“Nevermind, I’ll do it myself.”
I’m willing to bet you’ve said that, muttered that, or at least thought that, and probably more than a couple times. Maybe you’ve even joked, “if you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself.”
But maybe that quip had the edge of truth to it?
Pause for a second and consider – do you need it done RIGHT? Or deep down do you really just need to know you did it YOURSELF?
“Perfectionism is a delusion that can rob one of a very successful, enriching life if not careful.”
Why do you need control?
Many of my clients come to me stuck in their field of what they control. It looks a little different every time – one micromanages their team, another has overfilled their plate by never saying “No” to anything.
Control can be sneaky and deceptive; even when it starts out with someone or something else running the show. You’ve accepted everything a manager or colleague wants to move from their list to yours, you handle the details big and small, you secure the outcome you want or need – I’ve got news for you. That’s your control talking.
One of my clients started working with me because she realized she was doing it “all” – in her business, at home, and with her family. If something needed doing, she did it. This worked great for everyone around her, but it wasn’t going so well for her.
From one point of view, it was everyone else who was controlling her. Her day, her workload, her balance (or lack thereof) of self and others.
But at the heart of it, she was exacting as much control in the ways she could. By never saying “no” she was trying to control her image and what people thought of her. Taking on anything that needed doing – controlling the to-do list – meant being the best, doing the most, and never letting a ball drop or, God forbid, show how overwhelmed she was.
She wasn’t particularly happy, she wasn’t fulfilled. She was, however, frustrated.
So we set to work.
Think about what it means to “have things under control.” It’s handled. The outcome is predictable.
Having control lets you feel safe. And we ALL need to feel safe.
The trouble is, control isn’t terribly discriminating. Too often, control picks either the wrong target or an ineffective means. Maybe things at home have gotten a little crazy, so you double down at work. Or maybe you’ve made a conscious goal of excelling in your business, but that shows up as micromanaging and ineffective leadership.
How to get control over your need for control
The need for control can be paralyzing and polarizing. Both stop you from being the person you want to be.
To stop letting your need for control control you, you’ve got to understand it. And when you understand it you’ll be able to decide if it’s serving you.
Try starting here…
1. Ask yourself, “Is it control, or is it fear?”
If you’re feeling anxious about the future, the unknown, the world… you’re not alone. You’re DEFINITELY not alone.
But if you do feel alone, you can bet your overbearing friend, Control, is willing to be there every step of the way to keep you company.
It’s time to challenge your fear. Since our controlling behaviors are often driven by fear, we need to understand what it is we’re afraid of.
For my client with the never-ending full plate, it took some time to sort out what she was afraid of. She so infrequently asked for help that she had no clear sense of how her loved ones would respond.
In her business, we had to explore a similar problem. She disagreed with her business partner at times – but wasn’t even sure how to express her differing point of view, let alone come to a consensus. The fear of stepping on any toes or damaging a relationship is paralyzing for someone who finds safety in controlling what people think of her.
The trouble is, she also wanted to be seen as a leader in the business. And to do that, you have to confidently, compassionately, and proactively LEAD, even if sometimes that means having a disagreement or knowing someone is less than happy with you.
By controlling the details of her life, and by proxy, the dynamics of her relationships, my client was giving up control of so much else. Her happiness, her time, the bigger picture of her future… Her control was putting a bandaid on her fears. But between her fear and her control, she was stuck.
Getting unstuck meant we had to work on step 2, and get those uncomfortable (but productive) conversations started.
2. Check your communication style
We tend to operate as if we can control other people with how or what we communicate.
Unfortunately, this sets us up for muddling the message from the start. My leaders, particularly, struggle here.
It’s our responsibility to communicate clearly, effectively, directly, & respectfully… It is not our responsibility how it lands for the other person. We don’t control that. Yet, we continue to take responsibility for other people’s reactions and we let that impact how we convey what we need to say.
