Pre-approval: What is it and why should you do it?

In: BlogDate: Jul 15, 2016By: Claire Lickman

Last month, I asked you to think of a time in the past when you worked at your best, and what characterised it – was it a time you were especially well paid, was communication from management very strong, were you challenged, and/or was it a time when you were trusted and given freedom to do your job your way?

The quiz has so far had 137 responses – and the results are below:

Just 8 people said it was a time that they were especially well paid, 20 said it was a time with good communication from management, 39 said it was a time that they were challenged, and 70 responses said it was a time they were trusted and given freedom to do the job the way they wanted.

This online survey has reflected Henry’s own experiences too – over the years he has asked this same question to thousands of people at conferences, talks and events, and has received similar responses.

What makes people unhappy is being micro-managed and going through layers of approval. Great managers get out of the way and enable their staff to implement their own solutions.

So how do you allow this to happen in your workplace?

With pre-approval, you approve someone’s solution or an idea before they come up with it. You need to agree the guidelines, the budget, who needs to be consulted (if anyone is going to be affected by it), but you ‘pre-approve’ the implementation – whatever idea they come up with, is what will happen.

This has several great benefits for your organisation:

  1. Your staff members own the idea and are already fully behind it – there is no need to try and persuade people about the benefits or explain why they should do it.
  2. Your staff are are fully invested in making the idea work, so it’s more likely to succeed. This job ownerships gives them take pride in their work, and care about its success.
  3. It gives your staff the freedom to innovate and create change. Your staff ‘on the ground’ know best what issues they face when doing their job, and know how it could be made better and their lives made easier. Allowing them to fix these problems themselves encourages innovation and genuine, continual improvement.
  4. It gives your staff members the chance to ‘prove themselves’ – let them show you what they can do. They may well surprise you!

Henry says: “I received an email from one of our associates, thanking me for three changes which made it easier for her to do her job and help the customer. I was struck by two things. First, I didn’t know the changes had happened. They hadn’t come across my desk for approval.

“But second, I realised that, if they had come across my desk, I would have rejected two of them. I thought up many of the methods we use and I, like many managers, am a natural barrier to changing them. I realised that, to avoid blocking innovation, the best way was to make sure new ideas did not have to be approved by me.”

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Would have liked to have more pratical excercises

Trusted Customer23 days ago

Claire Lickman

Claire is Head of Marketing at Happy. She has worked at Happy since 2016, and is responsible for Happy's marketing strategy, website, social media and more. Claire first heard about Happy in 2012 when she attended a mix of IT and personal development courses. These courses were life-changing and she has been a fan of Happy ever since. She has a personal blog at

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