Three Ways to Prevent Being a Control Freak

ways to prevent being a control freakIf you’ve ever worked for a “control freak,” you know how debilitating this can be in terms of doing your job in an empowered, productive way. Because deep down these leaders are fearful and anxious, they over-manage, constantly dictate what and how things should be done, and struggle to get their own responsibilities completed because they’re so busy trying to control everything and everyone around them. It makes for a downright stressful situation. But here’s what’s interesting: Most control freaks, including those who are leaders, usually don’t have a clue that they are one. At MAP, we offer 360-degree anonymous feedback in our 2.5-day executive workshop and there’s almost always someone who learns that they have this toxic management style—and they’re shocked. Some of the many signs of being a control freak include things like wanting to do things yourself rather than assigning duties to others, struggling with any kind of change, and feeling your way is the only way to get something done. The good news is that once you discover you’ve got a tendency to be overly controlling, there are some solid steps you can take to fight against it.

Here are three ways to address this common, yet correctable leadership tendency:

  1. Manage your worries. In MAP’s new book, “The Disciplined Leader,” we spend an entire chapter talking about this topic primarily because worrying tends to drive a whole host of behaviors that undermine effective leadership. Worrying fuels self-defeating thoughts and activities, and it also can lead to compulsive behaviors, like feeling the need to constantly control all aspects of the environment around you. To manage your worries, talk to a confidant or mentor and get an outside perspective about what’s a valid worry versus invalid worry. Most worries tend to never come into fruition so getting some understanding around this will help. Then explore how you are unnecessarily acting upon those worries in ways that might be dis-empowering others, crushing people’s abilities to develop professionally, and inhibiting a transparent and innovative culture that would otherwise flourish without such tight leadership reigns.

  2. Hold yourself accountable to what’s vital in your job. Truth is, if you’re really focused on what matters relative to your leadership responsibilities, you’re not going to do more trivial things, such as meddling in others business and controlling everyone all the time. You just won’t have the bandwidth. Since it’s your number-one job to focus on the vital 20% of your leadership duties that will drive 80% of the results, holding yourself accountable to those vital goals and responsibilities will naturally force you to shift your efforts and energy away from what’s trivial so you can focus on what matters most. Through this process, you will have to let go of micromanaging, meddling, and other management behaviors that don’t serve you or others well…you just won’t have the time.

  3. Get the right people in the right jobs. One of the most common reasons leaders micro-manage or take on controlling tendencies is because they are afraid to hand the reigns over to their team members. Sometimes this isn’t that they don’t want to but it’s because they don’t trust the capabilities or judgment of their people. If that’s truly the case, then this is an indication of hiring—or firing—challenges that must be addressed. If you don’t have the right people in the right jobs, I get why it will be hard to turn over important responsibilities and delegate to those individuals. So, hard as it may be, you might have to make some changes to your staffing situation. But the solution may be an easy one. For example, your people may need additional training, education or coaching to get them to a point where you can then feel like they’re ready to take on additional responsibilities so you can offload them from your plate. The key, however, will be that once they’re up and running, you need to step back and let go. Fail to do this and you’ll circumvent all the efforts you’ve made to take corrective action here, possibly generating irreparable distrust on behalf of your team members. In short, adequately empower your people, then let go and let them have that power.

What have you done to address overly controlling tendencies?


​ The Disciplined Leader

What do the best leaders have in common? The answer is one word: Discipline. A disciplined leader is one who identifies and focuses on the Vital Few: the 20% of activities that will drive 80% of the results. Learn More

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