This may come as a surprise, but you cannot control everything.
I spend a lot of time each day desperately trying to remember that fact.
weakness aside, a lot of stuff happens in a work day when you're the
boss; a million little decisions need to be made, and you make them,
sometimes aware of it, and sometimes not. Things are bound to irritate
you. Over time, they may, in fact, fill you with wrath.
than turn into a large green copyrighted character with anger
management issues, you need to look at something no one ever really
discussed with me about management: when to let things go as opposed to
letting things drop.
Now, semantically, that sort of
sounds the same. "Let it go" and "Drop it" both are things you tell a
dog to do who has absconded with your fine silver ladle. For purposes of
this article, we're not talking about a Great Dane and expensive
silverware, we're looking at the concepts of what your ego can allow to
pass over and through you, and what you know is important but is not as
important as other things that you can drop. In the first case, you're
letting things go that aren't as important, in the second case, you're
holding onto things so important that it's okay to let go of other
Letting things go, of the two, is
probably the easiest...when you're not emotionally engaged in the
problem. For example: a team you depend on changes the code you depend
on from them without telling you for the hundredth time. At this point,
you're pretty sure they aren't thinking outside their own box, and it's
probably pissing you off that you have to spend thirty minutes with the
team figuring out that is actually the problem (and not your teams'
recently checked in code), then another twenty minutes to an hour
waiting for the folks on their team to get back to their desks from
lunch or a meeting to discuss the issue, then another twenty or so
minutes proving the problem is on their end, followed by a hasty apology
and then code work on the part of both teams to resolve. Upon querying
those involved, this is not malicious. Steps put in place to minimize
this damage/time taken in this process is working. It's not legal to
You have to let it go.
you can think of other ways to optimize the solution, great, implement
them. But if you've done all you can, you cannot control
everything...its going to happen again. Take a deep breath. Find a nice
pillow. Scream into the pillow. Let it go.
allowing things to drop is so much harder is because you have more of an
illusion of control over the situation than you do in the "let it go"
situation. Pretend, a moment, that what you're managing are fine china
plates (I know, silverware, now plates, my brain is throwing a fancy
cocktail party and apparently I'm not invited), and you're juggling
those plates. Now imagine that a circumstance has occurred to throw in
another, larger, but even more precious plate into your juggling
routine--maybe your boss tells you this is "the highest priority!"; or
the front end servers have crashed and the team that normally manages
them isn't available, so your team is on point; or the freaking
president of the company has his car here to test out your service first
hand and your team needs to do the best possible job of their lives on
changing his oil and rotating his tires. Well, not his, but his car's.
didn't screw up. You were juggling what you were told to juggle.
There's a wiggling voice in the back of your head that says "maybe I can
juggle this one, too" while the reasonable voice is shrieking "let
something drop before you break EVERYTHING."There's this feeling that,
maybe, you can do this, too, when if you were advising a friend about
such things you'd be unloading plates from her hand faster than she
could grab them back from you because what she's suggesting is insane.
if you don't have someone to help you balance the load, you are, at
least figuratively, going to be dropping some things that, up until the
crisis, you thought important. This may break those things--their
deadlines will be missed, it will set the team back time as they
transition between that item and others, an opportunity to provide
information to get better or furhter sales might be lost--but a rational
person would look at all the plates in the air and pick the one that
you need to let go of, even if it might shatter, so you don't drop and
shatter everything else.
This is balance for your team,
of course; they have a finite amount they can work in a day or week.
But this is also balance for YOU. As a manager, you often feel important
because people treat you as an important person. But the reason you are
important is because you make the hard decisions and have to stand by
them. You make them with input from others (you'd be stupid not to), but
you do make those decisions. You choose which plate drops so the other
plates can keep being juggled safely.
This is very, very hard to do.
can cushion the landing of an item you let drop by communicating like a
crazy person, so that it comes as no surprise to all involved. You can
create contingencies for when to recover from the risks created by
dropping that item, and when you can pick it--or whatever it turns
But you still have to figuratively
have something in your hand that you open your fingers on and watch/hear
plummet to the floor.
Letting things go is about
recognizing that external forces over which you have little to no
control force your hand, and letting go of your emotional load related
to that issue can make you happier and more capable. Dropping things is
about recognizing that external forces over which you have little to not
control force your hand, but you have to pick which items you're
working on suffer because of that interruption...and then let go of the
emotional load related to the issue as it plummets so you can be happier
and more capable.
Once you recognize these are things
you will have to do--that you will disappoint someone (even and often
yourself), you no longer have two brutal things happening to you at any
time...you have two, brutal options to use to help make you and your
team more effective.