Are you afraid of how an employee will respond to feedback? You have (at least) two options. You can try to control how they feel (and how they feel about YOU) by blunting the message. Or you can do your absolute best to clearly convey your observation, your evaluation, and your expectations.
Are you more worried about how your team feels about a message? Or whether they know what to do with it?
(And as applicable as this is to the workplace, unclear communication and confusion carry over into personal relationships far, far too often, as well.)
As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good
The reverence we have for perfect fans the flames of our control.
Yes, perfectionism will drive you to cross your T’s and dot your I’s, but at what cost?
Your instinct for control is whispering, “Just make it a little better – then you know you’ll get what you’re after.” But when perfectionism keeps you from hitting publish on that article, from going Live on social media to build your following, from inviting that “big” client to work with you, or applying for that high-level position you’d be perfect for with just a little more experience?
That’s when perfectionism is keeping you “safe” by avoiding what needs to be done. You’re eliminating the risk of rejection… but you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity for success.
If you find yourself in a perfectionism trap, start asking yourself, how is your perfectionism getting in the way of you being the leader you want to be… how is it impacting your team? Your relationships?
What do you want instead?
Get clear on who you want to be. Identify the actions that will have you showing up as him or her every day…personally and professionally. Then do it.
Go for progress over perfection. Perfection gets in the way of possible.
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
The opposite of control (Hint: It’s not chaos)
Giving up (or just easing up) on control feels like you’re giving up your certainty. Are you inviting in chaos?
Quite the contrary, when you give up control you’re setting yourself up to gain clarity – and be able to give the same to those around you.
When my clients struggling with control focus on compassionate curiosity for themselves and what’s motivating them, they begin to recognize when control is rearing its head. We develop tools and habits to choose a different response. We keep effort and action focused on their goals, not their fears.
In their homes, this can look like the simple shift to asking questions instead of giving orders. Inviting spouses and kids to the conversation shifts the dynamic and fuels intrinsic motivation.
In the workplace, my clients who want to become ex-micromanagers work on giving their team autonomy over their day and how they get their work done. With good leadership, this pays off. Daniel Pink writes in his book, Drive, having autonomy is one of the main motivators for intrinsic motivation – essential in a cohesive and collaborative team.
The heart of trading control for clarity is having graceful accountability for yourself. That can be particularly hard when you find yourself down the rabbit hole of control.
Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t let yourself off the hook. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
- What’s in my control?
- What’s out of my control?
- What do I partially control?
(For example, if you’re a part of a team, you control your contribution/actions, but not other members which can impact collaboration, communication, productivity… and can get in the way of a project being completed on time.)
Then act and react accordingly.
Control is a reaction to something bigger that’s going on. When you start looking for what that bigger thing is… that’s when you’re really on to something.
Our busyness is costing us the future we’re working so hard for.
How can that be? If you do the work it’s supposed to pay off, and we’re out here working our butts off. That payoff must be right around the corner by now.
But take a second and consider – when was the last time you checked whether all that busyness was aligned with your business? Much less your goals, your dreams, and your life?
The key question isn’t “Did I do enough?” but rather, “Did I focus on what’s most important?”
How often do you feel like there’s never enough? There’s never enough time… money… support… sleep… etc. If you’re pushing yourself to move faster and work harder to find where “enough” is hiding, I’ve got a radical suggestion for you.
Hit pause. Do less.
In today’s busy, over-caffeinated, multitasking world, it’s a rogue idea to buck the trend of more, bigger, faster, in favor of the whitespace during our day to make room for less, but better.
And yet, “less, but better” might be exactly the solution you didn’t know you’re looking for.
My client Barbara came to me a few years ago because, while she was successful, she was also stressed out, burnt out, and maxed out, and she didn’t know how to change it.
Her days consisted of back-to-back meetings, lunch at her computer, and barely time for a bathroom break
There was certainly no time for thinking about the future or the past to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change.
She kept doing what she had always done, getting the results she’d always had, and she was not content with either.
Barbara’s not alone, of course. A 2020 Gallup study revealed that 28% of workers feel burnt out very often, or worse, always. And that number has been trending upwards in recent years.
