Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
< Chapter 6:5 Chapter 6:7 >
It is never easy letting go of a project that you have put so much time and energy into. But in Las Vegas, as the weekend unfolded, I was able to see the team I was working with as they were set against the backdrop of the people who were truly exploding within the company, and as I stood in that position of being able to take all this information in, the true challenge came clear to me. There were no true leaders in the group.
To quote Dr Stephen Covey, “Leadership is not a position, it is a choice”. Anyone can wear the title. We’ve all seen it before. A manager, or CEO put into a place of authority because of “politics” or “meeting personal quotas”, but who lack the ability to lead. As I looked around the organization, I found myself in a place where I needed to make decision. The whole office had fully accepted me in my position as coach and had given me the respect that I had earned as a leader. And what was coming clear to me now was that they were looking mainly to me for direction. As a coach that is terrific, that is my role, and at the same time I was there to compliment their leadership structure, not become it. I felt that a very unhealthy co-dependent relationship was starting to be formed. So I needed to make a decision of the best way of letting go.
On one hand, there was my business and financial agreement with these people I had come to care so much about, and on the other was my word to these same people that I was going to do whatever it took to help them realize their full potential.
As I sat there watching these people I had come to care so much about I realized that the best way for me to help them reach their potential, was going to be letting go and giving them a dose of “tough love”. I was going to have to be very direct about what I saw and the way that it was impacting everyone that worked under them and their clients. I was going to have to challenge them to step up and become leaders, and then do what was going to be hardest. I was going to have to walk away from them, letting go of all I had worked for and allow someone else to assume that leadership role. This also would mean walking away from our agreement for me to coach them and in doing that, letting go of the financial arrangement.
Letting go was painful because I loved these people, and I wanted them to be successful in both their business and personal lives. I realized while working through my options that if I continued to be involved with them as a leader, they would not be forced to accept the role themselves. I had been speaking with the head of the region in his individual coaching about his need to “reinvent” himself. In his words he had become more “a part of the gang” than the business leader he needed to be, and I agreed. So I decided that during the next break in activities at the convention, that I would pull him aside and let him know that now was his time. As we talked, I revealed that I was going to create his opportunity to make this change in a very powerful way.
We spent the next couple of hours discussing my plan and motives. As we spoke, some things became clear about his own underlying fears and limiting beliefs. I love this man dearly and only share what he shared with me because I feel that so many of us do the same thing that he was doing without ever realizing it. Without being aware of what we are doing we end up hurting ourselves and the ones around us. He shared with me that he had chosen to “lead from the shadows”, which meant to him that he was trusting that his people were strong enough to be leaders on their own, so rather than guiding them he treated them more as equals. When they needed guidance with the understanding the finance business, he would do everything he could to help them, but otherwise he trusted them to become leaders themselves. I explained to him that helping them in understanding the financial end of the business was a great thing, and that what was missing was the biggest part of their business. They needed to learn how to be leaders in the truest sense of the word, and they had no one being an example for them.
My dear friends let me put it this way. Many of us “lead from the shadows” because we don’t want people to think we are egotistical, or arrogant, or we don’t want them to think that we believe that we are better than they are, and the reality of leading that way, is that we are scared. We fear being rejected, and even more we fear success. If you are “leading from the shadows”, the only place anyone will follow you, is into the dark.
Nelson Mandela used a quote from Marianne Williamson in his inaugural speech when he said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be so brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” This was a profound statement the first time I read it, and it continues to open my eyes again when I read it today.
So the plan for letting go was set in motion. As his coach, I worked with this person to get him ready to assume the role of leader. Let me explain what my definition of a leader is.
I have learned that one of the biggest challenges with people is clear communication. We all have different meanings we attach to things, and we automatically expect that everyone else’s definitions and interpretations must be the same as ours. If you want to kill a relationship or kill a business, continue to believe that way. If you want to be successful in business and in life, learn to find out what the other person’s definition is.
