I’m Sorry

You’ve heard these words from one of your employees.

“I’m sorry.”

teddy-bearAnd it either made your heart sink or your heart race.

Because they either did something too fast, without your advance permission, screwed it up — and then asked your forgiveness.


They didn’t do something fast enough, well enough, or at all —  and then asked your forgiveness.

My very first boss, Jenny, once told me something that I remember 30 years later:

“I’d rather you ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

I was the kinda kid who liked to get stuff done. And I loved the latitude she gave me to screw up a bit, all in the name of progress.

When recruiting, you need to make a decision.

Do you look for people who get sh*t done? Who are okay breaking a little glass? And who bend the rules (NOT the ethical type, but your firm’s ridiculous outdated organizational policies)? All in the name of advancing your company… and your customers? Or instead, do you want to hire a rule-follower? The type who is ultra-methodical? Who measures twice, then cut once?

Look. There are situations where each one is called for. So make a conscious decision on your own need, and the needs of the particular role, before you start meeting with candidates. In my experience, asking for forgiveness or permission is hard-wired. It’s in our DNA. You can’t teach, train, or change it. So decide what’s needed before you interview or hire someone.

Then, have the same talk with them that Jenny had with me… Do you want them to ask for your forgiveness or permission?

Do this during their first few days, while onboarding them.

Speaking of onboarding, I just wrote about this in my weekly Forbes column. If you plan to hire even one more person in 2018, it’s worth five minutes. Helping your new hires merge into your organization is a great use of your time. Here’s how to Onboard.


Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

No Replies to "I'm Sorry"