How I Learned to Let Go of My Inner Control Freak (and How It Made Me a Better Leader)
Content was originally published on Inc.com on August 6, 2019.
If left to my own devices, I have a tendency to be a bit of a control freak, and after twenty five years of business coaching, I can say with great certainty that I am not alone in my need for control. Many business owners feel the need to have their hands in all aspects of their business, from sales and marketing to accounting and operations. They feel as if they were to let go (even for just a few days) the business would begin to suffer and sales would decrease.
A Business Owners Need for Control is Innate.
We inherently know that if we just turn over the reigns to our employees and let them run the company, the results will be far from ideal. But on the same note, if we micro-manage every aspect of their day to day lives we are left with a high turnover rate and far too many tasks on our own to-do list.
So, how do we satisfy the need for control without actually being a control freak?
Redefine the Word “Control”
According to Dictionary.com the word control is defined as: “to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command.” Which is inline with what most business owners think of as control within their own businesses. They want to dominate their employees, and dictate how they spend their time and energy within the business. They want to exercise direction over where their business is going.
But I want you to think of the word “control” in a different light.
I think that control is the intelligent process, procedure, and safeguards that protects your company from uninformed or inappropriate decisions or actions by any team member. It is not reliant on you as the owner to keep things on track, instead you would rely on your business itself to stay on course.
You aren’t wrong in your desire to have control in your business. You are simply using the wrong definition. Your business should not rely on you to be successful, that is where you need to learn to let go. It should rely on a series of processes and procedures and safeguards that keep it on track and moving in the right direction.
And there are essentially three types of business controls that are good for your business:
- Visual controls. These include checklists, dash boards, scorecards, budgets, etc. They let you SEE that the right things are happening, of if not, they raise a flag that lets you make sure to focus on fixing the situation.
- Procedural controls. These include things like having 2 unrelated parties internally check/be involved in the flow of money. Your standard review process for all new hires. Your standardized sales concessions you empower your sales team to use. Procedural controls establish a known pathway to a consistently secure result.
- Embedded controls. These are the controls that work without someone having to remember to do something out-of-the-way to use them. These include things like your standardized contracts, automated data backups, and intentionally designed financial controls that work automatically in the background to protect your business from poor decisions or behavior.
So the bottom line. Go ahead, it’s ok to be a control freak. It’s good for your business.