In the Wild

First of all, I’ve trademarked the phrase. But I want to talk to you a little bit about this concept that I think we are losing. ‘In the Wild’ is exactly what it sounds like but used to describe the state of humans instead of animals, which is the original use. For our purposes, let’s use it to describe the state of children and employees.

When I was growing up in the 70’s, I remember riding my big wheel down the sidewalk to the house of a school mate to ask her mom if she could come out and play. There are a lot of skills and decisions I had to use/make to accomplish this.

1. Decide who I was going to ask to play

2. Decide my mode of transportation

3. Knock on a door and talk to an adult

4. Accept rejection or acceptance with grace

Now as I mentioned, I was on a big wheel and I was not a small child growing up, so I had to be about 4-5 years old max when I was doing this. My mom didn’t come with me. Heck, I don’t even know if I asked her if I could leave or if I was in the backyard and came upon this idea all on my own. What I do know is that I was often in control of my own destiny as a child.

In Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, she takes the idea of helicopter parenting one step further to what she calls an ‘intensive mothering approach’. Basically this style of parenting is based on the idea that we are never doing enough for our kids or with our kids. Personally, I think we do way too much. And, I think what it is making nearly extinct is our children’s ability to develop skills they can only learn ‘In the Wild’!

Recently a friend of mine told me that her three school aged children got lost in their own subdivision. Do not judge! The truth is most of us drive our kids around everywhere and if they ended up a few streets over on foot in an area we drive them around in less, would they be able to find their way home? I’m the first to admit, I don’t think so! ‘In the Wild’ you find your way around. You investigate routes of getting places your parents don’t even know. You learn your surroundings. You figure out how to survive! All of these skills will be extremely helpful when our children grow up. We cannot allow them to miss this opportunity. Because one day they will be adults, working in an office, which leads me to our second group – employees.

If you are the manager or leader in some way in your office, I challenge you to leave the office for a while, for real. The best way to develop your team is to allow them to make decisions and use their skills ‘in the wild’. That means you are not overseeing. They are not checking in with you before making a decision, big or small. They are using what they know. They are:

1. Deciding which companies to work with.

2. Deciding which tactics to use.  

3. They are doing the negotiations.

4. Accepting their failures, learning from them and celebrating their successes – even if it’s just them patting themselves on the back.

Hopefully, they learned how to do this ‘in the wild’. But we’ve taken the wild away from them which actually means they are now learning less, growing less, becoming less. And we don’t want that for our kids or for the people we work with.

So this week, force your kids and your employees into the wild. Let your kids ride their bike somewhere nearby and be gone for 10 minutes. (Track them however you see fit.) Delegate a project to an employee that they will start and finish before you return from vacation. We owe this to them. Because we know how much living ‘in the wild’ has done for us.

That’s how single mom’s lean in!