The way you get control is to give it away

That may sound strange. When I first became a manager of people, I was conscious that this was not going to be a happy time – for me or anyone else! I was definitely at the extreme end of “need for control”. I had a very precise idea of how I wanted things done. I tortured myself about our reputation as a department, and that the sky would fall in if a single error was made. What would my boss think? What would other managers and departments think?

I knew that I couldn’t control people’s thoughts. But how I wanted to! If only everyone would think the same way I did, then everything would be fine. It took me a LONG, painful time to learn that:
o Other people have amazing ideas
o Everyone has a brain as good as, if not better than, mine
o I am outnumbered – so even if I were 10 times smarter and better than the rest, I would never be able to do everything that the department needed to deliver on
o If I tried to “control” people, they would shut down and I would never see their brilliance – yet they would still draw their full pay entitlement.
So I changed the question from: “How can I control everyone and everything?” to “How can I get the BEST” from each person.”

When we did Social Style analysis at our company it helped me appreciate that we have patterns of behaviour that have to do with personality, our past, the person we choose to present in any given situation, and the situation itself. This helped me to understand and work with the range of people on my team, and the managers around and above me.

From there, I realised that having a close relationship with staff was really important. The parallel with the home environment is obvious. Not in terms of being a controlling, dictatorial parent like the one described above, but more that when we get clear about the role of parents – to shape character and capability – it becomes about adding value as a performance coach, while each person’s own internal parent takes care of business. This requires creating a regime of “quality timeouts” to ensure we establish and maintain a performance partnership with staff, reviewing work together frequently with the goal of continuous improvement. One-to-one and as a department.

What I have also learnt is the value of Management by Key Indicators (as opposed to Management by Objectives). I have learnt that these need to change as we change, the game advances and our competitors move things. Also, I have learnt the value of Open Book management. While this concept is now decades old and well documented, we are still hearing success stories, such as those mentioned in an article entitled “The Neuroscience of Leadership” by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz where they write:

“Open-book management,” has been credited with remarkable gains at companies like Springfield Remanufacturing, because it repeatedly focuses employees’ attention on the company’s financial data. Toyota’s production system, similarly, involves people at every level of the company in developing a fine-grained awareness of their processes and how to improve them.

It was Jan Carlzon, that superb leader of Scandinavian Airlines, who said:
“An individual without information can’t take responsibility. An individual with information can’t help but take responsibility.”

You get real control of your business when you have EVERYONE informed, inspired and committed to the success of the business. This is the way you have the least control over people and the most control over success.


About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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