Control: it’s a tricky balancing act, isn’t it? As a parent, I’m aware that when I’m with my grown-up children, I sometimes have to bite my tongue over all kinds of things they say and do, because it wouldn’t be fair for me to interfere. But every so often, I slip back into default “Mummy mode” and texts things like, “Don’t forget to send back that form I emailed you,” and say things like, “Did you remember to put sunscreen on?” I tell myself that these things I say are for their own good, and because I love and care for them, and of course that is the case. But is there more to it? If I’m honest, there’s a teeny-weeny bit of control-freakery there, lurking in the recesses of parenting days of old, when it was essential that I was in control of what they did, because they couldn’t do things for themselves. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of that control; it’s learnt behaviour and maybe I think that if I lose it, I’ll lose them.
Good parenting is very similar to good management. You have a team. You bring them together. You nurture them, mentor them, instruct them, reprimand them occasionally if necessary, encourage them and grow them to the point where you trust them to be self-sufficient, creative, resourceful, co-operative, happy individuals, who know their own minds and can make balanced, sensible decisions independently. At this point, you can let go: or can you?
Effective parenting, and management, is about trust. It’s trusting yourself enough to believe that your nurturing has been enough for you to let go and see your team stand on its own two feet. It’s also about trusting your team to have taken on board your nurturing so that they can make appropriate decisions and take effective action. Every child, like every team, is different, and so the nurturing you do will be different. The level of support you give will be different, but eventually you have to trust enough to let go.
Now for the advantages of parenting/management. Given your quality input, the great thing is that the well brought-up team will teach you things you never knew, both during their learning journey, and beyond. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn too! They will develop further in their own right, with your strong support in place, and build on their own knowledge. You will have a team to depend on and to be proud of. This is where you do two things: give yourself a pat on the back for your quality of leadership, both in the early days and whenever it’s still needed, and be a little bit humble; your team may now develop expertise which is beyond yours. Take their advice when you need to, together with a sigh of relief: you don’t have to know everything any more!