In my first post about not holding on, I spoke about how trying to stick to the comfortable ways of doing things and not considering that there could be better alternatives will hold you back. In this post, I am going to talk instead about letting go of control of things you feel responsible for, or in charge of.
It’s nice to feel like the expert on something, like the report you produce each month belongs to you and that every question and answer around it should go through you, because you own it, you’re the best at it and nothing should change with it unless you’re asked first.
It’s nice to feel that way, but then you’re allowing yourself to forget that actually, that piece of work belongs to the company, and anyone who is asked to work on it can, they don’t need to run it through you first. Some people would think it was polite or good manners that someone else should ask you before they start using something you’ve been working on for so long, adapting or changing it, but that’s not entirely right.
Just because we’ve spent a lot of time working on something, developing it, growing it from a seed to the final product that you’re proud of producing, doesn’t mean it is yours. This is the mistake I make sometimes.
When we are proud of what our work and effort has produced, we also become protective of it, we identify it as part of ourselves and when it’s brought into question or someone wants to change it, we feel like it’s an attack on our own selves.
It’s good to care, but not so good to become possessive!
And this is where I come to the importance of not holding on. If your work is truly good and can stand alone, then you should be ready to let it go for someone else to take care of it in their own way.
Sometimes needs change and develop, and what you worked on doesn’t fulfil all those needs any more. I experienced that recently and it made me uncomfortable, I didn’t want to think that what I had been producing for the past year was sub standard. A colleague of mine was working on it today, trying to add in some new features, but wasn’t seeking my advice on how to get it added in. Eventually he did ask for my opinion and advice and I saw a solution almost immediately, and we had a good discussion about implementation and he went away happy with the changes we’d discussed.
I didn’t go away from that conversation totally happy, I went away wondering why he hadn’t asked me about it sooner, seeing as the solution was so obvious to me after all the time I had spent working on the report.
Why not go straight to the expert, why waste time?
When I got home and asked my wife these questions, she reminded me of a couple of things:
1: Better learning happens when we challenge ourselves.
2: Knowledge is better shared.
These are things I absolutely believe in, but I got so caught up in my ownership of these reports that I had forgotten them!
Although I am the current expert on these reports, I wasn’t always, I got there through trial and error and a lot of time working on them alone. Not constantly asking questions, not being shown where everything was, but by picking and changing and following sources. That’s how I made these reports better, and that’s what my colleague wanted to do as well.
The other thing was knowledge. I understood how the reports work because I had traced everything throughout them, I knew where the formulas fed into, how the data went in, what went where and what should be changed. I knew they could be better and how they could be better. I had a working idea of how to implement the changes they needed. The problem is, all of that is in my head, and no matter how long someone sat with me I don’t think I could explain all of it. So my colleague, by struggling with making these changes in the reports, was forcing himself to learn how they worked as well as I did. I could tell him bits here and there, but the only way the knowledge will stick is if he has to know it, and the only reason he would have to know it would be if he tried to make the improvements on his own without my help.
Was he being smart to wait so long to ask for my help? Stubborn? Sneaky perhaps? It doesn’t really matter. As an advocate of continuous improvement, I am going to continue maintaining and improving the reports I work on, and welcome the contributions of others to further that.
So I shall end with a toast! To Continuous Improvement and Better Ways of Working!