Step 2: Why business owners need to 'let go' more

This is Step 2 in our control freak recovery series. This time we talk about what it looks like to loosen up our grips on controlling everything inside of our business — and why it’s healthy. Find step 1 here.

Too many business owners have an inner control freak that can make them really productive (individually) but can keep their business from growing and their team from performing at their top efficiency. If you think that might be you, take our control freak quiz to see if you are a control freak, and read our prior posts about the first steps toward change.

let go

Your control freak behavior can be seen as an addiction — a behavior that’s our of your control, that interferes with your work and your relationships. Getting past this is serious business (again, see the last post). This is not something you can do today just reading one (or two or three) blog posts. Still, I’d like to share with you some methods that I’ve seen make a significant impact in this behavior. The first is an internal shift. It’s about letting go.

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Be less productive

One of the great things about being a control freak is that you get so much done. You, personally, are really productive. You get to feel accomplished because you finished a lot of stuff. If you leave the control freak behind, you aren’t going to have that same sense of having accomplished a lot yourself. Part of growth beyond being a control freak is learning how good it can feel to see others accomplish more than you can by yourself.

letting goUnfortunately, your brain doesn’t make endorphins when other people accomplish stuff! That feeling you have now at the end of the day when you’ve crossed 12 things off your list — you aren’t going to have that feeling to the same degree anymore. But you’re also not going to have the feeling of dread because, despite the 12 things you got done, there are 120 things still to do.

In the business world, productivity is a god. Productivity stands above all other values — we have to be productive. But there’s a sizable difference between getting a lot done and knowing the most important things that you should be doing. We’ve all seen a star player who makes outstanding plays, but his team still loses. That’s what it looks like when a control freak is at work.

You may find yourself justifying your control freak behavior by saying, “Your way is a waste of time.” or “This is a more efficient way to do it.” You need to be very suspicious of those statements. What if efficiency isn’t the point? Could it be that empowering others to do good work is more important than efficiency in the long run? What if your team could get more done if you were involved less?

It’s time to let go of the obsession with productivity; to let go of the myth that the most important job is “being productive” — and that you are the only one that knows how to do that. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When the boss is the only one being “efficient” and productive, that is perhaps the best example of inefficiency.

I can hear some of you hyperventilating right now. “But, there isn’t enough time. There’s already so much to do — if it takes longer to do any of it I’m just going to have to do more work…” In our next post we are going to talk about over-functioning, where you are batting clean up, taking everyone’s half-finished work on as your own. That’s not leadership, that’s a control freak.

True confidence

We’ve talked briefly about lack of confidence being one of the root causes of the control freak behaviors. When we aren’t confident in our own decisions, us control freaks set ourselves up as the unassailable expert. That feels much more comfortable than recognizing that we have limits and weaknesses; sometimes big weaknesses. In fact, one of the biggest problems with owning your own business is that you don’t know everything you need to know to be successful. You don’t, and you can’t.

“But wait! My business is on the line! This is my livelihood and my team depends on me. What do you mean I don’t know what I need to know?…”

controllingYou don’t. It’s a fact. No one can be an expert in all the things that business owners need to make decisions about. (Especially your first time trying it!) It’s a very uncomfortable fact, but it’s none-the-less true. You need help.

The fact that you don’t know everything doesn’t mean you don’t know anything — you have special expertise and knowledge that no one else in your business has. You can and should have confidence in that!

But being sure — when you really aren’t sure — sets you up to fail.

We want to be “sure” because people won’t question it when we are “sure”. There’s another way to do that. Take a deep breath. And say it with me: “Here’s what I think, but I’m open to feedback. Just check with me before you go off in a different direction.” Have confidence in your authority – you are the boss, after all. But the truth is, you may not have all the answers. And that doesn’t make you a lousy boss, it makes you human.

What makes you a good boss is having the courage and the confidence in your leadership to give your team ownership of their work, and to listen to their ideas without feeling that they are threatening you. They aren’t! They want to be engaged in their work, they want to contribute to the success of the company.

And, if someone on your team wants to go off in a different direction, and they can explain why, let them. Let your team help you. Let them bring their skills, gifts, talents, and different perspective to your business. Work with your accountant, your IT guy, even your receptionist — not against them. That is, in fact, why you hired them! Because you need them to help you!

Read Step 3 here »

Are you ready to let go? To step back from managing everyone’s productivity and ask for feedback? Pick one area, one issue in your company right now, and let your team know you are open to feedback. And then stand back and listen to them. Notice your reactions: what feelings come up for you? Are you angry? Scared? Annoyed? Full of judgments? Don’t say it, write it. And then tell us! How did it go?

Photo credit: Randy Heinitz, Mr. Littlehand .faramarz

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