Let it go

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Joe paced back and forth in his sister's kitchen one Sunday before dinner.  His sister Carol recognized the worried look on his face and called him over to where she stood next to the sink. 

"Hey Joe, can you hold on to this for me?"  She handed him a can of vegetable scraps.

Joe took the can and walked outside where he threw the scraps in the compost bin before returning to the kitchen.

"Why did you toss my scraps?  I asked you to hold on to them."

"Why would you ask me to hold onto garbage?" Joe asked.

"I thought you liked holding on to useless things," she replied.

"What do you mean?"

"You've been wearing a path on my kitchen floor, preoccupied with whatever is on your mind.  I doubt if you heard anything I said to you before now, yet you instinctively tossed the compost scraps without giving them a second thought."

He had to admit that Carol was right.  "But is there a point to this?" he asked.

Carol offered him a simple suggestion:  "Why don't you apply that same logic to whatever is bothering you?  If it's something you can change, change it.  If it's something you can't change, let it go."

Holding on to things that are eating at you is not just unproductive; it's a recipe for disaster.  In other words, throw out those scraps before they start to smell.

Carol's advice is golden.  Her words are especially appropriate for managers who have so little confidence in their staffs that it affects their job performance. 

Are you a micromanager?  A second-guesser?  If you are, you need to stop.  This is not a healthy way to manage people - for yourself or other employees.

As a manager, you need to look at your need to control.  Are you trying to get your employees to do things the way you do them because you think your way is superior?  This is a dangerous mindset for a manager because you are not looking ahead to the outcome but are getting caught up in controlling the process, according to Johanna Rothman on the Rothman Consulting website.  Is that what you really want to do?  Is it productive?

Many managers micromanage as a form of quality control.  These managers often find themselves working unbelievably long hours in order to redo the work of others.  If you're always swamped with work and you just can't seem to let others take a piece of the responsibility pie - then you've got a problem.

Not trusting your staff is essentially the same as not trusting yourself to manage them effectively.

Learning to trust your staff and allowing them to make mistakes is part of being a mature manager.  Many managers believe that it is a virtue to make every decision along the way - to control every detail of, well, everything.  But the truth is, a good manager helps make sure that her direct reports keep the flow of work going.  A good manager is more interested in the growth of his direct reports and the eventual positive and freeing workplace that can be developed when they are operating as autonomously as possible.

To improve your ability to manage, you will need to let go of your need to control quality at every stop.  This does not mean you sacrifice quality.  It simply means you are not the quality control traffic cop.  You are a manager, and that means you assist people in being able to do their jobs.  You don't block their ability to do it by second guessing, redoing work and spending long hours in the office.  You give them the tools to do their jobs correctly and with the best possible results.

Letting go is not always simple.  But don't let worrying about what you might lose when you let go change your resolve.  Consider the lesson this little fellow learned.  

A little boy was playing one day with a very valuable vase.  When he put his hand inside it and couldn't pull it back out, he called for his mother. His mother tried gently to slide his hand free, but it remained stuck.

She was ready to break the vase when she said, "Ok, let's try one more time.  Open your hand and hold your fingers straight out and then pull."

"Oh, no, mommy!" the boy cried.  "If I do that I'll drop my quarter!"

Mackay's Moral:  Worry is wasting today's time to clutter up tomorrow's opportunities with yesterday's troubles.

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