His 360-degree feedback results were full of critique. They indicated that he delegated poorly, had to be involved in everything, and was highly impatient with others. That one of his direct reports noted he was “overbearing in discussions and a poor listener” sent Marcos over the edge when we discussed his results. Not only had he been unaware of the intensity behind the comments, he hung his head and admitted that for this seemingly high achiever, these observations were all too familiar in his career.
What a deceptive concept control can be. We believe we have much more of it than we actually do. An expert in child development notes that parents believe they have control over their children long after it has faded. Control issues apply to most aspects of our careers and experiences in leadership as well. Controlling behaviors include manipulation, coercion, being domineering, and micro-managing. Why are people called “control freaks” instead of “control ninjas”? I wouldn’t sign up to be controlled.
Shirzad Chamine’s Saboteurs assessment (Click Here)
lists Controller as an “Anxiety-based need to take charge and control situations and people’s actions to one’s own will. High anxiety and impatience when that is not possible.” I’ve created that kind of stress and sabotaged myself (and others) in the process. If I set my expectation that I will win the raffle, buy many tickets to increase my control over the outcome and then get disappointed that I didn’t win, who did that to me? I think it was me. Our belief system can lead us to think that if we don’t “control” an outcome, someone else will. Many control freaks would agree.
Many corporate leadership programs are now featuring the concept of VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). After a number of challenging campaigns, military leadership was on to something with this acronym. One could say that VUCA is the opposite of control and if we are honest with ourselves, it applies to our careers and professional lives. If there is truly less in our control than we think, why not give up, toss up on our hands and say “whatever”?
The great news, despite our illusory desire to control outcomes, is that we always have the power of choice that we can exercise. Choice allows us to respond vs. react. Choice creates options when we are faced with VUCA conditions.
The Serenity Prayer* reminds me that I have choices. In fact, letting go can be one of the most powerful choices I can ever make. I don’t need to, nor can I control something that I let go of. It frees me to get out of a control paradigm to move into an impactful choice paradigm. By accepting what comes at me as simply an experience, I can exercise choice constantly, consciously raising my energy.
When you are tempted to control vs. choose, try these questions:
- What is truly in my control vs. outside of it?
- What illusion of control am I believing at this moment?
- What am I actually fearful of?
- Why waste energy on something I cannot control?
- What choices do I have that I might be missing?
Choice is free, practical, available for daily use and it produces results. I am comforted by the fact that I always have more choices than I can see at any one moment. Decrease your control freak stress and increase your calm and throughput by constantly exercising choice. It will make a positive and powerful difference.
*God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.