Grow or Control ??

Coffee shops are inspirational. You knew that didn’t you? They really are and have to be. Most are full of people who are on laptops or tablets as well as groups of folks having great conversations. My fave coffee haunt, Cavu Coffee, is one of these inspirational locations !!

Recently, I was in the midst of a great conversation at Cavu with a friend and we talking about leadership. In the midst of a sip of some hot coffee, she laid this out for me – “You know Steve, there are two types of leaders. Those that help people grow and those who want control.”

I stopped sipping my coffee. I was struck by how accurate that was. When I think of the workplace, I definitely see this dichotomy at play. The tendency, however, is not usually focused on growth. I don’t mean to be negative, just realistic. Managers and supervisors live in a constant state of frustration because people just won’t do what they demand, I mean, ask.

We aren’t clean in this area either HR. The majority of our efforts in HR are to constrain and control. This is true from policies to performance “management” systems. I know many of my peers who are handcuffed by spending the majority of their time and contributions towards keeping employees in line.

How does this help people excel? How does this help companies thrive and perform? Why is the standard of how we allow managers and supervisors behave so low? The questions could go on and on . . .

We need to be a profession focused on growth – both personally and throughout our organizations. Trust me, this is healthier than what is being done currently. We all have to come to terms that “control” is a myth. It always has been.

Don’t believe me? Do you have kids, know kids or were a kid yourself? (I want to make sure to cover everyone). Parents miss so much of the phenomenal side of their children because they want their kids to behave, listen and stay within very tight boundaries. I believe in structure, and I was one of those parents who was more strict than I probably should have been. When I allowed my kids to just be themselves, they flourished !! Their creativity and imagination jumped out of them. There was little they wouldn’t explore or try. They were limitless.

The more I tried to keep them in line, the more I saw the edges get chipped off and they moved more and more to the “norms” that everyone expected of them. Why does this matter? You know what happens when kids grow up? They become our employees.

So, why wouldn’t you want employees who saw their work as having no limits? What if HR was less about “crossing the line” and more about boundaries and parameters that allowed people to perform? We need to step in and change the landscape of the workplace. It just has to happen.

People want to grow. They want to do this within their role and the organization. This doesn’t mean that everyone desires promotions and the out-of-date career ladder. They want to grow in how they do work. They want to grow in their responsibilities. They want to grow in how they move the company forward.

They want to grow . . . and so do you !!

I encourage you to eliminate the illusion of control and build an environment of growth. Go to a coffee shop and see how your inspiration blossoms !!

6 thoughts on “Grow or Control ??”

  1. I love this. We used to describe my son as whimsical but then I wanted him to do homework that the teachers weren’t assigning, keep his room in perfect order… (you get the picture). When we let him be who he is, good things happen. When we force him into our mold, he rebels and whithers. I work with people to empower others yet was doing the opposite in my own home. It’s a battle to fight my tendencies but at work and home… the more we let people be who they are and bring their brilliance with them the better off we’ll be.

    Thanks, Steve.


  2. You are spot on, when we ‘limit’ others, we limit their potential and hurt the growth and development of their careers and our organizations.

  3. I am a firm believer in growth over control. Continuous improvement is one of the keys to success. I feel there are three main elements to make this happen: 1) Provide direction in where growth is needed. This means regular and clear feedback. Individuals need to know the goals of the organization as well as where they personally need growth to support those goals. This may borderline on control but without boundaries, the growth may not have the desired impact. 2) Provide room to grow. Often the current environment is to do more with less. Employees feel overwhelmed handling what is already on their plate. Perhaps time management coaching is needed. Growth will only happen if the employee makes time and prioritizes it within their current workload. 3) Provide recognition when there is desired growth. Build a culture where growth (especially self-initiated growth) is not only encouraged but rewarded.

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