"Let it go, let it go/Can't hold it back anymore/Let it go, let it go."

While these lyrics are probably more familiar to a seven-year-old than a 40-something executive, for Marty Flanagan, Vice President of both the tech-based fitness franchise MyFit18 and fastest-growing kids coding franchise Code Ninjas, these Frozen lyrics are a mantra to live by.

Many leaders follow the rule 'forgive but never forget,' but not Flanagan. He believes in the opposite -- forgive and forget. While it may be unconventional for most executives, Flanagan believes this leadership style is critical to fostering an environment where his team can focus on growth rather than their individual mistakes.

His practice takes a combination of understanding that making mistakes is a part of human nature, but also remembering that not dwelling too much on the mistake is how skills are developed and strengthened.

While those three words "let it go" may sound like a simple concept, it's a practiced leadership skill that takes intentional effort and understanding which, in the end, can force a leader to be more present.

The Benefits of Practicing 'Let It Go' 

Flanagan revealed to me that there have been many times during his professional journey where he has made a mistake -- one in particular that he spent hours dwelling on, only to find out that by lunchtime that his leaders had already forgotten. Today, Flanagan channels this same approach, implementing the style of "let it go" by keeping in mind these simple, yet effective, practices.

1. Leave it at the door.

It may sound like another cliché, but leaving problems at the door is actually an effective strategy to "let it go." Mistakes are nothing tangible to physically drop at the door but think about them as baggage. Baggage can be heavy and put a strain on the body -- similar to the effect of holding onto something, such as a mistake.

When a mistake is made, it's easy to hold onto it and carry it around, so Flanagan advises against it. That mistake is baggage, and not dropping it will keep leaders from focusing on the present.

2. Acknowledge different perspectives.

With many different personalities and voices on one team combined with the various communication platforms -- email, texting, video conference, etc. -- perspective is everything.

Leaders must acknowledge and understand that a team is made up of individuals with three key parts: intellect, emotion, and will. Recognize there will be times when perspectives do not align, but work towards a common goal nonetheless. Flanagan believes this is the key to success. 

3. Forget your own mistakes.

The "let it go" leadership style is not only meant to be applied from manager to employee but also to the leader themselves. Flanagan says, "I make mistakes, say stupid things at the wrong time and even occasionally embarrass myself, but I can't hold onto it. I just have to let it go and move on."

Flanagan advises leaders to take a step back, evaluate the mistake, regroup and move forward -- understanding they are inevitable.

He says leaders with high emotional intelligence are most guilty of this: "You could be in a meeting and your face reacted to something someone said, or realize later that you forgot to invite that one person you think may have felt they had something to contribute. While no one else may think twice about it, you constantly analyze it for the rest of the day."

Learning to "let it go" when it comes to communicating with your team is key to Flanagan's style of leadership. He points out that you should learn from mistakes but be able to let them go so you can give 100 percent to your team and not get in the way of their success, or your own.

Mistakes come with a lot of lessons, and are oftentimes life's greatest teachers, with the most important lesson being to not make the same mistake twice. Flanagan says, "I'm just a guy on a leadership journey," and making mistakes is part of that, but being able to let the mistakes go and move forward is the key to growth.  

Published on: Jan 29, 2020
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