When doing more is no longer a feasible solution, you have to consider the upside of doing less.
When Barbara hit pause she realized she never said “NO,” even when “YES” wasn’t adding to her life or her business.
It also became clear that there was one service she offered that was a true trifecta: it kept her the busiest, was the least profitable, and it was the least enjoyable for her.
She decided to take that offering off the table.
Adding more to your plate does not always add more to your life. In fact, it often creates the opposite.
3 Reasons to Unhook from a life of busyness:
Busyness Cost #1: Decreased Creativity
Our busyness diminishes our ability to think creatively.
We see everyone around us putting in long hours, working weekends, bragging about how busy they are. It can make us uncomfortable to not follow the herd. So we keep doing the same, hesitant to blaze our own authentic trail.
The good news is, although social pressure is real, its hold on us may be more tenuous than it seems. Psychologist Solomon Asch found in his experiments that when just one person in a small group goes against the majority’s choice, it can reduce conformity by up to 80 percent.
How can you reclaim your individuality and make the unique choices that serve your business and yourself best?
Buck the busyness and make some whitespace time to think.
If taking a “break” is still too uncomfortable, try what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner does: he schedules thinking time throughout his day. (After all, if your calendar is still booked, you must still be busy!)
Scheduling time to think will help us understand if we want to conform or decide/create our own path. Taking time to think about our choices helps us to create the future we want, instead of what’s expected.
And when you have time to think, you have time to prioritize.
Busyness Cost #2: Self-Doubt
We all want to feel like we’re intentionally choosing our life instead of continually reacting to it.
So many of the people I speak with say they want more balance but they just aren’t sure how to achieve it…and they don’t feel like they have the ”luxury” to slow down and figure it out.
Can you relate?
No amount of hustle and grind feels like enough.
Soon enough, this morphs into a feeling that we’re not enough.
As a result, we can become consumed by creating “enough” and quickly lose our perspective of who we are.
We pack our calendars so full it’s physically (and emotionally) impossible to accomplish all we have on our to-do list.
So we start to lose belief in ourselves that we have what it takes to live the life we want, be the person we want to be, and experience relationships that nurture us rather than drain us.
Where are you living in a belief that you have to work harder, longer, faster, and better to achieve more of what you want?
Is it working for you?
Do you want something different?
You have permission to pause and figure out exactly what that is.
It’s too easy to get stuck in the gap between where we are and where we want to go, instead of looking at how far we’ve come and letting that feed our confidence.
High achievers are particularly prone to being in the gap.
Let’s change that.
Busyness Cost #3: Anxiety
Pausing can reveal anxieties. Pausing is not easy.
Simple, but not easy, and this can trip us up.
When we’re driving ourselves this hard it’s easier to ignore the underlying anxiety many high achievers grapple with.
Anxiety is so often about control. “Doing” means you’ve taken action and even if that action isn’t moving you toward your goals it could be quelling that anxiety. Temporarily.
Pausing feels like doing nothing, particularly to the anxious. It leaves room for the anxiety to start talking (or shouting) and running the show. “DO SOMETHING!”
When you subscribe to busyness you’re treating the symptom of anxiety, not the cause. Your busyness alone isn’t moving you forward. It gives you the illusion of movement, but you might just be spinning your wheels.
And when you’ve finally added so much busyness to your agenda that you can never keep up? You’ve added fuel to the anxiety fire – those tasks left unfinished and those emails unanswered must be the magic bullet, the path out of “never enough.” If you could just get to everything on the list…
The solution isn’t in finishing the list. If anxiety is going to take hold whether you “do everything” or “do nothing” the answer must be in the “do some things.”
And the question is, which things?
That’s exactly the question Barbara needed to ask herself.
We talked about how she often struggled with her energy and staying healthy, especially during the busiest times in her business. We’re talking back problems, headaches, exhaustion, unhealthy relationships, and more.
