November 2011

In this season of giving thanks for what we cherish, it’s equally important to understand what and how to “let go”. And letting go covers a lot of ground – whether it’s ego, work stress, being perfect, a past mistake, solving all problems, a miss-guided sense of responsibility, duty, or need to control. I’m becoming more deeply aware of how difficult and painful letting go can be from both a personal and professional level. How easy is it for you to actually recognize and then act on those areas that you need to “let go” of?

On Letting Go...

We must learn to let go as easily as we grasp or we will find our hands full and our minds empty.
-Leo Buscaglia

It’s a great quote to illustrate the paradox of letting go. As we learn to let go, we create space for more. It’s at the heart of my work with leaders. In order to become more effective, there must include a shift to let go of habits, ideas or behaviors that are limiting. Sometimes it happens almost naturally, and other times it’s a direct focus around the overall coaching goal.

Most importantly, learning to let go is not about giving in or giving up, or defeat. Rather, it’s creating an open mind with confidence for the future. It’s about learning, experiencing and growing. It’s certainly about being thankful for the experiences of the past, but it is also about having the courage to accept change, and to clear the path to allow for continued growth. Letting go doesn’t imply a lack of care, but rather a new wisdom in flexibility and expansion.

For example, I’ve been working recently with two executives, each with different goals in very different work environments. Both of them are committed to achieving their professional goals. And both have discovered what they need to let go of in order to succeed. It was a surprise to both, because they thought the coaching goals we were working toward were an “add-on” to what they are already doing. What I love about this work are the moments when I see leaders start to relax with the realization that what they were holding on to may be exactly what they need to let go of and it’s often a big relief. That’s when the real exciting work begins.

One of these leaders is a functional expert in his area, and has allowed himself to become the “go to” person for solving all the team problems, both individually and collectively. He was so entangled in the day-to-day issues, that he ran the risk of physical and emotional exhaustion, leaving little time and energy to lead the team effectively.

The other leader desperately wants to become an inspiring executive, promoting important change and building a high performing, motivated team. Yet she spends most of her time controlling, problem solving and inserting herself in meetings and activities at every level. Releasing over-responsibility and the need to control has become the central coaching theme with this leader.

If you’re wondering what may be important to “let go” of… see if any of these statements sound familiar:

  • I must solve every problem that comes my way.
  • I am the one to best solve these problems, and it will save time if I just do it myself.
  • If I don't solve these problems, I may not be valued as highly.
  • I need to fix all of these things perfectly and as soon as possible to make it easier for my people.
  • My people don't always know what to do and they need me to tell them.
  • I need to keep a close check on everything they are doing. If they fail, it will reflect badly on me.
  • If I stop trying to fix and change them, they will no longer need me.
  • I'd rather sacrifice myself than have them blame me later for not helping them.
  • It's my responsibility as the leader to know the answers.

If some of those statements sound like you, try this simple exercise. Ask yourself “What do I need to let go of?” Simply list those habits, and behaviors that slow you down and get in the way of you being the best you can be. Then ask “How do I benefit from continuing to hold on?” If you’re struggling with identifying a benefit (there must be something or you wouldn't be holding on to it) ask yourself, “What do I gain by keeping hold of this?” Just listing what you need to let go of will raise your level of awareness and you’ll naturally begin to loosen your grip.

It's a great time of year to think about what you might like to leave behind in 2011 to make 2012 the best year ever!

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. -LaoTzu



Struggling with leadership effectiveness or business change?

If you’re looking to enhance your leadership effectiveness and would like some help to get the results you’re looking to achieve, I’d love to talk with you. I help leaders to successfully navigate the challenges of making change to achieve the results they want. Visit my website for details, free resources and to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your needs.



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