For the purpose of this story since I cannot explore what your definition is, I want to be clear as to what my definition of leadership is. When I look for a leader, I look for someone who leads by example, a person who shows up first, and leaves last. I look for the person who will only ask you to do something that they would do themselves. Someone who lives the role of being a leader not just when they have their suit on, or when they need to make a presentation. Someone who lives, breathes and exudes leadership through thought, words and actions. And to be honest, it is my belief that there are very few people who do this. Not because they don’t have the potential, but because of fear. Leadership comes from a place of caring, and truly getting yourself out of the way. Just as in Washington’s story, he was not a leader until he accepted that he had a higher purpose, and when he did… his true leadership came through. And just like many of us, Washington needed a “kick in the butt” to get him to see it.
This person and I discussed that my plan for letting go was to cut myself away quickly and harshly, and what he needed to do to step into the leadership position fully. What was going to happen, was that it was time for him to truly reinvent himself.
As we were heading to meet with the rest of the team and make arrangements for a “special” meeting after the convention presentation that night, he was constantly asking me what he should do “if”… I finally stopped turned to face him and said, “If you are going to be a true leader, you have to trust yourself. You will know what needs to happen. You will know how to handle it, you will be able to get them to understand, if you can’t… then you truly don’t have the ability, or deserve the responsibility to lead them.” He looked at me with a new determination in his eyes and we were off to the convention.
Later that night we assembled in his room. I had taken an hour or so to prepare myself for what I was about to do. I was going to be the “bad guy” in the sense of tearing these people up. At the same time, I had to make sure I was doing it in a way that was done within my own integrity. I learned long ago from Ken Blanchard, author of "The One Minute Manager", that when you “burn” someone, you always burn their action, not their character. I have adopted that belief and live by it each day of my life. I believe that we all will make mistakes, and need to be reprimanded from time to time. But ONLY reprimand the action, not the person. So I spent a good hour preparing myself for this meeting. Making sure what “action” of each person I was going to attack, and reminding myself of the strengths of their character.
I don’t want to digress and go into the whole process of what happened in the meeting here in these pages, because I have found that many people tend to take a lesson out of context not understanding the circumstances, or the motivation behind it. Then they will try to just use the strategy, and without the correct context either get no result or make the situation worse. So rather than only giving you the strategies without the training to use them, let me just say that the next 30 minutes was part of a well thought out, constructed lesson which ended with myself closing the dialogue abruptly and leaving the room. I set the tone that I was no longer to be looked to for support because their actions had been so far below the standards they had promised me, that I felt my investment of time with them was no longer an intelligent investment for me.
As time passed after returning from Las Vegas, I continued to monitor them from a distance and watched the progress that was made. And by all accounts, what I had intended to happen by letting go, happened. The head of the office has reinvented himself and given the people someone to follow. Some of the others I was working with have exploded, doing more business and making more money than they ever have in their lives, while those whose hearts weren’t truly in it have moved on to other pursuits. The new training programs that I helped design have been put into place and the office is consistently growing.
As a coach I feel proud, and at the same time sadness. I say that because when I would speak to these people later, they saw the results, but had not learned some important parts of the lesson. They seemed to miss the lesson of what we did to make it all come together. And for some of them, they shouldn’t see that, they should accept that their leadership has stepped up, accept that there has been a shift in focus and alignment which works, and they should follow it. But for others, there are lessons, that if they do not learned from their mistakes will be repeated.
What hurts the most from letting go, was I saw that they were growing, and because of my choice in how to get them to grow, I could, at least at that time, be involved in their growth. I was the one who made the decision about letting go and them stand on their own, pushing them out of the nest as it were. So I had to let them learn on their own. What also hurt was that these people I loved, only saw that I walked away from them. And again, when I took this action, I knew that I would anger some people, and also allow some of them to feel I was betraying them by leaving them to fend for themselves. Yet later, as I stood on the sidelines, I would see the looks from some of them who are now doing better. The looks that seemed to say, “We didn’t need you anyway”. I just smiled, and thought to myself, “You don’t know how much you needed what I did”.
What also hurt was that at a time in my life, when my finances still were not as healthy as I would have liked them to be. Things became even more strained because of my decision to work only with them. I’m not saying that to sound like a martyr for how I approached it all, but to drive home the point that sometimes, we have to sacrifice what we are looking at for ourselves in the short term, because what it can lead to, as you will find later, can be rewards of a totally different kind.
