When my daughter was 8, she became obsessed with baking.  She wanted to bake bread, pie, cookies, cakes, and in particular, anything with chocolate.  I let her do it on occasion, but often re-directed her to other activities, because I was afraid she would become unhealthy.  I had a whole ‘nother plan for my brilliant high-achieving daughter, who impressed all her teachers, got As in everything, had exceptional test scores.  She kept wanting to bake though—that was her passion.  When I whispered my fear about her developing unhealthy attitudes about food to my sister-in-law Lauren, she said, “you really need to re-think that.”  Her suggestion woke me up from my slumber regarding  my daughter’s passion.  I had to make some adjustments though, and it required a leap of faith.  I accepted the fact she might gain weight, and I determined I would support her regardless of the outcome.

Since that decision about 3 years ago, I’ve let her loose in the kitchen, giving her a run of the joint. Here are a couple of  her extraordinary delicacies:

I tell this story as a cautionary tale, not only to parents, but to managers.  How many times has an employee of yours had an idea based on their passion, and because of your fear, you re-directed them?   What is possible if you were to put your fear aside, and let your employee “have the run of the joint” on a certain pet project of theirs?  What might you learn?  Ultimately, your own fear may be limiting the growth of your company.  Can you give just an inch?

These days, at 13,  my daughter is an extremely content, confident,  focused girl.  I realize now that allowing her to bake has acknowledged her in a profound way.  She expresses her creative spirit by combining her artistic skills and her love for baking.  Who am I to get in the way of that?I put my fear aside, and as a result, my worst-case scenario—her losing control over food choices—has never materialized. She knows how to manage her portions, and samples rather than devours the food she eats.  We throw lots of pies and cupcakes away because they sit in our fridge for days.  In addition, I’ve learned so much new stuff along the way.  The other day I suggested she use chocolate chips for something, and she sniffed, “Mom.  Chocolate chips have stabilizers in them.”  Duh.

Right now, I’m being given “a run of the joint” on a particular passion of mine—writing—and my attitude toward my job has completely turned around.  I feel affirmed, trusted, and re-engaged.  When you give employees a huge permission slip to do what they do best—and set aside your own fears—you give them a huge reward and may learn something important about yourself in the process.  You may also gain ground in your industry. And to think! All it took was an inch.