Taking Flight by Letting Go

August 31, 2016 by FlexPro

Even though I still can’t believe it, my husband and I dropped our youngest son at college last weekend. As Evan begins his freshman year at Villanova University and embarks on this new adventure, I can’t help but worry  (just like I did when we dropped his older brother at Pitt. two years ago) that I didn’t prepare him as well as I should have. And although the drive home, minus my son and all of his worldly possessions, was considerably shorter than it was with his brother, it still gave me plenty of time to reflect back on his last eighteen years. I think it was exactly the same conversation I had with myself when his brother started his freshman year. Does he have everything he needs? Can he manage on his own? Did I do enough to prepare him for this new journey?

Well heck, I don’t know! What I do know is that this is a whole new beginning for him and what he’s learned thus far in his life is only a fraction of what’s still to come. And more importantly, so much of what he encounters in the next four years of college will be without his dad and I there to guide his every decision. There’s no more “back to school” night for us to meet his teachers. No more parent/teacher conferences to see his progress or emails to discuss an issue. This is college and it’s a whole new ballgame! While I know he’s up for the challenge and will thrive in this new environment, I’m sure it won’t be without its challenges. There will be times that he makes the wrong decision and there will be times that the end result isn’t the success he expected. Thank goodness! Part of becoming a well rounded, well adjusted and productive adult is the ability to learn from your mistakes. Little failures make for huge successes when we can accept and acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. So as my son begins his time away from his dad and I, he also begins to have to figure things out for himself. Whether it’s laundry, managing his finances or getting to class on time – it’s all on him now and there will be no success for him if his parents continue to manage his life!

I talked about this two years ago, and now with my youngest off to college it brought it all back to mind again. Just as we need to let our children find their wings and fly, as project managers we need to let our team find their own way as well. It’s our job to give them the goal, but not necessarily tell them the way to get there. As we all know, there are many different ways to solve a problem and each member of the team can bring a different perspective on how achieve that. I said it so well before, it’s worth repeating, 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 everything  because we think it’s what we’re supposed to do, however micro-managing our team is as detrimental to their professional growth as micro-managing our children is to their personal growth. All it accomplishes is having a group of people who can take direction well, but 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 lose focus with the tasks that they have team members in place to handle. Instead we should be setting the overall direction and helping the team understand the goals. If as a PM you find yourself doing the work your team should be doing, you either aren’t doing your job, or have the wrong team. Sometimes you need to take a step back to get a better perspective in order to move forward again.

So as I step back to allow my youngest 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.

Life is not a spectator sport and sometimes you’re going to get dirty. Don’t be afraid to jump in and give it the old “college try”. You might just learn something!

-Rose Cook, FlexPro CEO

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