A Coaching Power Tool Created by Alexandra Philipona
(Business and Life Coach, SWITZERLAND)
In daily life, we meet managers (persons) who can’t let go. They have the need to control everything. This control takes a lot of time in their life. Which means they have less time for creative work. They are most of the time in a state of panic (stressed) because they are having the feeling that somebody won’t perform well and they can’t delegate because nobody will do the work as perfectly as they do. In general, this makes them become very, very busy people.
Wikipedia/Merriam-Webster dictionary specifies:
Control has been one of the most widely explored topics in the social and psychological sciences”1 In psychology it can refer to one’s perception regarding her/his ability to achieve outcomes (Perceived Control), the ability to select one’s thoughts and actions (cognitive control), the ability to regulate one’s feelings or attitudes toward something (emotional control), one’s ability to act on prescribed behaviours (motivational control), the amount of control one seeks within a relationship (control desire), the ability to inhibit thoughts or actions in favour of others (inhibitory control), selecting one’s social environment for one’s benefit (social control), the attempt to regulate impulses or attentional processes (Ego control), and the ability to regulate how much effort one invests into a goal (effortful control). More work in the field is needed [opinion] in order to refine the definitions and distinctions between types of control in psychology.
Control, or controlling (in management), is one of the managerial functions like planning, organizing, staffing and directing. It is an important function because it helps to check the errors and to take the corrective action so that deviation from standards are minimized and stated goals of the organization are achieved in the desired manner.
According to modern concepts, control is a foreseeing action whereas earlier concept of control was used only when errors were detected. Control in management means setting standards, measuring actual performance and taking corrective action.
- to give (control, responsibility, authority, etc.) to someone: to trust someone with (a job, duty, etc.)
- to choose (someone) to do something — often used as (be) delegated4
In a social context, trust has several connotations. Definitions of trust typically refer to a situation characterized by the following aspects: One party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee); the situation is directed to the future.
In addition, the trustor (voluntarily or forcedly) abandons control over the actions performed by the trustee. As a consequence, the trustor is uncertain about the outcome of the other’s actions; they can only develop and evaluate expectations. The uncertainty involves the risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired. Vladimir Ilych Lenin expressed this idea with the sentence “Trust is good, control is better”.
Trust can be attributed to relationships between people. It can be demonstrated that humans have a natural disposition to trust and to judge trustworthiness that can be traced to the neurobiological structure and activity of a human brain. Some studies indicate that trust can be altered e.g. by the application of oxytocin.
Managing style of a person who has the need to have control
Some of the characteristics of a manager who needs to control everything:
- The working style is micromanagement with the aim of reaching personal goals (hidden agenda), which are often being set as a high standard, perfectionism.
- Manipulate other people and situations as to ensure that everything goes the way they want, and even if his/her intentions are good, they can cause a lot of pain to others.
- Basically, these people have no intention to hurt somebody with their behaviour, but only to protect themselves from possible failure.
- They easily mistrust other people.
- They frequently think of the darkest scenarios.
- They give unasked negative feedback and think that the others take it as constructive feedback. In reality, their behaviour destroys trust and takes energy from the other person.
- Because they are not able to have full control over their own life, they focus on controlling others.
- They have difficulties in dealing with spontaneous situations, a lack of humour in these cases is quite common.
- They think that only their opinion is true, they don’t listen to others.
- Having the belief that perfectionism will make them beloved and admired by those around them, they try to impose their own standards and then judge the others according to this.
- They keep frustrating others with their behaviour.
Delegative Management Style
Some of the characteristics of a delegative person are:
- Offers support at any time when it is required, asking the collaborator questions to find its own solutions which they will analyse together.
- Has a clear goal which he wants to achieve with the team, discusses and explains the goal, how this will impact the individual and the team. Leaves it up to the team to take responsibility and to develop a solution.
- During the process the manager checks the milestones. If it turns out that the path is different from what he/she had in mind but still leading to the goal, he/she will learn from this experience and enjoy the achievement of the result.
- Delegates the responsibility with the employee’s consent, in line with its skills and focuses on new related skills that the collaborator may develop during solving the task.
- Gives the employee who takes over the responsibility, the benefits arising from the successful fulfilment of the task, is proud of him/her, reward the results.
- When the task is completed, and the result achieved, the manager delegates the necessary authority, gives the employee the power to take and implement necessary decisions.
- Evaluates the progress with the employee, if the results are not in the range of the expectations he/she will find with the employee solutions to solve the problem, encouraging him/her to continue and constantly gives constructive feedback.
- Will continue to delegate even if there were situations in the past when the results of the activities of the person who took over responsibility were below expectation. The manager is conscious that only in this way he/she can support the development of the person.
- Supports the person to make decisions and work in an independent manner.
Stories from the coaching experience
1. Business coaching:
Ben, a young very successful entrepreneur is developing constantly new business ideas. He establishes new businesses and builds them up. When he hires people to work with him he selects other young people who are full of energy. In the beginning, he trusts them completely that they will do well, and he gives them responsibility. But when they start to perform, and he sees that they don’t do it as well as he would do it he takes the responsibility step by step away from them. In consequence, the employee’s self-confidence shrinks and therefore their way of performance becomes less good. The vicious circle starts. Ben keeps losing the trust in this person more and more. He will take over one task after the other to make sure that it is well done. The employee loses interest in the work, Ben doesn’t have time for his actual tasks as the manager. The employee is frustrated because his boss doesn’t believe in him, he/she never get complimented. Ben is frustrated because he has the feeling that the employee doesn’t give his/her best, that he is unable to perform well. A negative atmosphere takes over and the employee leaves the company.
