During Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to escort the Israeli Scouts (Tzofim) on their summer camp. This was my daughter's first sleep away camp experience and I was not about to miss any of it. I still remember the strange looks of other moms questioning my sanity and why I would put myself (voluntarily) on a bus with 40 loud kids for a 9 hour drive to Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA. But for me, it was all about being there for my daughter and (subconsciously)protecting her from any harm that might happen to her while she was away from the safety of home.
Remember the movie "Finding Nemo"? Remember how Marlon, Nemo’s father, wouldn't let him out into the world out of fear? Well, I was the Marlon in this scenario.
To make a long story short, I had noticed that my daughter was making efforts to become friends with a few girls that didn't seem to want her friendship. While my role as a chaperone parent was very clear to me which was "only help when you are asked to" and "leave it all to the counselors", I still couldn't resist whispering in my daughter's ear that maybe she should be re-directing her efforts in getting to know other girls who might have been nicer to her.
Day two, I kept on noticing that even though my daughter seemed to enjoy herself, she was, at times, by herself observing the others. Again, I felt I should be advising her (and then later advising the counselors) that she needed to become more part of the group. It didn't take too long for the other kids to notice that there was an overprotective mother there who simply couldn’t let go.
The next day, I was called for a serious conversation by my 10 year old daughter, who gave me a tough but much needed lesson. She said.. "Mom, I know you are trying to help me but you are being over-protective and I am really fine". In other words…it was none of my business. With tears falling down my face…I kissed her and told her that she was right and that I would stay out of her way. The following day, I kept myself busy with hiking at beautiful Camp Ramah and finished reading a great book. When I decided to go and "check on the kids", I saw my daughter happy with her team and surrounded by friends.
Seeing your child hurting is a painful experience for any parent. Seeing your project at work (your "baby") getting off track is painful too. At times, we are under the false impression that we have the power to fix the world. While "Tikun Olam" is precisely about fixing the world, we need to understand that there are situations where letting go is the right thing to do. As managers, how many times are our employees are asking us to solve a problem, and we feel that only our intervention will get the problem solved? When we do that on a regular basis, we interfere with our employees’ ability to take care of business themselves. We increase their dependency on us, leading to a vicious cycle where we are always needed.
What I learned in Camp Ramah was that "Growing pains" are not only physical but emotional too. Sometimes, the real growth and development comes from experiencing a challenge and overcoming it. People are by far better off solving their own problems and sticking to these solutions long term. Even when our guidance is being asked, sometimes a "it’s not my business – it’s yours" mindset is the right guidance for a team.
So, who do you need to tell (kindly, of course) to mind their business?