Giving Up a Little Control
A lot of people think being a great manager means being in control of everything all the time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve always loved this clip from Kung Fu Panda – it reminds me that no matter how much I might want something to happen, it might not work out the way I want it to.
Control is a slippery thing. In your job, needing to control everything is a good way to drive the people you work with crazy. But when you are accountable for the outcomes, how can you not feel like you need to control the process?
As a parent, it comes more from a place of habit. When your kids are young, you have to control their environment – it’s your job. You protect them from harm. You teach them right from wrong. You hope that you can instill a sense of passion and wonder and joy, but at the bare minimum you try to prevent them from becoming sociopaths. At some point though, your ability to control your kids’ environment evaporates.
And what is control anyway?
Is it making everyone do what you want them to do?
Is it knowing exactly what’s going to happen?
We know neither of those things are possible, and yet we shape our lives around the idea that they are. We pretend that we do know – that we can predict the flow of our lives and come up with plans that will bring us to happiness. And when those plans are interrupted by illness or job loss or self-doubt, we panic because we thought we knew. Even though we knew we couldn’t.
We get frustrated and angry when people behave in ways we don’t like or don’t expect. We feel like it’s not fair.
When I started out in my career I had frameworks and structure – meetings and process – goals and roles and accountability. I brought stability and predictability to my job. Over time I learned that imposing structure only gets you so far. Hiring people who are smart and capable and then creating an environment where they can do their best work gets us all much further. Believing in people gets us the furthest.
It’s an amazing feeling when someone believes in you. When you doubt yourself and your own abilities, which we all do, a word of encouragement can make all the difference. When you live with yourself every day, you see your own faults and failing. You see all the obstacles in your path.
Every amazing creation, every startup, every invention, every act of charity in the history of the world was done by an imperfect person just like you.
Last week I posted a video that a friend shared with me in which Steve Jobs talks about his philosophy of life. His message?
You have to believe.