But one of the things that truly hurt the most, was that while talking to the reinvented leader, he was telling me about all of these great results they were getting, and made the comment, “It’s supposed to be the worst time of the year for this kind of business and we are kicking butt, I’m not sure why, but it just seems to keep rolling in”. And with that, my heart broke.
Did the student not learn the lesson intended? Was all that work, just a waste of everyone’s time? Because I believe that if we do not learn from our mistakes and successes, we will not truly grow. We need to understand what is working so we can more consistently apply it, and see what is not working, so we can leave what doesn’t work behind.
This was the one person who I thought, fully understood why I was letting go and doing everything that I was going to do, and what they needed to do on their part to pull it all together. And what’s crazy to me is… it worked, they got the result, and the one person who truly should understand the motivation, and should have learned from the process seems to have missed the lesson.
So in that situation my ego steps in, it wants to be recognized for the groundwork and direction changes that were orchestrated by me. I wanted to be recognized as the one who made it happen, and at the same time, I couldn’t. Because in gaining that recognition, I would strip away the lesson that was taught.
So I wonder how God feels, when he gently guides us to where we want to go, nudging us along the way, and when we get there, we don’t even recognize his handiwork. We celebrate, we accept the riches and the rewards, and so many times we forget to give thanks.
What is the lesson for the parent, the teacher, or the coach? We are taught to feel the joy of seeing the student arrive. We are taught that doing this and getting no reward is supposed to be reward in itself. In this type of situation, I can’t honestly say that as I was going through that part of my journey that I felt that way because I kept thinking, “this is my business”. I was so focused on how my guiding a person to these rewards is what I do for a living.
As time has passed, many of the students now have a better understanding of the lesson. Some of them came to me in tears of gratitude and also a little sadness explaining to me the lessons that they have learned. Our friendships have blossomed, and one of them, even though there was never a written contract between us, has kept his word and I on occasion received a check from him on his commissions earned.
Why do I include all of this in a book of my life’s journey? Because everywhere we look, there is something for us to learn. I grow everyday. And hopefully, through sharing this story about letting go, I gain my rewards. I realized that sometimes, when we do the right thing, we have to accept the joy in knowing that, financial rewards or not, recognition or not, we did the right thing. I have seen more growth in some of these people I was working with than I could have ever imagined, and as time has passed they have learned how to become better leaders and have touched the lives of many others. And even though by letting go I walked away from a great opportunity financially, as time has progressed those who understood my motivation and really grew from the experience have been some of my strongest referral sources.
I also got a lot of references as to my ability to truly guide my clients. For the period of time that I worked with them, and shortly after I set my plan of letting go into effect, everything that I laid out to happen in that company happened. It played out like a well-played chess game. Every move strategically placed, every action leading to the next, every conversation carefully built to guide these people to the outcome they wanted. And as a parent watching their child from a distance, I watched as they returned to a lot of their old patterns, gaining the insight from having had things go well before, and readjust themselves to grow stronger. It continues to be the ebb and flow of life.
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The Warrior Sage Chapter/SectionWho Is Willard Barth?Author's NotesPreface - Exploring Strength And WeaknessChapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-AwarenessChapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child DevelopmentChapter 2:1 The World Changed ForeverChapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle BeginsChapter 2:3 Losing FaithChapter 2:4 My Dark SecretChapter 2:5 Where Is The Love I Was Promised?Chapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol DependenceChapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood BehindChapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride EndsChapter 3:5 Living A Duality BeginsChapter 3:6 Out Of ControlChapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To InsanityChapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking BeginsChapter 3:9 Facing The MusicChapter 3:10 A New BeginningChapter 3:11 More Lessons To LearnChapter 4:1 The Final PartyChapter 4:2 A Moment Of ClarityChapter 4:3 My New Life BeginsChapter 4:4 Sober, Time To Face The WorldChapter 4:5 The First Year Of Sobriety Chapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year TwoChapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's BirthChapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice InsideChapter 5:3 The Empress HotelChapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life BeginsChapter 6:1 Finding My Way HomeChapter 6:2 Falling Into PlaceChapter 6:3 A New AwarenessChapter 6:4 Personal Finances and Personal DevelopmentChapter 6:5 The George Washington Story
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can GrowChapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
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