This week, my sweet “starter child” Della will marry her high-school sweetheart, Nic, in the church where Brian and I were married nearly 33 years ago. These two “kids” are a perfect match, with complimentary gifts and talents and a powerful commitment to each other. I have every confidence that they can make their union joyful and lasting, and we are grateful that our girl found such a wonderful match.
This is a major milestone for me as a parent, too. My “baby” is starting her own family, which will require that she spend more time away from her immediate family. She’s already started her post-college career and she and Nic will spend energy developing their professional skills and pursuing new passions and friendships in their own communities. And someday, they might even expand their family which will take an incredible amount of time and energy, too.
As her first coach and mentor, I have to continually practice letting go. I’ve been doing this gradually throughout her life, and this next big step forward for her requires that I take one more gigantic step back from my desire to influence her life’s decisions and direction. I’ll stand ready to support her when she asks for advice or help, but I must let her and Nic forge their own path forward together.
I’ll admit this is hard for this high-control and sometimes worry-wart momma. But it is necessary to honor my adult-child’s world view, her hopes, fears, and dreams so that she can learn to lead her own family and we can stay in a healthy and long-term relationship, too. If I hold on too tight, she’ll have to cut ties to strike out on her own.
Letting go is required to develop the next generation of resilient, independent leaders – whether they are our children, or our team members. All too often, I witness firm leaders and partners who continue to exert control and influence over their firm’s direction, strategy, and tactics instead of letting their next-generation talent take the lead. They adopt a “father” or “mother-knows-best” approach to firm leadership and management, leaving their NextGen team members feeling like children at the family table. NextGen talent have a clear view of what isn’t working about their firms, and they want those things to change -- and change now. In many cases, they don’t have the platform to safely express their views and aren’t empowered to drive the change needed.
So, they’re leaving the “family table” in record numbers to find the freedom to build the work life they’re envisioning. And firm leaders experiencing this turnover are rationalizing it, saying it’s inevitable, happening everywhere and beyond their control.
I see it differently. NextGen talent wouldn’t be quitting if they felt they could build a firm they wanted to work for – maybe even own – and keep their relationship with us, too.
So, we have to accept that our time to decide and control is waning. We are called now to do hard things to support the success of our “offspring.” And the hardest is letting go.