When we stepped back and looked at when she was the most healthy (physically, emotionally, and financially) she saw that it was when she was honoring the space on her calendar for self-care. Things like ladies’ night with her friends, a bubble bath, getting out in nature, getting 8-hours of sleep, yoga, and lunch – away from her desk with the computer turned off.
Her productivity, profitability, and ability to be present with the ones she loves were all dependent on her carving out time to focus on what mattered most.
But she thought she didn’t have time to slow down and identify what that was.
This is a recurring theme in some shape or form with all of my clients. They are successful, but there’s a cost. One that is not sustainable over time.
The one habit that helped Barbara to say “NO” more so she could build a business that sustains the life she wants to live, not consume it?
The habit of creating space in her day to think before launching into action.
She prioritized creating white space throughout her day to improve her creativity, efficiency, self-confidence, and relationships.
Ready to create a sustainable approach to success that inspires instead of exhausts?
Gift yourself the space to build sustainability into your life.
Set an alarm (a silent alarm) every few hours to remind yourself to look up and breathe, and proceed with intention.
Less can be the new more if we allow it.
Isn’t it time to adopt a less but better mindset?
When I say the word accountability, what comes to mind?
Is the first word “trust?”
Yet, in reality, when we’re holding our teams accountable, what we’re saying is, “I trust you. You have what it takes to get the work done. I believe in you.”
Some of the biggest struggles I hear about from business owners are rooted in a lack of trust in their team and an accountability deficit. Very often they’re also displaying a lack of trust and accountability in themselves.
Typically these leaders have not yet realized the direct connection between those two values. What happens when you don’t understand the interconnected dance that’s taking place? You can’t ask your team to join you in it and you’ll struggle to effectively lead.
On the opposite side of the accountability coin, when we resist holding individuals accountable, we’re saying, “I don’t believe in you. I don’t think you’re capable.”
(Now, the last statement may be true, you don’t trust them. That is an entirely different conversation. And an invitation to figure out why you’re keeping a person who is not the right fit for your company.)
What does an accountability deficit look like?
A recent client, David, came to me looking for someone to help hold him accountable and move him towards being the leader he wanted to be for his staff, his future business plans, and himself.
His main challenge? We were in agreement there – it was that he didn’t trust his team. And he didn’t know where to start on changing that.
He wanted to get out of the day-to-day details and the DOING so he could work more on the higher-level vision, strategy, and growth of his business. Which are, as it happens, his areas of brilliance.
But David lacked confidence in himself as a leader and in his decision-making when delegating. Instead, he was spending his time – all of it, not just the workday – doing the work himself, not leading, listening, and empowering. He was burnt out, frustrated, and knew his team was following in his emotional footsteps.
What’s holding you back from trust and accountability?
The difficulty, more often than not, comes down to the need to be liked. Leaders who don’t want to be seen as overbearing or aggressive ultimately let their fear interfere with them inviting their team to step forth and do the job that’s expected.
Accountability is showing trust.
In your team. Trust they’re capable and willing to do the work, or capable of figuring out how to get there, and seeking guidance when they don’t. Most people really do want to do a good job.
In yourself. Trust that YOU have what it takes to lead effectively. Stop the second-guessing and shoulding.
This is graceful accountability. One that says to your team, we don’t beat ourselves up, but we don’t let ourselves off the hook.
Establishing authentic trust is a two-way street
The first plan of action for David was to gain clarity on his strengths and weaknesses so he could confidently delegate and trust his team – and himself.
He committed to try new approaches, to fail, learn, and do it better next time. And, to apologize when he was “that overbearing manager,” and then invite conversation.
David brought strength, transparency, vulnerability, and authenticity to his leadership.
He started trusting himself more and more as a leader.
He started delegating to his team more consistently, holding them accountable to their goals, their commitments, and their growth.
I’m thrilled to say that David’s original timeline for his plan, to have an owner-independent company in 10 years, has now changed to 2 years.
All because he was willing to do the work and trust. Himself. His team.
