Commanding Control- The key to empowering staff

When coaching managers, business owners and teams one of the themes that we often explore is control.

The ability to take the reigns in given situations and settings is an absolute requirement for success. Control provides direction, helps focus and it gets things done.

Like sugar and spice and all things nice however, moderation is the key to its success.

Knowing WHEN and HOW to exercise control is the tricky bit and a lack of awareness of this generally brings about a number of unwanted consequences. Whether you are a business owner looking to get “off the tools”, working into a position of semi-retirement or a manager charged with developing staff, your ability to delegate decision-making successfully will be crucial.

Those who insist on total control feel that they cannot trust nor rely on others and are susceptible to being overburdened with menial tasks and eventually burn out.

Companies managed by those who do not when and/or how to relinquish control often find themselves getting stuck in a pattern of “break-fixing” where everyone else is seen to be breaking i.e. not doing things correctly and then , feeling that they know best, intervene to fix everything in a vicious cycle that stifles the growth of the team and the company.

Control freaks often leave those who work with them, for them or around them feeling anxious, frustrated, paralysed and at best do a mediocre job without getting anywhere near their potential or at worst going looking for greener pastures elsewhere creating an expensive problem of staff retention.

So what are some practical steps we can take as leaders to reduce the need for control?

  1. Apply the duck test… If it quacks then it’s probably a duck. If this sounds like you or somebody you know then you’ve reached the first milestone, acknowledgment (congratulations!). If you are not sure, ask yourself these questions: How many decisions did those who report to me to make in the last week? What was the nature of those decisions? How would I feel about others in my team/organisation had to make decisions for me for an entire week?
  2. Assess the decisions you make using a framework. Record the decisions you need to make on a daily, weekly and other basis and look for opportunities to delegate. Shane Parrish’s Decision Matrix is a great tool for this.
  3. Make a promise (to others) to be less controlling. By being transparent with others about the actions you are taking and why you are taking them you will a) be more likely to see it through and b) likely get buy-in and help from those you tell.
  4. Track your progress. Behavioural change is propelled by the formation of new habits and new habits start by the small but regular actions you take. You can record the actions that you intend to take in your calendar or an app like Habit Bull (it’s free) to send you reminders and provide a visual of your progress.
  5. (Warning: not for the faint-hearted) Have a no decision day or week. Consider letting your team or trusted others make all the decisions for you in a day or a week. This one requires a bit of thought and establishing some clear guidelines and expectations around what would be an exception.
  6. Take a good hard look at those who should be making more decisions– If all of the above seems too much to bear then it may be time to critically assess the viability of those who need to be making more decisions. Ask yourself is it an issue with opportunity? Training or guidance? or is it an issue of capability and do you need to replace them with someone who could grow to be comfortable with making decisions on your behalf.

If have any enquiry about changing your attitude towards control or about Human Resources or Leadership space, I would love to have a chat to please contact me on