Last month, we certified 20 people to teach “Considering Yourself a Mandated Supporter,” a training for educators on how to connect families to resources. The main idea behind the training is that protecting children doesn’t begin and end with reporting child abuse– we can also prevent child adversity by supporting families to get what they need.
When we developed this training last year, we held focus groups of educators to get their perspectives. We asked them what they needed to be able to support families.
Most of their answers didn’t surprise me:
- They said they needed time. There were never enough hours in the day, and the list of what they were expected to do was always growing.
- They said they needed to know how to find resources.
- They said they needed to know how to offer help in a way that didn’t feel judgmental or stigmatizing.
But there was another thing they said that struck me the most. I’ve thinking about it ever since.
They said they needed permission.
They needed to know that they were allowed to connect families to resources in their community. No one had told them they could.
That made me wonder how often we wait for permission– permission from others, or permission from ourselves – to do what we know is right.
I’ve noticed some people don’t give themselves permission to speak up in meetings because they assume everyone knows more than them, or that their idea has already been thought of. Some assume they don’t know enough to make a meaningful contribution.
Some people don’t think they have the permission to share an idea because they don’t have a formal leadership title. They haven’t been endowed with authority.
Some people assume that someone else has got it handled – someone else is doing the thing that needs to be done.
Some people don’t give themselves permission to question the norm because they assume the norm was created for good reasons.
We are constantly waiting for other people to tell us it’s okay to do what we know is right.
We don’t have to. How many good ideas have never been heard because someone assumes their perspective isn’t valuable? How many things that seriously need changing have never been changed because we aren’t giving ourselves permission to think differently?
As a human being with unique experiences, you have a uniquely valuable perspective. You don’t need a title to lead. Your authority is that you care.
I’m not suggesting, of course, that we bulldoze our way through conversations, ignoring the viewpoints of others, and refuse to budge until we get our way. Not every idea is going to be good or possible. If we’re trying to work together to build something better, conversations need to be collaborations, not ego wars.
But asking a question or sharing an idea is not an attack. We need to start giving ourselves permission to think differently, to know we have something to offer, to imagine what’s possible, and to ask questions. It’ll take courage. Because daring to lead opens you up to criticism. You might get shot down. You might get told no. You might learn why the thing isn’t currently possible.
Or your perspective might just be the missing piece to moving something forward that benefits everyone. Your perspective might give others permission to think differently. The leader you’ve been waiting for might just be you.