We need to trust that WE have what it takes to be a leader, and hold ourselves accountable, or reach out for support to be held accountable to our dreams.
How do you lead from a place of trust and accountability?
If you struggle with these same traps there are three shifts you can make that will set you up to be the leader you want to be.
1. BE Intentional.
Know the outcome you want. Get clear in your intention and your requests.
Ask for confirmation that your team understands what is expected, and when.
Do they have everything they need to accomplish their goal or task?
Is there a skill set they need to add or augment?
As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
2. BE Curious.
Bring compassionate curiosity to the table, not criticizing. We all want to be seen and heard.
Ask, then listen with the intent to understand, NOT to be understood.
If a team member isn’t performing at the level we want, it’s often a result of an unmet expectation.
Let them know you’ve noticed things are being dropped and ask about it.
What’s getting in the way? Are they clear on the expectations?
When a team member is not performing the problem often is that many of our expectations are also uncommunicated.
Put the judgment on hold and look through the lens of curiosity. What’s really going on? How can you clearly and intentionally work through this together?
As my friend Betsy Clark says, “Civility brings solutions.”
3. BE Real
Pause and connect to the person you want to be.
Let go of what has not been serving you or your team.
Notice, all three strategies are Being, not Doing.
We have the “doing” part down. It’s who you’re Being in the moment that is the rocket fuel.
So now, ask yourself, “What is the outcome I would like to see?”
Then engage your team in defining the path to that end goal. Frame the dialogue in a way that invites them to the conversation. And really listen to them.
I think you might like where you end up.
Your vision is where you’re headed, but your values are what help get you there.
When you’re at a crossroads, if there’s a hard decision that you need to make, leaning into your values, knowing what is most important to you will help you decide. Whether you have an opportunity to take your business in a wonderful direction or if this opportunity is more of a distraction and taking you down a road where you don’t particularly want to wind up, your values will help guide you.
I recommend gaining clarity on three to five values, no more than five. There’s often a lot that might appeal to you, but they can usually go under three to five headers.
And once you have those, really look at how do you emulate those values in your life?
Where are they showing up?
Where were you stepping over them?
And where can you utilize them in creating the life that you want to live and the business that’s going to sustain that life?
I wrote a blog several months ago on values, and I’ll post it below. It has a whole list of values that you can choose from in different ways to gain clarity on them and to be able to implement them into your life.
So, I ask you, do you know your values?
And if you do, I’d love to know what they are if you’re willing to post below.
Self-Care Improves Your Bottom Line
One of the things I often hear from women about their self-care is:
“Someday I’ll schedule time for self-care, but right now I have to…”
- Finish this proposal
- Get back to a client
- Post on social media
- Write a blog
- Do laundry
- Get to the grocery store
- Pick up the kids
- …you get the picture
In my 27 years as an entrepreneur, and my work with women, what I’ve discovered is:
When we feel better, we do better, physically, emotionally, AND financially.
That means, if taking the day off to go skiing, digging in the dirt, going for a run, hitting the gym, making a pot of soup, or simply taking a nap makes you feel better, PUT IT IN YOUR BUSINESS PLAN.
What gets scheduled gets done. Put self-care in your business plan and mark it on your calendar.
Schedule your self-care like you’d schedule time with a client, picking up your kids, or doing your taxes.
Need even more reasons to improve your self-care? I’ll get right to the “heart’ of the matter:
Physical: Your body is the only one you’ve got. One of the most important resources for any human is their energy. If you don’t schedule time to focus on your health now, you won’t have the energy later to enjoy what you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It’s better to take time for self-care now than make time for illness later.
Emotional: Self-care helps us have the confidence to establish healthy boundaries so we can say ‘YES’ to what we want more of, and ‘NO’ to what we want less of. This increases our joy, satisfaction, and self-worth.
Social: A 2016 article from the Mayo Clinic states, “Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.” So yeah, go ahead schedule that get together with your friends. It will help you live longer, be happier, and prosper.