2. Life coaching:
Susan, independent businesswoman and mother of three teenage sons. She is so scared that something could happen to her sons that she has the constant need for controlling them. She always wants to know where they are and what they are doing. When her eldest son had his first girl-friend she went to see her mother right a way to ensure that this girl will take precautions not to become pregnant. She insisted and even controlled that her son is using condoms. Just in case the girl forgets one day to take the pill. As a result, the children try to tell her Mom as little as possible. They try to keep as many secrets as possible to have their freedom. In consequence, Susan becomes really nervous and inquires even more. One day when Susan and her husband Dan went away for the week-end to celebrate their wedding anniversary the youngest son called them in the middle of the night telling her that his eldest brother was having a party at the house. The police and the ambulance came because there was a fight going on. One of the youngsters ended up in the hospital with a broken nose. When they came home the next day Susan also discovered that her sofa was pierced with little holes – because some of the girls have been dancing with their high heeled shoes on it.
After that incident Susan was very uncertain of her sons. She had the feeling that she couldn’t believe them any more at all and that she needed to control them even more!
If you have a coachee who complains about chronic fatigue, lack of time, difficulties in his/her relationship with their family, lack of quality time spent with them, and/or the tendency to be perfect, consider a dysfunction of the delegation process and lack of trust. This was the case in the first story. Consider the following underlying believes as well.
If you have a coachee who complains about lack of time, difficulties in his/her relationship with the family, and/or the tendency to be perfect considering the following underlying believes. This was the case in the second story.
Possible underlying limiting believes:
- Making mistakes is unforgivable
- Believe that he/she is the only person who can complete the task properly
- Concern for others that they might find the task too difficult
- Fear of looking incompetent or not on top of the job (lack of self-confidence)
- Fear of being judged or criticised for work that is not their own
- Fear to have to admit “He/she doesn’t know”
- Fear of failure
- Fear of not being loved
- Fear of not being responsible enough
When you coach such a person, you may consider the following:
- The client has to gain awareness of all the responsibilities he/she has. Then he needs to figure out how he can prioritize this list. Start delegating the less important and less time-relevant topics on it. In the beginning, this will be very hard. After the first positive experiences, the coachee will feel more comfortable. This process will be quite difficult for the client because he/she has to step out of his/her comfort zone.
- Delegating the responsibilities allows your client to focus on his/her management responsibilities, leaving the other tasks to be taken care of by employees on each level of the hierarchy of the company.
- It is widely accepted that one person cannot perform all tasks as this will lead to exhaustion, decreased quality of the results, disrespect of deadlines, blocking the whole work-flow because everything has to be controlled by one single person etc;
- Working with the client to understand that delegating is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and good leadership, making him aware of the benefits of delegation.
- To manage is to lead people and support them in their work, help them to grow but not to do their work at their place. He/she has to learn to let go. The coach should create a space in which the client will be able to realize which are the activities he/she can leave to his/her employees and what effect this has on his own activity and time schedule.
- Management duties include achieving results through team members, it is important to develop the employees’ skills.
Useful questions in coaching about trust/delegate
- How is trust different to control for you?
- Think of a time when you gave trust to someone. What did this make you feel?
- How did the other person respond?
- What was the outcome for you when you gave trust/did delegate?
- Where in your body do you feel trust?
- What did that person say or do that helped you to trust them?
- Think of a time when someone else trusted you. What did this make you feel?
- What did you say or do to show that you could be trusted?
- What was the outcome of them offering you their trust?
- What risk was that person taking in trusting you?
- How do you react when someone breaks your trust?
Useful questions in coaching about trust/delegate shifting from control to trust/delegate
- Name a person that you really trust. What are the reasons you trust him/her?
- What does it make you feel when you can trust another person?
- What dreams (or goals) do you want to fulfil?
- If you had more time what could you achieve?
- What important things are you not doing at the moment?
- What is the risk of not doing them? For you/for your family/for your organisation?
- What would trusting/delegating your manager/son/colleague give you?
- What do you risk by not giving trust/delegate?
- What must the other person do for you to trust them/that you can delegate?
- How do you communicate your needs of trust to others?
- What actions do you want to take to trust others?
- What is the first step to give trust for you?
- What resources would be helpful to you?
Useful questions in coaching to learn how to let go
- What are the problems of letting go?
- What are the fears of letting go? Or: What is the biggest fear of letting go?
- What is the worst to have happen?
- By letting go, what is missing?
- What are the feelings and emotions when letting go?
- What does letting go allow to happen? (possible answer: liberation, acting more and living more in the moment, exploration and discovery of new options etc.)
- Where do you think letting go would take you? - What is the wildest thing possible?
- What if nobody would judge you?
Final considerations for the coach
- What is the impact on you as the coach while working with a client who is lacking the ability to delegate his/her work or trusting his/her children?
- How hard is it for you to accompany such a client from the first step of identifying the symptoms to the depth of discovering his/her need to be in permanent control?
- How can you prepare to work with such a client, not being absorbed in the issues which resonate with yours?