How to Give Up Control

Deep inside we are all control freaks. I know I am. Personally, I am very picky and like things handled a certain way. That’s the ENTJ-Commander in me.

“It’s my way or the highway.”

Have you ever said that?

Or my personal favorite that I hear constantly, “Nobody does it better than me.”

The problem with being a control freak is that it doesn’t scale. You can’t control EVERYTHING. Sooner or later you need to bring in help. Or maybe delegate something.

Here’s What Happened on Monday

It was a landmark day in the Atkinson household on Monday as my son Jack drove to school for the first time by himself. We have been chauffeuring that kid around since the day he was born. In one single act, that chore has been removed.

But, like a lot of things, it didn’t just happen.

First, he had to learn to drive. And during a pandemic when nobody is going anywhere, the opportunities for that are a little smaller. This meant it had to be on purpose. Drive just to drive.

We would do laps around the abandoned mall. Practice backing up. Parking. Three-point turns. Even slamming on the brakes.

Like a lot of people learning, he increased his skill the more he was actively doing the thing he was learning. You can’t learn to drive unless you are driving.

We also signed him up for a learn to drive course, and they picked him up and he drove away with a skilled instructor. As parents we wanted him to learn from others that are skilled in teaching. (Just to be sure! Plus, an insurance discount)

He has had his license for some time now, and we have been in the car as he drove to school and would switch in the parking lot. We wanted him to learn the route, how long it would take, and what it felt like to be in traffic.

Just ease into it.

But on Monday his attitude was: “Hey, I’ve got this, Dad.”

Control Freak In Your Company

In your company, are you letting your employees drive the car, so to speak?

Are they running the equipment, making a proposal, or building out next week’s schedule? Can other employees drive the forklift, order inventory, or pay bills?

Yes, we all know that you can do it. But if you teach someone else how to handle that task, then they can build up that skill.

The control freak in your company (you), needs to let other people learn to drive the car. Sure, it might take months of effort.

But eventually, one day, they will tell you, “Hey, I’ve got this…”

They Will Not Do It Like You

One thing to remember is that if anyone is doing something they are going to bring their own personal vibe to that task. They are not going to do it like you.

Bob Dylan sang “All Along the Watchtower” first. Jimi Hendrix made it famous.

Both are correct. Hendrix’s version is considered the definitive one for most music lovers.

But what if Bob denied Jimi the opportunity to record that song because he wanted that control? I think the world would have missed out.

In your business, you need to teach others how to do every type of task so you don’t have to do them. When you give up control, you gain the ability to grow.

Be like Bob. Give up that control.

10 Steps to Teach Anybody, Anything

  1. Show them the steps. Explain why it is the correct way.
  2. Let them do it in small controlled scenarios.
  3. Yes, they are going to fail. Make sure everyone knows it is ok to make a mistake. That’s where the learning kicks in. It is also where the magic can sometimes happen.
  4. Learn the basics first. Before you can drive the car, you have to learn to start the engine.
  5. Ease them into slightly more challenging scenarios when they are ready. For Jack, we drove around in circles in an empty parking lot on multiple occasions, before we hit real streets.
  6. Got an expert handy? Bring them in for more advanced instruction.
  7. Give them time doing the thing. Practice makes perfect.
  8. Let them practice some more, even when they don’t feel like it. One day, you won’t be there with them to answer questions.
  9. Encourage them. Be critical, but not harsh. You are teaching and supporting, not yelling.
  10. Let go.

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.” – Jack Welch

“What we can control is our performance and execution, and that’s what we are going to focus on.” – Bill Belichick

“Price doesn’t make deals, and salary doesn’t control your career.” – Christopher Voss