Financial: When we’re stressed, it puts our amygdala on high alert while at the same time decreases our hippocampus function, making us a wigged out forgetful person. Never good for our bottom line, self-confidence, or relationships.
Happiness: The Journal of Neuroscience published a study on happiness and our ‘vision’. The study showed when test subjects who were unhappy (aka, in a bad mood), their visual cortexes, the part of the brain responsible for sight, were not able to process information properly and had difficulty seeing things in plain view (like for example, your keys hanging right on the rack where you last placed them but didn’t see them as you were tearing the house apart looking for them…that ever happened to you?).
The study also showed that happy ‘test subjects’ found what they were looking for 50% more of the time than the unhappy subjects. The next time you’re in a bad mood, put on your favorite music, or whatever puts you in a good mood, so you can be more present, connected, and happy. Your family and clients will thank you.
So, on a scale of 1-10, how did you score on each of these for showing yourself some love and attention?
As Brene Brown says:
“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”
Fear of Failure
As a business strategist for entrepreneurs and business owners, one thing I frequently see is:
Our fear of failure is creating what we’re trying so desperately to avoid, failure itself.
I know this through experience.
I see this with my clients.
I hear it in conversations with friends, colleagues, workshops given, and conversations shared.
You want to reach more potential clients and know creating videos is what will gain you more visibility (and credibility) with your ideal client…yet you consistently busy yourself with other things because of the fear of looking ‘not so perfect’ on camera and continue to struggle with financial stability.
You cannot be a brand and be invisible
You have an employee that continues to do a poor job or has issues with boundaries. Yet you keep her on because at least you know where you need to pick up the slack with her… who knows what issues the next person might bring. (Say nothing about the fear of how long it will take to train a new person)
Not only does this create resentment and an unhealthy work environment, but it also reinforces the UGR’s (Unwritten Ground Rules) about what’s acceptable practice in your business.
You want to take your business in a new, more inspired and aligned direction, but fear keeps you second guessing whether you know what you’re doing, or if you have what it takes. So, you continue doing the same each week, feeling unfulfilled, exhausted and depleted at the end of the day.
Don’t fear failure, fear a lackluster life.
We’re always watching ourselves…SO much more closely than anyone else is, trust me.
My Shihan used to say “Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or thinking, they’re too concerned with themselves to notice (for long anyway).
Here’s the thing:
Fear gets in the way of our joy, success, fulfillment, AND our profitability.
Fear will mess with your clarity and high-level thinking.
When your MIND is focused on keeping you safe, it takes away from your ability to be present, to focus, to stretch, to get things done, and to be strategic in your thinking (long and short-term).
How much joy and fulfillment (and success) can you experience in your work and life, if fear is the constant soundtrack running in your head?
People who have succeeded the most, have failed the most. Period. (I want to be clear here, success according to what each person defines as success for themselves, not what society, family, or peers have defined success to be)
Here are three things I believe about fear and failure in business (and in life, to be real):
Fail fast. Fail forward. Fail often.
As promised, here are my strategies for silencing fear and amplifying success:
- Recognize what triggers fear for you. Is it a person, a situation, a belief…is it a story from your past that’s no longer relevant or serving you? Get clear on the trigger so you can set structures in place that will allow you to see fear for what it is, a thought in your head (not the saber tooth-tiger waiting to attack). You can then make decisions from a more grounded and empowered place rather than fear.
- Be vigilant about monitoring your thoughts. Will your thought (fear) propel you towards your goal, or will it keep you safe and playing small? Which of these are more important to you? What is it that you want from this one big beautiful life, and will you allow fear to get in the way of that?
- Discern between legitimate concerns and what’s simply fear. Take a moment to play your fear out to the end game. Are your thoughts binary/ black & white, with no curiosity? That’s fear-based thinking and should be challenged. Bring in some curiosity about what would need to happen. Instead of “I don’t have what it takes”, ask “what would I need to make this happen.”
What do you do when you experience fear? What tips and tools support you in seeing it for what it is (a thought), and navigating your way through it? I’d love to know, drop a comment below.