When you’re just starting a business, it’s essential you attend to all details, large and small. There are a thousand-and-one decisions to make and you’ve got to make them. Leave anything to chance at this fragile early juncture and it could all go up in smoke.
Then things start to click, and before you know it, the business takes off. You need to hire others to handle tasks and processes you once did yourself.
At the same time, you’re reluctant to loosen the reins of control. You’re not sure others are up to the challenge of making independent judgments affecting the future of the business. You’ve been in control for so long you find it very hard to relinquish any of that control to others.
Sound familiar? Or are you shaking your head and thinking, This may be true for other entrepreneurs and CEOs but not me.
Are You a Control Freak?
Don’t be so sure. Ask yourself the following questions and answer honestly. You might be surprised by the results.
- Do I feel constantly swamped by work?
- Do I tend to dominate meetings and one-on-ones?
- Do I talk more than listen?
- Do I pride myself on being a perfectionist (and demand the same of others)?
- Do my direct reports have to run every decision by me?
- Do I spend time checking on small details better left to others?
- Am I furious if someone makes a mistake?
Being a control freak doesn’t make you a bad person, but it can seriously damage the health of your business. After serving under a control freak for any length of time, employees tend to mentally check out, lose interest in offering their own ideas and begin looking for employment elsewhere. The business sacrifices the benefits of fresh ideas and suggestions on how to improve things. And the CEO or business owner ends up completely overwhelmed by all the work he or she won’t permit others to handle.
As the saying goes, the first step in solving a problem is recognizing a problem exists. If you have the sneaking suspicion you may be a control freak, chances are it’s true. But effective leaders cultivate awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses and make changes to become better at what they do.
Start by no longer listening to that inner voice saying, No one can do this as good as me. It’s a form of self-flattery (and self-delusion). When you hire smart, talented people, you’re going on the assumption that, at some point in the near future, these individuals will in fact be able to assume many of the responsibilities you so anxiously cling to.
Next, begin delegating some decisions.
They don’t have to be ones that affect the core business, but they must demonstrate your willingness to let others on your team take control of certain matters and move forward on their own. Gradually, as successes mount up, people will feel more empowered and ready to help you with big-picture planning and decision-making. There are likely going to be mistakes along the way—if your control-freak disorder has been pervasive enough, others simply won’t have the tools or knowledge to do everything right, right away—but part of letting go means working with your team to correct mistakes, learn from them and do better next time.
Leverage your support system.
Another valuable option exists: Seeking the insights of others beyond the business. When they first join Catapult Groups, many entrepreneurs, CEOs and other business leaders may well be outright control freaks—but they won’t stay that way. Getting advice and guidance from others quickly dispels the notion that only they have the ability to get things done. It’s a valuable lesson to learn and one that enables Catapult Groups members to dramatically grow their businesses.
Let someone close to you know you’re ready to make a change. With their help, try to identify things that trigger your “inner control freak.” Then let go of those triggers.
You’ll be amazed at how your leadership style will change—for the better.
We invite you to join other entrepreneurs, CEOs, and senior-level executives in a confidential group setting where you’ll be challenged and rewarded like never before in your professional life. Learn more about becoming a Catapult Group member today.