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Earn the Right!

Imagine walking into a courtroom to listen to a case being tried. Bored with the way things are progressing, you offer your opinion to the judge, jury, and the rest of the courtroom. The case seems cut and dry to you. You don’t let anyone keep you from expressing your ideas. Raise your voice if anyone tries to interrupt you! Your ideas must be heard! (You’re going to look great in orange, by the way!) Disclaimer: Don’t really do this! You have not earned the right and it is wrong on a number of different levels!

That example may seem a little extreme, but it’s not too unlike how some people behave in the corporate world. When they enter an organization, they want to change things which have been proven to work without even trying them or learning why they have worked. By doing so, they send a message:

“Everything that has happened up until now is irrelevant, for I am here now.”

People who do this undermine their credibility, as well as their right to be heard. They can sound absurd to others as they express opinions (and many opinions at that!) in areas where they don’t know what they don’t know. In fact, some people want to speak out, change things, and influence others before they earn the right to be heard.

This “earning the right” is an important piece of advice which, in my opinion, does not get the coverage it deserves these days. Much has been said about how leaders need to listen to their teams and engage them. I wholeheartedly agree! Leaders need to be open, they need to empower, they need to admit when they are wrong, and they need to be servant leaders…yes, yes yes! But let’s stop the madness. Leadership should not switch roles with people who have not earned the right to lead. People also need to learn how to be led and how to follow a proven strategy. People need to have the discipline to support and execute someone else’s play versus checking out because they are not calling the shots.

I am not trying to be hard on new people. I am only being hard on people who are not curious about finding out what has been proven to work, who are not willing to put forth the effort to discipline themselves, be coachable, and be open to feedback. I’m talking to those who insist on driving, regardless of their experience or their strengths.

Don’t red-light the hard stuff or the stuff you don’t want to do! Do them and learn! Earn the right!

Earning the right means:

  1. You kick butt at your current job.
  2. You are coachable.
  3. You continuously improve.
  4. You build mastery in something which has been proven to work.
  5. …And then you innovate!

I am not trying to shut the door on innovation or fresh ideas! Please hear me! People who have not earned the right should not drive the bus regardless of how badly they want to grab the wheel. Do you remember going to swimming lessons? How much did your teacher let you innovate? Thank them, because it kept you from drowning. Learn to swim first. Earn the right.

I can imagine telling my high school football coach, “You know, all this running has me out of breath and tired. I have some better ideas of how we should run practice for the benefit of all.” My coach would have said, “All right everyone, thanks to Mr. Cox here, everyone will stay after practice and run even more laps.”

What if an incoming Freshmen who had never played football before demanded to be the captain of the team. I would be tempted to say, “Well, I’m sorry, but you need to earn the right. Besides, your teammates elect you to that position, which is the type of thing you will learn once you have a little more experience and have actually been in a game or two.”

Try telling General George Patton, “Dude, I think we should do a different formation with those tanks, go from the left not the right, and only do so after we are all better rested.” And, by the way, see how that worked when Bill Murray tried that in the movie Stripes.

Experience can’t be downloaded from a flash drive.dreamstime_s_53641885

You often hear the word entitled (wanting stuff before earning the right) thrown around quite a bit these days. It is often used to describe Millennials (people born after 1980) who can often show up feeling that they are owed something. A bigger salary, a bigger office, more power, a more important sounding title—all of it! Hey, don’t get upset with me. Do a little research and try to get through any work on generational differences and not find the word “entitlement” applied to Millennials. Go ahead Google it! Okay, now that you are back, know this, I am not trying to put anyone down. I am not trying to go on some power trip, or diss you. I’m not singling you out. I care about you! It’s why I do what I do for a living.

There is something to this! There is a pattern here. We can blame it on Barney or the fact that for the last several years even 8th place teams receive trophies, but there is ample proof that this dynamic is in play. (By the way, some of the people who get ticked at Millennials also forget who raised them!)

And by the way I love Millennials. I raised one myself. They are the best educated and most tolerant generation in history. But it will be important for them to understand the significant role that experience (and earning the right) can play in a number of different categories. And it’s not just Millennials. It’s anybody who feels they deserve something without earning the right. We all need to be led before we can start to lead.

Again, hear what I am saying, I love the idea of a person stepping up early, leading by example, and earning the right to be a thought leader quickly. Go for it, Sister (or Dude!) Just don’t be in a hurry to throw out what has been proven to work under the guise of fresh, innovative, “cutting edge” thoughts you have. See things from the point of view of others. Know that it’s their plan which currently in place. It is a bad idea to change it before you have tried to do it, and you’ll undermine the relationship with the person whose job it is to get you to perform well.

Don’t skip steps. Don’t expect someone with experience and expertise, who has put in the work, and who cares about you, to just let you make up a new way. Be careful not to choose pleasing methods over pleasing results; It’s narcissistic. Be curious and seek wise counsel. Be coachable and ask for feedback often (not just in annual performance reviews). Find someone who can mentor you in the area of earning the right.

Get in the arena and dare greatly. Just don’t skip the arena part!

Earn the Right!

The Impact Foundry brings proven experience to businesses who desire meaningful growth. Our solutions are tailored to fit your business needs—always relevant, always fresh, always forged to suit your business’ strengths and challenges. The motto “Serviam” on our logo is Latin for “I will serve”. That’s how we do business. We serve our clients with integrity and a desire to shape, mold, and build strong leaders who impact their organizations. To discuss how we might be able to support your team, contact us at or 630-923-8604