(Distinctions are subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude.)


Other S3MC’s have covered the topic of control, it’s attributes and costs. Recently, during a group discussion, this Distinction emerged which may help clarify a common misconception about letting go of control.

To give up on the illusion that you can be in control of anything outside yourself does not mean to become passive or ineffective in accomplishing outcomes which are desirable to you. Quite the contrary, you find that you accomplish more when you tap into the energy, creativity, passion, and desire of others and work through them toward common outcomes.

When you attempt to be in control you dampen those contributions of others.

The difference in being in control and being in charge is one of attitude and intention. Requiring all decisions and actions to cross your desk so you can attempt to be in control makes you the gating item, maybe even a bottleneck. You will ultimately hit what some have called the ceiling of complexity. Rarely does that end well.

If you ask “What do I have to be to be in charge?” you open the door to discovering a range of possibilities. Your intention becomes getting the outcomes in the most effective way, an expanding, open approach, rather than having to divide your bandwidth into ever narrower slices in an attempt to control everything.

In charge is leadership. In control is (micro)managing.

If you are not wired to develop people, or even interested in the topic, don’t try this. Either accept that you will have lesser outcomes or, perhaps, insert a people-developer between you and the team. Either is a useful alternative.


Coaching Point: Can you afford to be (merely!) in charge?


Copyright 2014 Steve Straus. All rights reserved.