7 Downward Steps of Control Freaks
The thing that irritates you about others is the thing you’re trying to change about them.
“I’ve tried everything,” means you can’t figure out how to change someone.
The more you try to change someone, the more irritating you become to them.
7 downward steps:
The desire to change someone is the beginning of a downward spiral.
- Desire to change someone moves to concern. You’re concerned that their fault or weakness holds them back.
- Concern turns to pressure, subtle at first.
- Pressure moves to manipulation.
- Manipulation becomes frustration.
- Frustration grows to exasperation.
- Exasperation turns to isolation.
- Isolation ends with giving up. Nothing’s going to change. Why try?
The reason you feel like giving up is you’re trying to control something you can’t.
You tried changing them, but you probably haven’t tried changing yourself.
Coaching-leaders help others create lines:
#1. The line of letting go.
Control freaks see themselves as helpful, not controlling.
Coaching-leaders point people to their own behaviors not the behavior of others. Control freaks worry too much about others and not enough about themselves.
#2. The line of starting over.
You’re trying to change your boss, colleague, or employee, but it isn’t working. Draw a line and start over. This time, change something about yourself, not them.
The line of starting over is the line of one-more-time, but differently.
5 coaching questions for control freaks:
- What have you tried?
- How did it work?
- What would you like to try? (That’s within your control.)
- Who would you like to become?
- How might you become that person?
Creating lines is learning about the extent and limit of control.
Let go of things you can’t control. Change what you can.
How have you learned to let go of things you can’t control?
How might coaching-leaders help others let go of things they can’t control?
Do you aspire to become a coaching leader?
I’m delighted to partner with Clarity Development Consulting to offer the proven “Coaching for Engagement” program. Drop me an email if you’d like to explore Bob Hancox and me coming to your organization to begin developing a coaching culture in your organization.
Great post Dan. I saw myself in this one. As a mother, I tend to be a nurturer. As a leader, I have learned that I can’t change people. I can coach but the change has to come from them. I’ve also learned that sometimes the change isn’t necessary but instead something I wanted. When it is necessary and it doesn’t come, it’s best to accept that fact and if necessary part ways.
Thanks Sarah. You’re helping me see that even nurturers may have a control-freak side. 🙂
“I can coach, but the change has to come from them.”
I so agree. In fact, I have learned to trust that others are always seeking improvement, therefore, my work as a leader and a coach is to help them get the improvements they are looking for. I may THINK I know their solutions, but somewhere between my own mistakes and my own successes, I figured out that no matter how much I think I know about someone, I am probably wrong about their solution. Heh. That “answer” really does have to be coached (or self-coached) forth from them—when they are ready to ask and receive.
We had a chronic underperformer who went to HR to complain we were too hard on him. It was quite an effective end-run which led me to believe he had been there before at other places. I did realize I was trying to change him which was foolish. It was also hurting the other team members because he took the majority of my management time.
That issue was only solved by separation.
Thanks Bill. The line “hurting the other team members because he took the majority of my management time,” is killer!! KaPow
I was younger and foolishly thought that like superman, I could save people. Now I know I can help people who want to grow, but otherwise I accept people for who they are, and sometimes we are incompatible.
I love hanging with people who want to grow!
Love the thinking here.
As leaders, our power is in our ability to influence, and not in our attempted control. Note the word “attempted.” Trying to change another is like a being a fish trying to climb a tree. Attempts are ultimately futile. You might buy into your own illusion of control, but somewhere you are losing.
Personally, I find that allowing differences in others to show their value–actually looking for that value—and getting back to feeling really comfortable in my own skin (getting back, because like everything in the Universe, there are ebbs and flows, though we can raise our average to something pretty good-feeling) together help release the need to change others.
All the best, Dan!
Thanks Mark. The trouble with my inner control freak is he thinks he can control things. As you indicate, all control fits into the “attempted” bucket.
There is such joy, freedom, and opportunity to allow differences to show their value. I work with an introvert who enjoys planning things. If I welcome her need for planning, I’m better.
