Letting go of control

In times of great uncertainty, we search for certainty. That search often ends with our need to control anything we can. And control shows up as more command than consult decisions, more stringent approval policies, telling more than listening, turning memos into meetings, and directing rather than collaborating.

Control crowds out trust-building. It creates frustration, lowers confidence in our people, and robs our team of the chance to develop decision-making and problem-solving muscle. Further, it reduces engagement and, in the extreme, creates a toxic environment.

What are some remedies to control?

Simplify. Favor common principles and sense over 4-page policies. Cut budget review time by 75%. Eliminate meetings held only out of habit.

Delegate. Assign challenging work and be a coach and safety net. 

Trust. Demonstrate trust by backing a team member’s decision, rather than second-guessing or holding extended debate. Resist the temptation to win or add too much value.

Ask. Show up in a state of curiosity rather than already knowing. Ask questions for understanding, get clarity, and get out of the way.

Stop. Instead of adding tasks, edit them. Instead of building barriers, remove them. Ask what is stopping people from moving forward.

Control is never perfect, and it isn’t free.