Do you know a manager who wants or wanted to control everything? Were you or are you that manager? In my experience, the common three reasons for this need to control are: the assumption by the manager that they know everything; the belief that they can do everything better themselves; and the claims that they do not have the time to train others to do something. They, however, fail to recognise how destructive and inhibiting this is.

When I first became a line manager responsible for employees, I exhibited these traits. In addition to the three reasons outlined above, I was simply afraid of asking others to do things. Hugely problematic! Thankfully, I learned quickly. My very first journey with an Executive Coach transformed me and my life forever. As a manager and leader now for a number of years, I have also had to lead, coach and mentor my fair share of controlling managers.

One of the most unproductive manners of managing is micromanagement. This is done because of a fear of losing control. That feeling of doing it yourself because it will be better. That feeling of doing it yourself so that it can get done. But does it really? In fact, consider that it might not be getting done as fast as it could if you were not so thinly spread trying to do everything. Consider that it might be done better by someone else whose thinking might be fresher. And perhaps, even doing it better because their thinking is different, their ideas may just be good, or they actually have the know-how that you have not allowed them to demonstrate before.

Delegate, delegate, and delegate some more! If you battle with this, it’s okay to start small. Break things down into little pieces and ask for assistance with an aspect of a task or project. Where needed, put in the time to show an employee how to do something and make sure they understand. Let them show you what they can do. Think about what the worst case scenario for an outcome might be. Plan for it! Is it really that bad? Can you really not find a solution if there is a problem to salvage whatever might need salvaging? Could you perhaps put certain measures in place to keep yourself on top of what’s happening? Why not create a space so you are receiving feedback, giving guidance and offering support where needed? Put in the time to do training where needed – short term sacrifice for long term gain? We all learn from exposure and experience.

Don’t force your way of doing things on others. Afford employees the opportunity of using and demonstrating their skills and abilities, and let them develop new ones. Become more outcomes orientated rather than task orientated. Give your employees tasks and afford them the opportunity to take on and run with projects. Trust your employees to take responsibility for meeting an outcome. And allow for a failed outcome if it doesn’t work. How else are employees expected to grow as individuals and learn from failures? Limiting the dependency of an employee on a manager is so powerful and freeing to both employees and you. Shift your focus to developing competency. After all, competency + sincerity + reliability + involvement = TRUST in the workplace.

Recognise and learn to understand your own controlling nature. Accept that there is no greater way to lose control than to try to control everything. Gain control by learning to let go. Delegation is ultimately much easier, less time consuming, more productive, and takes away unnecessary pressure and stress. So reduce your workload, and encourage employees to have a sense of ownership, and develop the skill of being accountable. Leaders develop leaders!

Wanting to be in control, and fearing delegation ultimately creates low morale, poor communication, a lack of innovation, loss of efficiency, and steals from others either their ability to think, or to learn how to think for themselves.

There are many differences between an effective manager and an effective leader. Ultimately, you need to be good at both when you are entrusted to be responsible for others. This is a huge responsibility, and sometimes can be a lonely space. Always be mindful of your responsibility and your own self-development, and consider the following to help you be less of a “control freak”:

Managers plan, organise, direct, set standards, measures performance, and takes corrective action.

Leaders set objectives, delegates authority, relinquishes control and trust employees. So know when to relinquish control and when to take it.

Until next time…

Yours in Adapting & Being


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