Whether in the leadership role or a parental role, letting go is hard. Whether delegating an important task to an employee, or releasing your adult child from your support, letting go is not easy. Here’s the reason: trust and control.
Many times over the years as a business leader I’ve had to experience the uncertainty and fear of letting go of the detailed management of big projects or of the handling of critical situations. But, over the years I learned how to delegate those important things to employees whom I had nurtured and learned to trust. I relinquished control to them, knowing that, while maybe not as exactly as I envisioned, the outcome would be good.
I recently had to let go of my adult child. After 22 years of nurturing and supporting my child, she was flying the coop; knowingly and willingly giving up the security of the financial support from her parents. As I deposited that last family payroll check into my daughter’s account, I wondered, how would she survive? How would she support herself? Would she be ok? How could she live without me?
As it turns out, she is doing just fine. She’s living on her own, financially supporting herself; making adult decisions about adult things, apparently well. The outcome has actually turned out better than I would have imagined. So then, why was it so hard for me to let go? Trust and control.
Although I had nurtured her to be independent and use good judgment, I didn’t trust that she would do those things. And because I didn’t trust her, I attempted, unsuccessfully, to control those things for her. It doesn’t work. She forced me into letting go, by letting go of me first.
Ah, once again the painter’s house is left unpainted. It was a painful, yet very powerful reminder of what I knew in business but failed to practice with my child: if I have done my job in nurturing the right behavior, then control over the outcome is not necessary. The outcome, while maybe not as I envisioned, will be as it should. I can trust that it will be good.
Of all men’s miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing. - Herodotus