This was helpful today. I proposed a restructure that didn’t get accepted and have had a hard time letting go of that vision. The post helped me get jazzed about working with the team I have rather than grumble about what it isn’t. Thanks!
Thanks Emily. I had to chuckle when I read your last sentence. I’ve been there! It’s sad when we allow what we don’t have to pollute and limit what we do. But, realizing the issues is a game changer. Best wishes.
This brings to mind for me M. Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I think when we are curious, asking ourselves questions like to ones you have suggested above Dan, we can begin to see what we can do to be the people we want to be. Curiosity can help us help others to understand they also can’t control anyone other than themselves, which I guess could create a chain reaction of everyone being curious and open to better understand themselves and how they fit in instead of trying to change others.
Thanks Kathy. I’m glad you’re bringing up curiosity. It’s central to becoming a coaching-leader.
Sad to say, we can accept the fact “some people will not change” no matter what, it is their choice. We can hope thy see the light, then there are days you just walk away and wish them the best! The other option would be to reach out to people like yourself who just reaches people in their own way and the sun will shine again! Cheers…
Thanks Tim. Throwing up our hands in frustration might be indication that we went down the control freak path. Thanks for sharing another way to think about this.
I agree to the proposal of changing yourself but the other part of letting go your vision is not something I will ever advice anyone. More imporatantly why change people when you are also one of them whom many would like to change? Probably you got to change the situation rather than changing people and the out come would be counter productive. Sorry professionals, I talk from the point of human psychology.
Thanks Rajeev. I’m glad you added your perspective.
I have to thank a colleague of mine for sharing this with me today. Good timing and relevant.
Great way to restate the Serenity Prayer for controllers like myself. I think another facet that I don’t catch in your narrative is about motivators. What is motivating me to want someone to change, may not be the same motivation that would compel them to consider changing.
I try to encourage my teams to be nimble and flexible. Nimble is our ability to change, flexible is our willingness to do so.
Thanks for the insights.
Thanks Richard. Please thank your colleague for me, as well.
It’s great that you added the idea of motivators. If we can understand what motivates others we can align ourselves with strategies that work for others.
It’s interesting that successful leadership often hinges on our ability to adapt to what makes others tick. In traditional forms of management it’s just the opposite. Managers expect people to adapt to them.
Incredibly timely for me today Dan, thanks for your insights and wisdom.
Thanks Rick. It’s a joy that this caught you at the right time. Best for the journey.
Acceptation of the way it is!
Thanks Dennis. I’m still learning to breathe and let things go. 🙂
Dear Richard, I believe motivation is nothing but a transfer of enthusiasm from one to the other and its never a single factor like money, asset etc. that motivates every one as a universal truth. So understanding a bit of human engineering can ease out the whole process of identifying the various motivating factors applicable to individuals and situations.
The managers expecting people to adapt to them may get short term benifits in a forceful team building act but is not advisable in the long run.
Rajeev, No offense taken.
From the time we are born we learn from our parents if we are blessed to have them around to teach us, if not we learn by others, teachers, friends, people, books, experiences,TV etc..
The key to change is do we have to? Who says so? Why do we have to change? I believe in education, “change” comes as we mature in life’s experiences and lessons. I’m sure we can go round and round with scenarios! Be all you can be to the best of your abilities and enjoy life to the fullest.
Dear Tim. Yes some people will not change, is a partially correct statement. Think for a moment, he was not born that ways. His past experience and environment has pushed him to that mindset so if he is like this today, he can be like that tommorow as well. Just that you have to understand his concerns more clearly to bring in some change. “Change is nature’s rule but resistance to change is also a universal truth with human beings”
Sorry friend for my forceful reply as I just could not control my temptation reading your comment. Kindly ignore if it offends you in any form.
Dear Sarah. The people we can’t change may have the same opinion about us. When we could not change to their expectation, is’nt it futile to expect the same from them? If you really want to change, change the environment and you will find positive results coming in. I wish you look at my thought provoking statement to have a deeper understanding of the situation.
Sorry to barge in the discussion as most of the people with rich consulting experience too, omit the human psychology part of it while taking a decision / giving a suggestion.