Situation 43: asking for approval

Femsy wants to organize a two days teambuilding meeting with her team. She asks Boss to approve her request. Due to budget pressures Boss rejects.

(Click on the pictures to see them in full size)

A great leader:

  • Is focused on doing value-add activities that enhance the capabilities of her people and delivers superior performance for the organization;
  • Is clear about the rationale for people development activities and the return on investment;
  • Manages her budget wisely so that she can enhance the effectiveness of her team and deliver on all her commitments within budgetary constraints
  • Demonstrates her trustworthiness in handling financial matters.

How to best handle the situation:

It is important to determine the value to the organisation of running a team building event – it is not sufficient that you will increase the morale and goodwill of your team since these effects are often short-lived after such an event. What problem are you trying to solve? What do you hope to achieve? What will be the benefits to the individuals, your function and the organisation? How can you measure the success of such an event?

Once you have prepared your ‘business case’, prepare your arguments to present to your line manager (or the person who needs to give approval). Give some thought to your line manager’s priorities; how well does your initiative help him/her achieve these? What is he interested/passionate about? What are his/her concerns; how will this activity alleviate these? If your initiative will not touch any of his/her needs, it is unlikely that you will persuade him/her to approve your plan.

During the discussion with your line manager, calmly tell him about your plan, what it will deliver etc. (as per your rehearsal). If despite your well-reasoned arguments, your line manager refuses your request, try to negotiate an alternative such as; slimming down the activity to consume less time and budget, splitting the development over time – e.g. ½ day sessions, running the event at a later date when the conditions will be more suitable etc. Do not become petulant and point out that other people have run similar events, this will not help your cause or put you in a good standing with your colleagues.

Learning suggestions:

  • Teambuilding activities are more successful if they are built around a real work issue; for example how to deal with the people issues in a change project, figuring out how to get key stakeholders on board with the work of the team, how to effectively roll out a new process, determining the team’s raison d’etre and modus operandi
  • Start by determining what work the team needs to get done and how it can best achieve this. Undoubtedly, the team will need to meet during the course of its work and you can use these meetings to build the team process.
  • Pay attention to the team dynamics to understand the norms observed, patterns of behaviour, undesirable traits etc. Take time to review how the team operates with the team and share your observations. This can help the team to become more aware of its strengths and vulnerabilities and improve its working. (You might want to enlist the help of an external facilitator since it is hard to be a team leader and facilitator/coach simultaneously.)
  • Be creative in finding ways to build the team spirit; inject a social element into meetings (start with checking in with each person, have coffee and cakes, or lunch/dinner), hold informal get-togethers so that people can get to know each other outside work.
  • Practise and hone your coaching skills so that you can give specific, quality feedback to people on your team in a timely way that shows what you value and areas where they can improve. Invest time in developing your direct reports.


  • “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” is an adage that reminds us that sometimes it is better to trust your instincts and judgment and take risks rather than seek the approval of someone else before taking action. Do you dare to take a risk on something that you truly believe in even if it puts you out on a limb?

 Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

Find more on our website


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s