Tame Your Inner Control Freak
Tame Your Inner Control Freak
Lori Murray,10.11.10, 12:10 PM
Many people discover that their control freak tendencies are both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, control freaks tend to be top performers, a trait that benefits them greatly in their careers. In their quest for perfectionism, they assume control of all situations, and usually the outcomes are highly satisfactory. Unfortunately, there are some negative impacts as well. Employees and peers grow resentful from always being told what to do. They might feel intimidated and coerced, which could lead to a lack of productivity. At the same time, the controlling person stresses over the impossibility of trying to accomplish perfection.
Surprisingly, control freaks act out of fear. "They live with fear and insecurity and an illusion that they can have control over other people or that they can attain perfectionism, but it's really not possible," says Christopher Knippers, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Pacific Coast Recovery in Laguna Beach, Calif. "You ultimately don't have control over other people or over certain things in your life."
Naturally, you want to avoid these negative outcomes, but you also don't want to stymie your drive to excel. That's why we'd like to suggest these tips to make the most of your inner control freak.
First, make a choice to focus on what you can control. "Control freaks try to control things that they have no control over, and that's why they have increased stress. They say, 'If only so and so would do this,'" says Cheryl Cran, author of The Control Freak Revolution. "Instead they should say, 'What can I do and how can I shift so I can get that peace?'" It's the constant finger-pointing at the other person that creates additional angst.
When women make the transition from high-performing contributor to leader, one of their challenges is in accepting the roles of the people around them. "Their entire career they have been an outstanding performer. As workers, they never needed feedback or performance counseling because they simply got the job done," says Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “They expect that everyone around them will step up and perform as well, but not everyone is as performance-oriented as they are. They need to learn to be accepting of that."
Another step for overcoming the problem is to practice empathy. "Start to see the world from another person's perspective," says Parrot. "That kind of objectivity is really hard for the control freak." But with it, they start to gain respect. Miller agrees. "It's about gaining the empathy and insight into how others operate," she says.
Finally, ask for forgiveness and make the transition to having less control. Learn to trust. Have weekly meetings and communicate with your team. Control freaks don't delegate because they're afraid the people around them will not rise to the occasion. "They think people aren't going to do it exactly the way they do it, so they believe they have to take over," says Cran. "But although other people may not take the same route, if the outcome is the same, the control freak must learn to accept it."
When Cran finally hired her team, she confessed about her control freak tendencies. Just knowing that she was trying to change her behavior made them more forgiving. "Let your team know that you're working toward the transition of empowering them more than you have been," she says. "At first it will be like nails on a chalkboard, but the payoff is less stress, increased confidence and best of all, improved relationships in all areas of your life."