Yet, for all the talk of kids ‘finding their own path’; we all have clear and specific goals for their future: college, marriage, family, prestigious white-collar job, happily ever after, etc. Until then, they will study, get good grades, and associate with people we approve of. They’ll go to church, avoid drugs and won’t make any bad choices. Ever.
Why the white-knuckle grip? One word: FEAR.
We fear our children having to endure the consequence of bad decisions. We want what’s best for them, and we’re scared to death they’ll fail. The thought of our kids being miserable scares the hell out of us, and fear is a great motivator. How do we know what’s best for them? Because we’ve made tons of mistakes, then suffered through the result. Hindsight gives us the ability to see every bad call and missed opportunity.
Children are the manifestation of their parents’ hopes and dreams. They represent our ultimate potential; the culmination of best intentions and lost greatness. We’ll do anything to get them that flawless, painless perfection we missed out on. Hence the white-knuckle grip. We become the behavior police, the speech police and even the thought police — all to prevent crash and burn.
Problem is — it never works.
I’m not advocating some hippie free-spirit parenting style; children need structure and restrictions. But never in the history of mankind has well-planned or even draconian parenting prevented bad choices or suffering. Ultimately, there’s little you can do to remove mistakes, pain, or consequences from your child’s life.
More to the point: What kind of person would your child become if they never knew pain and the fallout of bad decisions? What depth of character would they possess if immune from defeat, guilt, or regret? What kind of weak, shallow, ignorant, and pathetic individual would your child become?
Think of your own life: the pain and hard lessons you’ve been forced to learn over the years. Recall the times you’ve spread your wings, leapt from the cliff, only to fall headfirst into the ground. Those lessons are what built your character. That’s what makes you the person you are, and that’s what makes you great.
So we do the best we can. We teach our kids how to make good decisions, equipping them with a moral compass. When they fall, we pick them up and set them back on their path. But it’s their journey, and we must allow them to fail.
Same thing applies to your team and business. You want your staff to become the best they can be – so long as that means doing exactly what you want, and developing in your way, right?
Why? Another ‘F’ Word: FAILURE.
Failure hurts. We are so afraid of failure that we seek to control our subordinates in a similar way as we do our children. We’ve made our share of mistakes; and don’t want to suffer the consequences of an employee’s crash and burn. So we clip their wings — without even realizing it.
But your business can only grow if employees do. They must try, they must fail, and they must learn. Provide an environment that allows them to attempt flight. You’ve made errors in the past yet your business has survived, so give them a little rope and altitude. Your business will be better for it.
Think of it as flying a kite: You release the string gently, more and more, as the kite soars through the air. Keep allowing it to fly higher, while watching and encouraging along the way. When it starts to stall, gently reel the rope back in, until the kite regains composure and is ready to climb again.
How many employees are like kites, never given enough string to soar? The short string keeps it flying low, always within grasp; going where it should. Although the low altitude prevents the kite from crashing, it never reaches its full potential – a detriment to the kite as much to the flyer. The manager tells himself “the kite isn’t ready” to fly higher, fearing a fall. In this way the manager feels he’s just looking out for what’s best.
But it’s really about fear – and fear is no way to run a business, raise a family or even fly a kite.
Learn how to let go. You can’t prevent your employees from making mistakes, and sometimes you shouldn’t even try. After all, would you have been able to achieve your own success without stumbles? Would you still be the person you are today without those scars of character? Give them the same opportunity to grow and learn, and they just might surprise you. Your employees will take off and soar into the horizon – farther than you ever thought possible.
And so will your kids.
Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 25 years in the Powersports Industry, currently serving as Vice-President of EagleRider Motorcycles [www.eaglerider.com]. Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer, publisher, or clients. Chris’ goal is to see his sons (Gunnar 17, and Christian, 5) soar like eagles — with no strings attached.