In business, just as in life, we have to accept that some things we have no control over. But we can influence our attitudes, emotions and behaviors.
Some of the most successful leaders are capable of letting go of control in hard times, trusting associates with the truth, then showing them support and care as they put that truth into action. They have learned how to “let go.”
To understand letting go, it is helpful to recognize how much your own attitudes about control affect your situation. "Control freaks'' don't pause to observe or take note when obstacles arise. They have difficulty trusting others. They are perfectionists, possess unrealistic expectations or harbor an illusion of control when we truly have none. We have seen this inner control freak manifested numerous times by our clients, as well as ourselves.
In business, perhaps the greatest lesson about letting go occurs during a difficult juncture. In times of strong competition or economic hardship, some leaders argue they don’t have the time to be discerning and circumspect. They feel they need to take immediate action.
As a leader, you will inevitably spend the time that you were reluctant to take up front at the back end, cleaning up the mess made by trying to control everything around you. Trying to control things just doesn’t work. It creates anxiety, knee-jerk reactions and nonstrategic thinking. To succeed, invest time up front, give up control, be patient, focus on the outcome and be more strategic accomplishing your goals. We succeed not with force, not with power, but with patience and, yes, compassion.
It is helpful to remember that you lead by encouragement and inspiration, not by fear and control. In the long run, we are not going to change people through our efforts at maintaining power over them. We can only invite others to get on board with us by asking for their opinions and help and, ultimately, trusting them to make good decisions.
How to “let go." It can seem next to impossible to talk of letting go when associates are ostensibly unproductive and lackluster, when things seem to be falling apart all around us, and when it seems that we live in a dog-eat-dog world. From a strict management perspective, there are times when the job had to get done yesterday. The question for leaders is how to learn effectively to let go in order to motivate those around us to do their best work.
Letting go of control can be a very powerful teacher that will accomplish just that. The important message is that the leader builds confidence through honesty, trust and forgoing the idea of making all the decisions themselves.
Related: Richard Branson on Letting Go
Step 1: Tell the truth. Sounds simple but this may be the most difficult idea for many leaders to get used to. Once you learn to tell the truth, you must also learn to trust your associates with the truth and show them sincerity and consideration in your decisions. Be open about your goals and expectations for the future. Be forthright about problems that occur. This will earn you respect in spades.
Step 2: Trust. Associates who are entrusted to do the right thing feel they are an integral part of the team. They know they have a leader who has faith in them to work toward a common goal. They tend to focus on creative problem solving and effective business strategies. Remember that to be trusted, you must trust.
Step 3: In the face of a crisis, do not attempt to rein in control. Instead, create a renewed focus on recruiting the strengths of the people around you. Enlist the help and ideas of your employees through round table discussions and problem-solving meetings that create more of a “we’re in this together” mentality. Listen thoroughly to feedback and concerns.
Leaders must be able to guide their associates but, ultimately, they must be able to let go. Letting go allows them to help find solutions to problems that may bring forth a new perspective for you and renewed enthusiasm from your team.
Related: Learning to Let Go