By the time this column publishes and reaches your inbox I will be knee deep in moving boxes, huffing and puffing as our family navigates the halls, stairways and confined spaces of a college dorm.
It’s freshman move-in day for us. A day my family both dreaded and couldn’t wait to arrive.
The dread stems from the anxiety for us and of our kiddo, Robert, leaving for school and hoping he has a successful college experience. The “couldn’t wait” stems from the fact that our kiddo isn’t much of a kiddo anymore and he needs to grow and move on – fly birdie fly, so to speak.
I fully admit, I’m a helicopter, lawnmower, whatever-you-want-to-call-it parent. I’ve tried to allow him to make his own mistakes – and he has – but I’ve also hovered way too much and cleared the path for him too many times to count. He knows it too. He yearns to be on his own, although he’s anxious too.
Robert moving several hours away from us will prevent any hovering. He needs to do college independently and the distance is going to be my guide to removing my day-to-day attention while simultaneously torturing me inside.
But isn’t that like our workplaces? We have to be able to allow our employees to find their own way too. Patience in allowing that to happen can be painful for us. But hovering never allows someone to succeed (or fail) on their own. And the learning experience is forever lost when we do hover.
I tell my staff that I will be their biggest fan and their biggest pain-in-the-butt every day. I want to help them succeed, but I also know that to do that I have to take a step back and let them experiment on their own. No one wants a micro-manager.
I’ll admit, striking that balance is a struggle. I like to fix things and I know my weaknesses in that process: I’ll offer advice when none was asked of me. I’ll talk when I should be listening.
So, taking that figurative step back at work will continue to be a challenge for me. And with my new empty nest on the homestead, I’ll have a lot more time for that introspection now, whether I like it or not.