Friday, January 14, 2005

Controlling Others For Love And Profit

Controlling others is not the solution ... it is the problem

It’s been said that 80% of the results in business are created by only 20% of the people. While personal success in the 21st Century rests in the ability to become part of that top 20%, managerial success will depend on the ability to inspire, attract, and/or maintain these leaders.

Leadership “Self-Help” books, articles, blogs, keynotes, and workshops abound. Most of these management tools, sales techniques, and relationship strategies, are successful in at least some situations and with certain people. However, the vast majority miss the point:

All attempts to influence or control others are focused on the wrong person. Leadership Excellence is the “Art of Self-Control.”

Most people would probably agree that self-control is the answer. The problem lies in the individual definition of self-control ...

Self-control means toughness for some: “I don’t get mad, I get even.”

For others, it is all about leaving a way out in case something goes wrong: “I don’t have to take this, I’m out of here.”

For many, self-control is the ability to refrain from hurting people, even when hurt or angry themselves: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

And for some people, it means to do whatever it takes to keep from upsetting others: “Don’t rock the boat.”

Statements such as these may seem like self-control to many people. In reality, they are all attempts to control others. People justifying these behaviors are either trying to get someone else to do something (such as keeping their commitments), or to prevent them from doing something (such as getting upset).

Unfortunately, whether one is striving to be helpful or self-serving, the only way to ensure success with these tactics is to establish some kind of ‘Position-Power’ over others. Position-Power may be blatant, as when backed up with orders, threats, demands, hysterics, or ultimatums. However, this manipulation can also be demonstrated in more subtle ways, such as by shutting down, backing away, or making outright lies.

Position-Power is the rationalized control of others due to fear.

This can be a fear OF others: “You might hurt me.” However, it can also be an altruistic fear FOR others: “You might hurt yourself.” The bottom line is, whether you are striving to protect yourself or someone else, management by Position-Power itself is nothing more than a Fear-Based knee-jerk reaction designed to control others.

“Position-Power” is a “Fear-Based Reaction”

These terms are synonymous and interchangeable, and both are becoming operatively obsolete. Regardless of the intent, managers using Position-Power to control others are facing increasing resistance. Modern persons in democratic societies do not function under the strict inflexible hierarchy as our ancestors did. In fact, we resent those who control us (or attempt to control us), even when we are told it is for “our own good”. Just ask any teenager.

In the short term, Position-Power can give a business the illusion of effectiveness. However, this Fear-Based environment is now becoming unacceptable for employees with high levels of self-worth. They have found, and will continue to find, better places to work. Those who remain usually see the levels of fear increase in direct proportion to decreased corporate results.

The cycle will continue until excellence and passion are stifled. In a world where innovation and creativity are needed for long-term business success, companies operating within this paradigm cannot flourish. Resentment and resistance ultimately lead to sabotage, diminished results, and even destruction. The good news is there is an alternative to management by Position-Power.

People are beginning to realize they are merely creating new problems whenever they justify Fear-Based reactions to challenging or threatening circumstances. Position-Power is losing ground to effective, innovative, and forward thinking leaders.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that positive results will come through leaders … not from them.

The Distributor

In 1989, I consulted with a Canadian distributor of a high-end line of stuffed animals. Unfortunately, since most of its sales came from the just the one product line, the suppliers of their other four product lines were threatening to change distributors.

Beginning to worry about his company’s future, the president started to react by demanding increased sales from the other four product lines. This Position-Power failed completely.

After discussions with the sales staff, I discovered two things. 1) They made a good living selling just the stuffed animals, as they were relatively easy to sell. 2) Fear of rejection kept them from trying to sell products that had already been refused by existing customers.

The first step was to hold a “Problem-Solving by Consensus” session with the managers and sales people. I broke everyone into small teams and presented the boss’s dilemma, “How can we sell more of the four “other” product lines?”

Each team was to come up with a possible solution. The only ground rule was each team member had to agree the team’s idea was workable … even if they personally thought there was a better answer. There was to be no voting.

One by one, each team came to consensus and presented me with their idea. As I read the surprisingly similar suggestions, the answer was obvious.

My recommendation to the President went as follows: “New hires have traditionally been trained to sell the stuffed animals first. The consensus of your employees is that from now on, all new hires should ONLY be allowed to sell the other four product lines. When they reach a certain sales volume with those products, only then they will be allowed to sell the line of stuffed animals.” The president agreed to implement the policy.

A year later I was invited back to do a follow-up seminar. This is always a good sign. I asked about the results of the policy change on sales. The president smiled and told me, “Sales of the four smaller product lines are up 50%, and the stuffed animals sales are up 20% as well. We are looking to add a few more product lines.”

I asked what he believed had happened. He explained that because his managers had to focus on the other four product lines while training new hires, everything changed. Not surprisingly, when the new hires became proficient at selling the other four products, they had little trouble selling the popular stuffed animals. That certainly helped sales a little. However, the sales turn-around was really caused by something else.

The minute the managers changed their focus to training new hires to sell everything but the stuffed animals, virtually all sales-people began selling more of those other product lines as well. It seemed that the same people who resisted changing when the boss demanded it, voluntarily changed right along with the implementation of the new training policy. At the time it seemed like an interesting “Quinn-cidence.”

However, since then, I have discovered that every time management fails to change an undesired behavior of its employees, it turns out that there is a company policy which causes, and often even rewards, this behavior. Consensus is the most effective way of finding the policy. Then, once management changes this policy, the employee’s undesired behaviors change automatically. It works every time.

The president became a more effective leader when he began to realize his people did things for their reasons and not his. Instead of trying to use Position-Power to change his sales force, he changed himself by allowing for a policy to be set by consensus. The results speak for themselves.

Stop fighting against what you do not want, and fight to create what you do want. There is a difference.

The truth is, the reactions of anyone other than yourself, are merely measures of your own effectiveness … or lack thereof. When you become aware of your own negative Fear-Based reactions, it becomes easier to see how you are attempting to control others with actual or implied Position-Power. Instead of focusing on what others are doing wrong, take responsibility for changing yourself. Your leadership will be greatly enhanced.

We are in the midst of a leadership evolution. Leadership based on Position-Power is history. The evolution in leadership will influence our intimate, family, business, community, national, and global affairs. Now is the time to create personal and professional results WITH your life, not just IN your life.

The world has enough victims. We need leaders.


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