Moving Forward By Stepping Back

August 27, 2014 by Rose Cook


Another milestone was reached in our house this week when my husband and I dropped our oldest son Cameron at the University of Pittsburgh for his freshman year. The ride out was filled with both anxiety and excitement, however the long ride home was kind of strange as the reality of leaving him behind hit me. We made the conscious decision not to hover once we got him moved in and after we got his bed made (doesn’t every mom insist on doing that?), we said our goodbyes. My son was anxious to get started on his college experience, set-up his room and get to know his roommate, and we wanted to give him the space to sort things out on his own. What an exciting time for him, I know he’s going to have a great four years during this stepping stone to his future.As a parent, I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering if my son is prepared for this next phase of his life. Did I teach him everything he needs to know about being on his own? Will he know what to do without his dad and I being there to guide him? Will he eat right and sleep enough? How did the last 18 years go so fast? I need more time! So after a few deep breaths to calm my panic attack I realized that in order for Cameron to move forward with his life and find success on his own, I need to step back and let him figure things out for himself. Easier said than done when it comes to our kids, but in my opinion, one of the most important lessons we can teach our children is independence.

Just as stepping back and letting go is sometimes difficult in parenting, it’s also difficult in Project Management. As PMs we often have our hands in everyone’s cookie jars  because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. Can you even imagine letting your team do their job and make decisions all by themselves? That’s almost like letting your child go off to college and not moving in the dorm room with them! Seriously though, as we’ve talked about in past newsletters, micro-managing your team is as detrimental to their professional growth as micro-managing your child is to their personal growth. All it accomplishes is having a bunch of people who can take direction just fine, but who can’t think for themselves, can’t problem solve and can’t make decisions. Personally I don’t see that as a recipe for success for my team or my children.
Project Managers shouldn’t be getting bogged down with the tasks that they have perfectly good people in place to handle. We should be focused on setting overall direction and helping the team understand the big picture.  As an example, Lynn and I have staff to manage financial matters and HR at FlexPro, both critical areas that require full-time resources. Why would we continue to meddle in these affairs when we certainly have plenty else to do! If as a PM you find yourself doing the work your team should be doing, you either don’t have enough to do, aren’t doing your job, or have the wrong team. It may be time to think long and hard about the answer and make necessary corrections. Sometimes you need to take that step back to see the big picture and make adjustments in order to move forward again.So as I step into the background to allow my son to begin this new journey, I’m reminded that as a good PM I also need to know when to step back and let my team forge their path to success. Things may not always go exactly as planned and the results desired may not always be the results achieved, but as long as we never stop learning from our mistakes we’ll always find our little victories.

Please share your stories with me.  Always love to hear them
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