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Control is an Illusion
10/15/2008

We can't really control our employees. Struggling managers attempt to shortcut "true leadership" through an illusion of control. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can absolutely control the actions of our employees.

Individuals are going to do what "they" want to do. That might mean complying with a request or not. They may also say one thing and do another. They can also opt to leave your organization for "greener pastures". We really only influence each other and that takes time versus the illusion of control that is our "shortcut" for results.

Following are five symptoms that you may have control issues with your team:

1. Yelling and screaming are common behaviors
2. Low trust and morale with your team
3. People leave your organization "suddenly" for unusual reasons
4. Results are sporadic among groups and/or shifts
5. Personalities, rather than values, guide most individual behavior

True Accountability

What does it mean to "Hold People Accountable"? Have you ever said to yourself, "If I were in charge, I would ________"? Have you ever looked at the way your team performs some daily function and thought that it could be done better? What if everyone took responsibility for the performance of his or her part of the process, or for the performance of the entire organization? These are the basic ideas behind accountability and the cultural shift that your organization is committed to. In fact, giving leaders the authority and tools for pushing responsibility down to the lowest level employee are the goals of any winning organization.

How do you decide the best balance between authority and empowerment? As a leader, it's your job to set the boundaries, to establish the rules. If you set the rules too tight, holding a lot of authority yourself, you will be trying to "do it all" and not using your employees' strengths. If you set the rules too loose, empowering your employees fully, you may not get the results you seek. And, if you don't set the rules, you may find yourself flipping back and forth between being authoritarian and being permissive - this is very confusing to employees and often creates apathy and a lack of respect.

The important idea to consider about this is that we cannot "hold" people accountable until they are. And, there are three conditions that must be met (that are in each leader's ability) before employees are in a position to demonstrate accountability.

1) Employees are "given an opportunity to be" included in decisions and assignments.
2) Employees are delegated the responsibility for something.
3) Employees are provided the resources needed to be successful.

GCI Leadership Series

How well does your organization communicate? How many activities have to be
repeated because expectations were not made clear? What does this cost your
organization? Why does it seem that we always have time to do things right the
second time?

The GCI Leadership Series is a customized program that helps organizations
(large and small) answer these questions. This program builds from the basic
challenges facing most organizations today.


Training is like a snowball - it must be rolling to grow. The only way to grow individual capability is to keep your people learning. Many organizations miss critical opportunities to sharpen individual capability when the economy slows.

Key learning point...Doing more with less requires a better prepared team!

John Grubbs
GCI