Her control-oriented manager was frustrated letting Sara know all that she was doing wrong. The emotion was equal to the frustration, “It’s a good thing I didn’t come to your office yesterday or I would have walked you out the door right then.”
Sara’s manager represents another hostage of “out-of-control” behavior. However, as Sara reflected on the Story the application became clear because Sara likes “control”, too.
The drive to (try to) control others pushed her thinking, self-limiting behavior, and performance. Recognizing her desire to control, she began the journey to letting go.
The affect on relationships and productivity from people trying to be “in control” is harmful. My last two posts: “What if you don’t let go?” and “What if you care too much?” generated a lot of conversations. This derogatory term for wannabe dictators struck close to home.
Why control trying to control others?
Keith Ayers, in Engagement is Not Enough, writes about how managers can unintentionally increase the disengagement of their employees. His short list includes:
- An obsession with financial results
- An obsession with control
- An obsession with avoiding responsibility
- An obsession with logic
He correctly observes the lack of research to support a control-based approach to leadership and management.
How does a control-oriented leader show up? Ayers points, summarized here, are insightful. Such leaders…
- Assume that people cannot be trusted and send that message to their team
- Micromanage employees, believing that tasks will not be completed to their standards unless they are checking in on their teams
- Assume employees do not really want to work, and therefore they need to continue to drive them to achieve results
- Believe that, as the manager, they have all the knowledge and experience, and therefore they need to make all the decisions about how to improve performance
Note how leaders who seek excessive control display out-of-control behavior, all the while living with the illusion of being in control. What does that look like?
Consider the emotional statement Sara’s boss made to her about firing her on the spot. Yes, it was out of control. (To this manager’s credit, she did apologize later.) Apology accepted. Nevertheless, how do you think this exchange affected Sara’s engagement as an employee? How would it affect yours?
How committed will Sara (an emerging leader) be in an environment where the potential of “one wrong move and you’re out of here” is at least implied? Furthermore, how does such behavior create an obstacle to Sara’s ability and willingness to support her manager’s success?
Influence vs. Control
Leaders who release control demonstrate self-control and expand their influence. Influence allows support to flow to you … it is about collaborating instead of commanding.
- Influence is the freedom to have a positive effect on others
- Influence allows you to capture the devotion and allegiance of others
- Influence allows you to achieve your goals
- Influence is the freedom from trying to prove you are in charge, allowing everyone to contribute and enjoy success
Great performance comes from an environment where great people have an opportunity to contribute their unique perspective, talent, and voice to the process, project, or job. You cannot control the process but you can direct it as you communicate vision, set expectations, and define outcomes.
To release control – “Let it go!” – is an act of liberation from a self-imposed burden. The power to accomplish more 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.
How does it happen?
It requires a change in leadership behavior.
The irony is that leaders who release control demonstrate self-control and expand their influence.
Sara (who wants to be in control) is learning how to take a deep breath, evaluate what she is thinking, and release control. Let it go! Her performance is improving, and she has the freedom to use her strengths as she gets out of her own way.
Everyone is capable of this.
However, when unaware, Sara is reactionary and unintentional in her behavior. Her need to control pushes an out-of-control use of her strengths, resulting in unproductive behavior and people conflict.
As Thomas á Kempis wrote,
Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
The objective of leadership is not control but influence.
Where do you see this paradox in your Story? Where are you caring too much? What if you don’t “Let it go?”
Here’s to your next level…