Letting go - a necessary, but hard, skill to learn

BeanStalk Learning Ltd

My daughter is learning to drive. We agreed she had to have at least ten lessons with her instructor before we went out together so she could get comfortable with the mechanics of driving and the rules of the road.

I know how to drive; I've been doing it for nearly thirty years so to sit in the passenger seat with my daughter in control of the car was a big deal and probably one of the biggest challenges around managing myself I've had for a long time.

I knew I had to mainly keep quiet, encouraging her every now and then when her confidence dropped which sounds easy right?

Not for me! I had to work out how to 'let go' of control while fighting myself to keep hold of it!

So, before we go out in the car together, we make a promise to each other. I will only ask her to do something if it really needs to be done - like braking when the car in front doesn't indicate and we are getting really close to its back end for example. And she promises to stay calm and not discuss or debate when this happens. That's it, our only rule - clearly agreed.

While we are out, I might ask a few questions: usually "what's the speed limit along here?" or "what gear are you in?" but other than that I am mostly silent.

Sometimes I forget to breathe and internally I am wrestling myself to not be constantly telling her what she needs to do next, because if I did, it would take much longer for her to learn and build her confidence. As long as we are both safe, I have to stay quiet.

To see her progress over the past few months has been amazing and it's really reminded me of the challenges we face as leaders when we have people to look after.

Letting go of our control over tasks that need to be done is, I think, completely necessary yet one of the hardest skills to learn.

Being able to hand over control has so many benefits - it gives you more time to concentrate on your priorities in your role, it empowers your team to make their own decisions and ultimately develops your team's capability.

Despite all this, it's a struggle for many of us because of fear and/or experience. Fear because our team might not need us anymore; fear others might start to know more than you do; fear they won't do the task "your way". I'm sure you could add more.

To have the biggest impact you can as a leader, the internal battle has to happen and the fear, whatever it is, overcome. If we keep hold of everything, no-one will ever learn anything new or how to stand on their own two feet and you won't be able to grow yourself or the team.

I know the battle within myself will get less and less the more confident a driver my daughter becomes, and the reward will be her passing her test and being able to pick me up from parties for a change!