Monday, November 07, 2016

The Bittersweet Nature of “Letting Go”

Years ago, when I worked for Steelcase, Inc., I had the privilege of attending a conference where the keynote speaker was General Normal Schwarzkopf, leader of the coalition forces in the 1990 Gulf War. That night he told many stories about how he came to understand what it meant to lead. The key takeaways from one of those stories have stayed with me and I reference them quite frequently in my leadership development programs. His message (paraphrased) was, “when in command take charge” and “do what’s right.” He was speaking specifically about how important it is for leaders to take action of some kind rather than be immobilized by self-doubt. When I reference his speech, I often add a third recommendation which is: “and let go”, i.e., have trust.

In March I will be entering the 12th year of my consulting practice and I find myself at yet another juncture. Leigh Rapaport, my partner in the business for the last two years is moving on to pursue an exciting career path at 834 Design. I’m so excited for her, and the 834 team, that  I can hardly stop myself from sending a personal email to everyone I know so I can share my pride in her. 

As the leader of my consulting practice, there is no greater joy than seeing someone who I have helped gain experience find success in their next career venture. I also joyfully admit how thrilled I am that the work she did on behalf of the practice has made my service offering more interesting and accessible to a much wider range of clients. Her creativity, spirit, and compassion nurtured me sufficiently so that I found the courage to try a wide range of new approaches and ventures. I gave her license to take command of the marketing and communications part of my business and, in so doing, she not only took charge but she also always did what was right. She was and remains the personification of integrity. 

But as Leigh’s mom,  I find myself struggling to come to terms with letting go. There are no more daily coffee klatches or lunch breaks with my best friend. There is a hole in my heart when I realize that the day’s joys and sorrows are experienced in the quiet space of my office (and my head and occasionally by talking to myself out loud). There’s no immediate feedback, support, or opportunity to laugh about some of the hysterically funny things I come across in the course of my work. 

However, in my personal and professional experiences, I have come to know that grieving the loss of life’s critical passages is necessary before being able to let go. So I will take charge, do what’s right and I will let myself mourn the loss and be ecstatic about Leigh’s next (and fully deserved) opportunity. Many of my clients have heard me preach the important of thinking in “both/and” vs. “either/or” terms. I’m going to follow my own advice.

The destabilization that comes with change doesn’t need to result in the destabilization of what we know to be true.  I trust that Leigh will remain my best friend. I trust that the close relationship we built together over the past two years (and throughout her lifetime) will allow us both let go of this moment in time gracefully. The great thing is, neither of us know what the next passage will bring. Isn’t that awesome?!

Posted by webcontempo at 12:00 PM

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