Last week, I packed my 10year old off on a 5day residential trip. As he staggered into school under the weight of his rucksack, I couldn’t help but think, “He will never manage without me to constantly nag him.” Conscious that I prefer to think for him rather than let him mess up, I spent the ‘no contact’ week wondering, had he changed his clothes, brushed his teeth, eaten/drunk properly, behaved himself, remembered his manners, got to the right place in time and more….
The week dragged passed and Friday afternoon came. Anxious parents stood waiting for the coach to arrive and, in due course, it did. One by one, smiling children jumped off the bus to run and give their parents a cuddle. Eventually, it was my turn. A slightly pale, but grinning, George, trotted towards me for a longer than normal bear hug- my eldest was home!
Over the weekend, we have heard more and more details of the week. Stories of hidden sweets being discovered on the dorm inspection, rescuing his teacher from certain death at the top of the crate tower, intentionally veering off the recommended route for an adventure through the underground tunnels, adapting to sleeping with a light on as his dormmate didn’t like the dark, abseiling from the top of the building and then going back up to talk his friend through it, orienteering with “bossy girls, who have no idea where they are going”…. The list is endless.
Yes, he brought more clean clothes home than I would I liked (he had changed his undies!) and his toothpaste tube looks pretty full. However, as I chatted to my maturing child, several thoughts occurred to me:
• Even though he may not have followed all my advice, he has taken responsibility for himself and his possessions and made choices within his boundaries which reflect his character and priorities. He has not only survived but thrived. If he had followed all advice, he would have felt less independent and empowered. His comment of, “Mum, doesn’t your mouth taste horrible if you don’t brush your teeth?” would suggest he is learning from his choices!
• He has recognised different people have different needs and a little bit of compromise means you can all get some sleep.
• He has learnt people have strengths, weaknesses and fears but if you help each other out you can move forward, and all feel proud of what you have achieved.
• When you are feeling lonely or out of place, spending time with a group of friends who can empathise helps.
• It is important to respect authority but, when dangling from a tree, sometimes leaders need a helping hand!
• Part of what he has experienced, I will never know, and if I want him to grow into a confident, independent adult, that’s ok.
My hope is that he remembers and builds on these life and leadership lessons as he develops and applies them to the work situation. The next time I see his shirt tail hanging out, I will try to hold my tongue and remember what’s important: a happy, confident, responsible and empowered child.
If we were to consider the effects of our leadership behaviour on our practice team, would we reach similar conclusions? Surely the aim is a happy, confident, responsible and empowered team? Micro- managing can only achieve a greater fear of mistakes, reduced creativity and an unhealthy dependency on authority. Rather, flexibility, adaptability, appropriate delegation of task and an accountable culture of learning from experience should be our aim. If we are to encourage, progress and retain our teams one area is recognising the unintentional effects of overcontrol….