Why control the impulse to “control”?
Last week, while group coaching a local doctor’s office staff, the subject of “control” came up. During the coaching, we were exploring how behavior puts people in a “box” when I made the statement, “Control is an illusion”.
One individual strongly questioned the statement. It appears we prefer the illusion, at a cost; perhaps it is associated with seeking “power”.
When it comes to “control”, the obvious is obvious: we cannot exercise power or authority over the weather, stock market, that favorite sports team, the traffic, etc. In fact, we “control” very little in life.
When it comes to “control”, the not so obvious is important to remember: you will not achieve top performance by trying to over control others or the work they do.
As General Sales Manager of the #1 billing station in Oklahoma City, I clearly remember the struggle associated with managing my outside sales team. As I learned to release control, the stress level went down when the focus was on performance outcomes instead of trying to control performance activity.
Yes, management by definition involves exercising power or authority over something or someone; however, the excessive need to control others is unproductive and creates performance issues. As I noted in last week’s blog,
“An excessive need to control your people, your department or your company will lead to living out of control. Control is an illusion. Excessive control lowers performance, both yours and that of the people you need to truly be successful.”
The illusion says, “You’re the manager, you can control these people and make things happen.” When you buy the illusion it leads to “out of control” behaviors such as micro management, unrealistic expectations, frustration, anger, red in the face, harsh words…unproductive reactions to people who do not do what you want them to do they way you want it done.
Yes, you can try to control others but the success you desire will elude you. Control is an illusion about most of life including relationships if you want to achieve top performance.
Why does releasing control improve performance?
Great performance comes from an environment where great people are given the opportunity to contribute their unique perspective, talent, and voice to the process, project, or job. The solution is to direct the performance of others. This can be done when you communicate vision and purpose, set clear expectations and secure ownership, and define desired outcomes.
Releasing control is an act of liberation from a self-imposed burden. Once free, the power to effect is immediate as you tap into the creativity of others and allow collaboration. Trust, improved morale, open communication, employee engagement, and improved performance are your reward.
Feel free to enjoy the additional benefit of reducing the stress associated with trying to “be in control”.
When is delegation the path to freedom?
Imagine the task of arranging the seating area for a new coffee shop. The goal is to arrange a comfortable seating configuration for 38-40 java customers. You have a mixture of high top and various round tables, two leather sofas, and four upholstered chairs.
The boss gives you the project. With considerable thought and care you place the sofa and chairs against the back wall. It is the focal point upon entering this happening place. You are pleased, mission accomplished.
The next afternoon you find the room rearranged. When you ask a fellow worker she explains how earlier that morning the boss moved the furniture group to just inside the door. How are you feeling now?
- Function: the desired outcome was clear, arrange the seating area to accomodate 40 customers
- Preference: how the resources were arranged
- Behavior: the need to control drove the manager to re-arrange the furniture
What is the impact? What are you thinking, as the employee now?
When do you delegate?
Delegation is a developmental opportunity allowing someone to grow when given an assignment of value. It is a great option when:
- Expectations are clearly communicated (function)
- The desired outcome is understood (function)
- It will stretch them but they have the resources to handle it
- You recognize the 80% of the project that is function
- You release the other 20% of the project which is preference
When will delegation be a challenge?
If you have an excessive need to control you will find it difficult to practice this leadership skill. To delegate you must release your preference or the mentality that there is “one way to do this”. As you release control and give freedom to others, you’ll be amazed.
“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”
For personal reflection:
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to releasing control?
What would you say?
- What is your experience around this issue?
- What have you learned?
- What do you think?
Please add to the discussion by posting your comments below.