Tag Archives: control


Ron took a moment to reflect on the way he felt during the heated discussion the week before at the management team meeting. “We have already established that there was a knot in my stomach. When Jim and Fred went after each other, at first I was surprised. Then, I went into self protection mode, wondering if the expressed emotions would swing around to me. As the leader, sometimes I feel like everyone depends on me to control situations like this, especially if they are out of control.”

“That’s a good start,” I said.

“Oh. I wouldn’t tell the team that, I thought this was just between you and me,” Ron replied.

“Right now, it is just between you and me. What version of that would you consider sharing with the team?”

“Well, I wouldn’t want them to see me as some sort of a weak leader,” Ron reflected. “So, I would probably leave out the part about me not being in control.”

“Do you really think you were ever in control,” I asked. “Control is a funny thing, sometimes just an illusion. Do you think it is important that the team always sees you in control, even when you are not?”

“Can’t I at least pretend?”

“You can, but how will the team come to some resolution if you pretend to be in control?”

Impact of Thoughts

“You’re serious,” said Nathan.

“As serious as a heart attack,” I replied.

“You want me to actually try to think about Mr. Johnston watching me whenever I have a big decision to make?”

“It’s better than allowing your worst boss into your head.”

“It’s funny,” said Nathan. “It kind of makes sense. I just don’t know why. It’s weird.”

“Here’s the thing, Nathan. You are what you think about. Only you have control over what you think about. You can think positive thoughts or you can think negative thoughts. But whichever thoughts you think will be the thoughts that influence your decisions, your problem solving. Those thoughts will ultimately define who you are.”

Panic and Seduction

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

You suggest that a manager must push work to the team and that is the only way to gain control. I pushed work to my team and things got worse. Chaos emerged. I was better off before. I had to step back in and take control.

Of course, things got worse. It was a seduction. You pushed decision making and problem solving to the team and they panicked. This not-so-subtle shift of accountability from the leader to the team sent the team into panic.

As long as the manager is making all the decisions and solving all the problems, as long as the manager is barking orders, raising the voice of authority, repeated lecturing about misbehavior and underperformance, the manager has all the accountability. It was a seduction.

When accountability shifted, the team panicked, chaos ensued and the seduction began again, to have you, as the manager step in and take it all back.

The most effective position for the manager in this seduction is very simple. Outlast the panic.

Working Leadership comes to Austin TX. For more information, follow this link.
Here are the dates –

  • Session One – Aug 25, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Two – Sep 1, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Three – Sep 8, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Four – Sep 18, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Five – Sep 22, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Six – Sep 28, 2017, 9a-12p

For registration information, ask Tom.

Gain More Control

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

You say, your challenge, as a manager, is to work less and gain more control. Easy to say. Hard to do.

Management is a mindset. Levels of work help us understand that management is not about working more, or working harder, it is about working differently. Delegation is all about working differently.

In every role, there is a level of problem solving and a level of decision making. When Marshall Goldsmith says “What got you here, won’t get you there,” he is talking about a different level of work.

When Albert Einstein says “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” he is talking about a different level of work.

Elliott Jaques‘ research on levels of work makes this management advice concrete. Intuitively, we understand levels of work, but only when Jaques defined levels of work related to time span, did we get some useful direct insight.

The time span of the goal defines the level of work. In a technician’s world, goals range from a day to three months. In your role as a supervisor, or first line manager, your longest time span objectives range from 3-12 months. Any task that is shorter is a candidate to be delegated.

In your role as a manager, your longest time span objectives range from 12-24 months. Any task that is shorter is a candidate to be delegated.

What is left? It is those longer time span tasks that make up your role as a manager. It is only when you have effectively delegated shorter time span task assignments that you will get more throughput and more control over the quality of the output. -Tom

Level of Work – Time Span Objectives
S-I – 1 day to 3 months
S-II – 3 months to 12 months
S-III – 12-24 months
S-IV – 2-5 years

Work Less and Gain More Control

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Sometimes, at work after hours, it is quiet and I ask myself, why am I here? I should be home with my family. But, there is still so much to be done. And if I don’t take care of some loose ends, something critical will blow up tomorrow. I feel guilty, responsible. But, the harder I work, the more things seem out of control.

You are not the only manager thinking that thought. This is a self-inflicted wound.

So, you have to think if something doesn’t change, about the way you manage your team, what will happen? What will happen in another week? What will happen in another month? What will happen in another year?

You likely feel tired every morning. You stopped working out because I don’t have time. You feel like a cold is coming on. And you still feel out of control.

This is counter-intuitive. You feel like you need to work more. My suggestion will be to work less.

  • Determine the work that is necessary to be done.
  • In the work that is important, determine the level of work that is necessary for you to work on and the level of work that is necessary for your team to work on.
  • Stop doing the work your team should be doing. Assign the work and spend your time coaching instead of doing.

You are a manager, not a technician. The more you work, the less control you have. Ask yourself this question – If I were to work less, how could I have more control?

Who Carries the Keys?

“They called me KEYS,” Ryan explained. “I had the keys to every door and portal in the building. I was important. I was the person the company trusted with the keys.”

“And, what did you discover?” I asked.

“I thought the keys were a sign of power, and that power translated into being a manager.”

“And, why did you think that?” I pressed.

“No one could do anything without my permission.” Ryan replied. “I thought I had a great deal of authority.”

“And, now?”

“Now, I realize that carrying all the keys to the building has nothing to do with being a manager.”

“So, what did you change?”

“I found another trustworthy person to carry all the keys.”

Losing Control in the Interview

This is the fourth in our series, Six Sins in the Hiring Interview.

  • Missing important (and obvious) clues during the interview
  • Head trash, the distraction of the stereotype in the back of your head
  • The fatal decision in the first three minutes of the interview
  • Losing control, losing your head, losing your wallet
  • Asking the wrong (stupid) interview questions
  • Getting beat in the paint

This series is a prelude to our Hiring Talent Summer Camp.

Losing Control in the Interview
I realize I haven’t heard a word the candidate has said for the past four minutes. Then I realized the candidate has been talking non-stop for the past four minutes.

“Can you tell me more about the company?” the candidate asks.

“Great company,” I reply and recite a brief thumbnail about the enterprise.

“Are there benefits?”
“Who would be my manager?”
“Would I have my own cubicle?”
“What kind of computer do I get?”
“Do we have paid holidays?”
“How long before I can take vacation?”
“What’s the work like?”
“Is there a dress code?”

I suddenly realize 45 minutes has passed, I know nothing about this candidate and I have two more waiting in the lobby. I lost control of the interview.

Happens all the time, often with a full complimentary tour of the building. Why do we lose control of the interview?

Who controls the conversation?

  • the person answering the questions?
  • the person asking the questions?

On the surface, it appears the person doing most of the talking must be in control, when, in fact, it is the person asking the questions. Why does the interviewer lose control? Most interviewers walk in the room with a written list of 4-5 questions. The more time the candidate fills, the fewer questions required.

“I had five prepared questions, but I only had to ask the first two, the candidate was really responsive, a good communicator. I kind of liked him.” Who was in control of the interview?

Here is the good news. If you suddenly realize you have lost control, you can immediately regain it by asking your next question. You do have a next question, don’t you. From your list of 60 prepared questions. The person asking the questions controls the interview.

Our Hiring Talent Summer Camp begins next Monday, June 18, 2012. It’s online, and you will have several chances to make that first impression.