Maintaining Control vs. Building Trust

Maintaining Control vs. Building Trust

  • Are you someone who tends to want to control things?
  • Do you sometimes find it challenging heading up or delegating to a team?
  • Do you ever find yourself working long hours sucked into the minutiae of things?

My clients have brought all three of these subtly different scenarios to coaching with them this month.

So called ‘control freaks’ (people who subtly take charge, quietly clinging onto things so hard that their metaphorical knuckles go white) are usually masking fear and mistrust. They fear the consequences of stepping back and allowing things to pan out because they mistrust the universe, other people and—most damagingly—themselves.

Effective team management (whether that’s in an organisation, at home or in social settings) requires a level of trust. If we’re not to be involved in every minute decision, we must learn to empower and delegate to others. We must learn to build trust. If we don’t trust our team to deliver, it’s too tempting to meddle and micromanage, which can quickly result in a team that feels undermined, undervalued and dissatisfied. And it can leave us over-worked, resentful and exhausted.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we blindly put our faith in others, relinquish all responsibility and plough on, fingers in ears, chanting, “La-la-la-la…” I’m suggesting gentle shifts. Baby steps towards greater trust in ourselves (to provide others what they need to learn, grow, achieve and deliver), in each other (to make mistakes, ask for help, step up and take responsibility) and in the benevolence of the universe.

Think about it: things have a way of working themselves out, don’t they? Most of us can recall a time when we’ve been unavailable (e.g. out all day in a meeting) to find that a crisis has arisen and been dealt with in our absence.

As long as we’ve done the ground work—researching, setting an intention, training, planning, communicating—we can probably afford to let go a bit.

Your assignment:

  • Get clear on the things you’re trying to control. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? Really map out the details of your worst-case scenario. And then another scenario… get clear on the varied nightmare thoughts that are running through your head. If possible, get them onto paper (as usual make a list, draw a mind-map, create a picture… whatever works for you).
  • Then, consider how much of the content of each of those scenarios should be in your control. Not how much you WANT to be in your control, but for the highest good of all and for the sustainability of everyone’s resources (including your own), which should sit on your to do list and which on others’?
  • Consider what you might need to do to maximise the chances of a good outcome from allowing someone else to take charge (e.g. building trust, empowering, training, agreeing lines of communication and reporting—and that goes as much for a client audit as it does getting someone else to do the grocery shopping).
  • Notice what works (e.g. the people around you grow, you have more freedom).
  • Notice what doesn’t work so well; what can you (and your team) do to address that?

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