A Coaching Power Tool Created by Andrea Bruns
(Life Coach & Career Coach, GERMANY)
How many times have you heard people say: I feel completely overloaded with my work, I have to work late to hit my deadlines and this is stressful and demoralizing. I need to manage my time better.
Whether they are aware of them or not, a lot of managers have habits that limit their ability to be great leaders. These destructive traps hold them back. One of them is the micromanagement to control everything. Being aware of this management trap is the first step towards avoiding it.
What is Control:
According to Webster’s dictionary, control (in management) is one of the managerial functions like planning, organizing, staffing and directing. It is an important function because it helps to check for errors and take corrective actions so that deviation from standards are minimized and stated goals of the organization are achieved in a desired manner. According to modern concepts, control is a foreseeing action whereas the earlier concept of control was used only when errors were detected. Control in management means setting standards, measuring actual performance and taking corrective action.
Living under uncertainty is scary. That is why humans invest huge efforts to predict the future and prevent, whenever possible, truly negative outcomes. Being “in control” means having good enough predictions of the future.
Many managers have a high need to control the environment and their team’s work. Managers with the highest need for control are called micromanagers. Reasons for control can be:
- Fear that subordinates will not complete the work correctly or exactly how the manager would prefer
- High need to know what is being done and when
- Need to ensure that the work is done on time
- Lack of trust in the team member to complete the work or complete the work correctly
- Fear that a negative outcome by the team member will be a poor reflection on the manager
- High need to make sure the rules, policies and traditions are followed
- Concerns that the environment is changing too quickly to give up control
What is letting go:
The Oxford Dictionary defines letting go as relinquishing one’s grip on someone or something. A lot of micromanagers think letting go means losing control. It give them feelings like being in free fall and about loosening their grip. Insecurity and helplessness can arise, when micromanagers try to let go. It is not easy allowing ourselves to trust that things will turn out as they are meant to. But by stepping out of their comfort zone and letting go, micromanagers will be able release and transform a good amount of unnecessary stress.
Advantages for Managers who give up control and letting go:
- Make your team members feel important and appreciated
- Helps you do more, faster
- Let you focus on the big picture
- Keeps you from spreading yourself too thin
- Helps you maintain your health by avoiding overwork
- Gives you more experience as an executive
Letting go is not losing control or giving up. Letting go is about engaging people and creating shared intentions, goals and leadership. Letting go gives managers freedom to focus on higher level strategic work and to spend time supporting the development of team members. Managers who let go of control and trust others create positive work environments and have higher levels of employee engagement.
Thomas, (not his real name, to protect identity) has been working for an international company for 10 years now. Recently he was promoted as a marketing manager with a team of 10 subordinates. It is his first leadership position. He is a very hard working person, with high standards he sets for himself and his subordinates. When he came to see me for the first time, he looked extremely stressed out. He told me that he feels overloaded with his work and that he felt out of balance. He wanted to be in control with his work again but was not sure how to manage it because he was working 12 hours a day, sometimes without any breaks, that he became very exhausted. He told me, that he spends a lot of time in checking, controlling and improving his work and the work of his subordinates. He wanted to perform in his new job and do his best, but that took a lot of time and effort. He assumed that his desired outcome was to work less hours that is why he needed my support to improve his time management.
In order to build rapport and trust between a coach and a client, it is absolutely important to assure your client that he or she is in a safe place and that everything you will discuss will be treated confidential.
When a manager tends to have a tendency to perfectionism, to control his work as well as that of his subordinates and complains about a lack of time, consider that there might be an underlying belief that is causing the behaviour of constantly control. In this case help your client to be aware of his/her underling belief. Support your client to detect it and name the underlying belief. By detecting and naming it, it is possible for the client to change his or her behaviour because he or she has the power of choice:
Through my questions Thomas became aware that the real issue was not a lack of time management. There was an underlying belief “I am not good enough”. The anxiety of not being good enough lead him to work many hours by controlling every detail of his and his subordinates work. This habit made him completely overworked and stressed out. When Thomas became aware of his underlying belief and was able to name it, he was able to see new opportunities and new actions he could take.
After creating self-awareness of any possible underlying belief which causes “control” you can support your client to choose another habit. He/She could choose for example “letting go” over “control” to achieve his or her desired outcome.
Here are some possible questions to shift the client from control to letting go:
- What would less control give you?
- What would it look like if you let go?
- How is letting go different to control for you?
- What are the fears or the biggest fear of letting go?
- What do you think you risk by not controlling?
- What is the worst that could happen by letting go?
- How would less control affect your subordinates?
- What are your feelings and emotions by letting go?
- How is controlling helping the desired outcome?
- How is letting go helping the desired outcome?
- What does letting go give you?
Letting go helps us to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress. Melody Beattie