I seem to be in a reflective mood these days. In looking back at where I’ve come from, I am keenly aware of who I am becoming as a leader. Notice I say, “becoming”. I say that because I feel this work is never done. In order to grow our business, we as leaders must be open to learning and evolving in our leadership.
One of my biggest lessons in recent years has been the “art of letting go”. Full disclosure: I was shocked to discover during my own 360-leadership feedback assessment that I had an issue of control. In learning this, I had two choices: Discard it as BS or look at this offering as a gift. I chose the latter. In looking at it as a gift, I knew it was an opportunity to pinpoint what led me to exhibit controlling behaviour and find ways to change it.
What causes us to be controlling?
Fear. We worry that we’ll lose control and that things won’t turn out or bad things will happen.
Lack of trust. We don’t trust that others will do it as well as we do.
Unworthiness. We need to prove ourselves. We don’t feel we deserve support or can ask for help.
Attachment to outcome. We know best. Ours is the “right” path, the “only” way.
Controlling behaviour has a huge cost. Not only does it impact us and our well-being, it also has an impact on the people we work with and everyone around us. What is important to acknowledge is that we have taken on controlling behaviour because of the misguided thinking that we need it in order to survive. What I discovered as I received coaching on my 360-feedback assessment was that I had driven myself crazy in the process of holding on to the reigns too long.
I had this thinking that if things didn’t work out in my business, a lot of people would be out of jobs, my family’s livelihood was at risk, and therefore, I needed to “control” every aspect of the business. I thought I was doing a good thing by knowing absolutely everything that was going on at all times. I was capable of jumping into any job, at any time. I had the answers to any problem. What I didn’t realize is that in micromanaging everyone and everything I was disempowering the employees. No one was allowed to take ownership for anything because I held the reigns tightly. It had a huge impact on my physical and emotional well-being. But, it had an even bigger impact on the culture of the workplace. Whoa! Big lessons! This began my process to learn how to lead from beside and behind in order to empower others to rise in their leadership. But first, I had to do the inner work in order to share it outwardly.
Expand your capacity to let go of control
Let go of “one-(wo)man band” syndrome.
You do not have to do it alone. Ask for help. Get beside someone. Most of us love to help others. It is likely that there are lots of people that would jump at the chance to help you, if you are willing to ask for help.
Attempting to control things actually feels less in control. Surrendering does not mean giving up or not caring. It means trusting and allowing things to be taken care of by others. The first step in leading from behind.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
I always say “Catch yourself making mistakes, it means you’re growing”. Think James Dyson, the inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner – he went through 5126 failed prototypes before getting it right.
By delegating responsibility you empower others to learn, grow and improve over time.
Let go of micromanagement.
When you give autonomy to others without micromanagement, you build a culture that empowers people to take pride and ownership in their work.
Get out of your own way.
At some point in your company’s growth, it’s time to bring on new hires. Hire people who are better than you! The best leaders learn how to do this because this propels the company forward to a whole new level.
Letting go of control is about loosening your grip and trusting that things will turn out as they are meant to. When you trust the people to do their jobs with autonomy, you will discover how well they become empowered to make their own decisions. With a common vision and a commitment to doing what’s best for the company, the sky is truly the limit.
Image credit: by Randy Heinitz, via flickr.com.