal benefit, gain, or recognition.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

This is how to thrive in virtually ANY environment.

By the way- remember the story I told you about my altercation with Master Chief Anderson at the beginning of this Episode?  Well- I never got anything BUT 4.0 Evals through the rest of my Navy career.  In 1984, I was awarded “Sailor of the Year” for the Pacific Northwest.

And it wasn’t because I was special or particularly brilliant.

It’s because when I’ve KNOWN something was the right thing to do, I’ve always been willing to take a bit of risk to make it happen.

Most of the time there was no budget or overt permission.

I improvised. I adapted. I overcame.

Does this strategy [really] work?

When you’re doing right things for the right reasons- ABSOLUTELY.

So as we wrap up this episode, my challenge to you is this:

Pick something you KNOW needs to be done within your sphere of influence.  Perhaps where you’ve been stonewalled or turned down- either by a bureaucratic committee, a boss, or someone with a strong personality.

Then- make it happen!

Improvise however you must.

Adapt wherever you need to.

Overcome roadblocks by going around, over, or underneath.

When you do whatever it is you do for the right WIN-WIN reasons, NEVER for personal gain or at someone else’s expense…chances are awesome that, no ‘forgiveness’ will ever be needed or requested.

Disregarding the backlash from small thinkers and those stuck in the past, you’ll be celebrated in all the ways that matter.

And beyond any EXTERNAL accolades, you’ll know…as you rest your head each evening…that in your way, you are indeed doing your part to help make your world and my world…our WORLD…a better and safer place!

Be bold.

Be brilliant.

Be willing to take the risk.

Talk soon!

Tim Autrey, Founder/CEO


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