How do leaders control their use of control?
Few people have the ability to throw a small round object over 6o feet within a defined 17-inch wide space somewhere between an individual’s knees and chest. The ability to place a pitch precisely in the strike zone earns professional baseball pitchers sizable contracts.
The tricky part of the “strike zone” is that it changes with each batter. There is no “automatic” strike zone and much of what is a strike or not a strike is the judgment of a home plate umpire. By the way, a fastball travels at a speed of 95-100 mph.
When it comes to the fastest pitcher, the most widely held response remains Nolan Ryan. His fastball, officially clocked by the Guinness Book of World Records reached 100.9 miles per hour when the California Angels were defeated by the Detroit Tigers August 20, 1974 in Anaheim Stadium.
Why control the “need to control”?
While a pitcher must control his pitch, an effective leader understands the negative effect of an unchecked need to control. Your ability to release control supports performance. While management does involve exercising power or authority over something, an excessive need to control is unproductive and creates performance issues.
Have you ever noticed the challenge a new manager faces? It’s the next level transition – moving from a narrow personal success focus to achieving success with and through others. It is next level leadership that moves from technical practical understanding to increased influence. For example, a successful sales professional may fail as a sales manager for this very reason.
An excessive need to control your department or company will lead to living out of control. Control is an illusion. Excessive control lowers performance, yours and that of the people you need to be successful.
Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers supports my point in his blog Leadership: Control vs. Influence
I often hear leaders, particularly younger ones, complaining about their lack of control in various situations. “If only the sales department reported to me, I could consistently hit my budget,” they lament. Or, “If the production department reported to me, I would not have run out of inventory!”
What they are really saying is, “If I could control these people, I could guarantee the results.” The truth is that control is an illusion. You can’t control anyone, even the people that report to you.
The intent is not to eliminate policy, protocol, or process…chaos is not the goal. The goal is an increase of your influence, freedom, and performance.
“No man will make a great leader who wants to
do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”
What does it mean to “control”?
Consider the following shades of meaning the Encarta Thesaurus offers for control:
- manage (v.) – organize, be in charge of, run, have power over, be in command of, direct
- power (n.) – jurisdiction, rule, domination
- rule (v.) – manipulate, influence, dominate, oppress, have a hold over, hold sway over, dictate
- restrain (v.) – keep under control, keep in check, hold back, rein in, contain
- monitor (v.) – check, regulate, inspect, limit restrict
- influence (n.) – command, say, sway
What happens when a leader displays an excessive control?
Although this list is incomplete the message is clear, excessive control hinders productivity. Consider how it…
- Stifles creativity
- Lowers morale
- Increases stress for everyone
- Interferes with open communication
- Hinders superior performance
- Reduces the possibility of trust
- Increases the frustration of everyone
- Leads to turnover of motivated and talented people
- Deteriorates your credibility
10. Diminishes your influence
11. Interferes with teamwork & collaboration
12. Limits the helpful aspect of “managing up”
13. Weakens relationships
14. Keeps others from developing and growing their skills
Clearly set expectations are critical to performance.
The Power of “Released Control”
To release control is an act of liberation from a self-imposed burden; trying to control situations, the process, the project, or the people. Once free, the power to accomplish more is immediate as you tap into the ability and strength of others. Is there anything on this list you don’t desire for your operation?
- Increased creativity
- Improved morale
- Reduced stress
- Open communication lines
- Improved performance
- Enlarged trust
- Increasing job-related satisfaction
- Retaining motivated and talented people
- Enhanced credibility with your team
10. Your circle of influence grows
11. Greater team work and collaboration
12. Acceptance of feedback and supportive “managing up”
13. Stronger relationships
14. Consistent personal growth and skill development
One this restriction on your future success is eliminated – the need to control – others will contribute and succeed, too. Sound good?
For additional reflection:
- When you review “What does it mean to “control”?” which of the descriptors or behaviors best describe what you want?
- How does the “desire to control” show up in your behavior?
- Which of the positive outcomes associated with “releasing control” do would improve the performance of your department or company?
True Freedom…Releasing Control
The value of a professional baseball pitcher is his ability to deliver within the clearly defined expectations of a “strike” or “ball”. As you set clear expectations and release control the possibilities are superior.
Leaders who practice excessive control are living out of control while under the illusion of being in control.
Leaders who practice delegation and give up control will find freedom; success is sure to follow.
Here’s to your Next Level –