Letting Go to Gain Control
One of my scariest moments happened early in my construction career. I was high atop a wooden beam structure. The task was simple. Drill a hole down through a large horizontal beam to secure it to the supporting post below.
It required a powerful two-handle drill with a sizeable auger bit.
Having double-checked the location, I stabilized my stance on the beam and hit the “on” button. Slowly the heavy drill began its descent.
Then it happened. About halfway through, the bit hit a knot. So instead of turning into the wood, the powerful drill began twirling me around. So yup, there I was, twenty-five feet above the ground, desperately hanging on with legs wildly dangling while doing a not so graceful aerial twirl.
Talk about a pivotal moment!
Moments of high uncertainty often carry a flash of insight. I immediately knew I had to hit the “off” button to halt the process.
It meant letting go of the handle with one hand while groping for the “stop” button with the other. Of course, the letting go had to be timed perfectly so my feet would land back on the beam.
The margin for error was zero-to-none.
Had it not been so dangerous, it might have made a viral “massive fail” video hit on YouTube.
I made it ok. That’s one reason I’m here writing you today. Although, admittedly, it took a while for the adrenaline shakes to subside.
My leadership lesson from that moment is that letting go is hard in times of high uncertainty. Even if it means letting go with one hand to secure a safer future with the other.
Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It’s the surprise outcome of letting go.
– James Arthur Ray
There’s an old story of how tribal hunters capture monkeys in the wild.
All it requires is a banana strategically placed in a hollowed-out hole of a tree.
Once the monkey happens upon the tempting treat, they reach their hand into the hole to grab the banana.
However, when it tries to pull the banana out, it can’t. The hand grasping the banana is now too large for the hole.
So despite trying different angles and methods, it becomes impossible to pull out without letting go of the banana.
The monkey is so fixated on the banana that it doesn’t perceive the more significant threat.
Even as the trappers draw near, the monkey will refuse to let go of the banana.
Ultimately it leads to their capture.
Fixation on a short-term reward leads to an irreversible long-term consequence.
What do monkeys refuse to let go of? Bananas.
What do some leaders refuse to let go of? Control.
As a leader in times of uncertainty, you’re not alone in feeling anxious about jeopardizing what you already have.
Losing control within your business or your team is a legitimate concern.
It seems counterintuitive, but the more you give, the more you gain.
On the flip side, if you do not let go, share leadership, and delegate at some point, chances are you’ll lose control of the situation regardless.
Got any “stop” buttons you need to hit?
Any bananas you need to release?
Until next time.