CONTROL IS MOST OFTEN A REACTION TO FEAR.
I recently read this somewhere, and it made me reflect on the last few weeks of my personal and professional life.
Personally, my family and I are in the midst of Potty Training. Some have said, “You know you’re potty training when you have a potty in the kitchen and candy in the bathroom.” Yep, that’s been us for the last 2 weeks! We tried the “potty-training in three days” method. In preparation, we threw away all the diapers in the house, replacing them with “big girl panties”, bought bags of “potty candy”, stickers and bouncey balls to incentivize action, and locked ourselves in the house for three days. We had a full-on “Potty Party”! Balloons, streamers, gifts, guests, the whole gamut. Sparing you a lot of details, I have to report that it worked! My daughter was accident-free by the third day. I was so impressed with her and proud of all of us.
The reason I’m writing about this is because it worked for 3-5 days, but since returning to school we’ve had a few setbacks. She’s now afraid of the potty and views the action as a timeout. I’ve been in constant “fix-it” mode trying to think of how to make her comfortable with the idea again. Anything from using supportive language, to a sticker/reward board, to role playing with her baby dolls. In my desperation for something to click, I realized that I might be trying too hard. Maybe now I just need to back off? With a guilty lump in my throat, do I dare say “Believe in my daughter”? I do believe and trust in her. She’s amazing in too many ways to count! So, why can’t I let go of it?
The answer: FEAR. For many of us, I think we fear failing as a parent. It’s the most important job we will ever have, so we can’t fail — it’s not an option. If we fail, what happens to them? How does that affect their life? If my daughter isn’t potty trained within a week of trying, did I fail as a parent? Of course not! I understand this when I step outside of myself, but it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, as they say. When I finally did take that objective look at what I was doing, I realized that I needed to stop trying to control the situation, or what I perceived as fixing the problem, and just trust that I did everything I could to set her up for success. Success will happen — eventually and in its own form!
Professionally, I’ve had similar experiences. We didn’t have Potty Parties in the office (thank goodness), but there have been several occasions where I realized I was trying to force a client into something they weren’t quite ready for. Most of my clients are nonprofit organizations, with whom I’m working to raise funds and awareness from corporate partners. At face value, this sounds simple enough. For those of us in the industry, it’s a bit more complicated. In order to build and execute corporate partnerships effectively, it’s suggested that the nonprofit organization:
- be current on all fundraising licenses and filings
- be willing to engage in commercial co-ventures, if participating in cause marketing efforts, and have the legal means to do so
- have a sophisticated internal operations structure that works cross-departmentally, without silos
- have a supportive governing and advisory board
- have a donor base that they are willing to leverage and/or activate
- have a clear branding, marketing and public relations strategy
As all consultants know, client goals are higher than ever now, and you are held accountable if you can’t meet those goals. Anyone that has worked with me knows that I’m tenacious and determined to do great work and surpass any goal put in front of me. However, there are occasions where I have found myself securing a corporate partnership for an organization that they then cannot execute and steward. There are many reasons for this, some of which I stipulated above. Retrospectively, an additional misstep could be attributed to me trying so hard to deliver on my scope of work, that I didn’t realize I was over-controlling the situation. Perhaps I was reacting to mine and my client’s fear that I would not reach the fundraising goal set forth.
Sometimes it is more beneficial to your clients to do everything you can to set them up for success, then step away. Help them position their brand properly, build an attractive prospect database, design pitch communications for them, even help them craft the proper outreach strategy. But, if they aren’t ready to pull the trigger — don’t pull it for them. Much like our children, sometimes clients don’t know if they are ready for the next step or not. It’s your job — as a parent or a consultant — to recognize their capabilities, prepare them for their next move and trust they can soar from there.
What would you stop controlling if you had no fear?
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