Updated: Mar 7
Most who know me would rightly call me a “control freak”. I've been one of those ‘Type A’ personalities who works hard to control outcomes. In fact, I have often rewarded many of my employees based on “results”. Do I really have control over results? In this blog post, I will explain why the answer to this question is a resounding NO. I will also give some ideas on what to do about it.
I’m a mechanical engineer transitioned to sales professional… transitioned to consultant… then small business owner… then corporate VP… and now a business coach. In all these careers, I have attempted to control outcomes. In my capacity as a mechanical engineer, I worked to control heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems…. controlling machines to create a specific outcome. When I became a sales professional, I was taught how to control a sales process to successfully close a sale. As a consultant, I was hired to turn utility workers into corporate superstars. As a business owner, I created and executed business plans to earn profits. As a business coach, I fulfill a different role. I am no longer trying to control outcomes because I’ve found it's a futile effort.
As an engineer, I learned that as scientific and exacting as I think I am, I always miss something and am continually correcting mistakes. I learn and get better… but never perfect.
As a sales professional, I can educate my customer and create brilliant solutions. However, in the end, it is up to my clients to make a decision that is best for them. I’ve found in competitive selling; I lose by the slimmest of margins… and I win by the slimmest of margins. My ability to control that outcome is limited.
As a consultant, my clients dropped the ball once I was out of the picture. I can confidently say that I accomplished little in creating success for my consulting clients.
As a business owner, my annual revenue looked like a roller coaster ride. I had growth years followed by down years.
In reflection, 50% of the opportunities I believed would be complete successes, failed; 40% of the opportunities I thought would be failures, were successes; and 10% of the opportunities I muscled through to control the outcome.
Winning without Control
It was the first large project I'd won with my new business. I was competing against seven Fortune 100 companies to win a small school district project in Eastern Colorado. I was working out of a home office, and felt it was a true “David vs Goliath” opportunity. I put together a list of 20-bullet points that communicated why the customer would be a fool not to pick me over these other seven competitors. I won!
I was convinced that I was an amazing sales guy. I had put together my 20-points; and all seven Goliaths fell at my feet because of their inferior sales skills.
A few months later, my wife and I were invited to a homecoming picnic by this same school district.
My wife asked the question, “Why did you pick Jeff’s company to do your project?”
I was incensed. After all, I knew why I won. It was because of my brilliance... of course.
The superintendent smiled and said, “Jeff’s company was small… like us. We didn’t want to work with a large company for fear that they’d take advantage of our small school district.”
I remember going to my home office that evening and looking at my proposal. There was nothing about large vs small in my proposal. The win had little to do with my sales skills. In fact, I’m guessing that the other salespeople had superior skills. The win seemed arbitrary.
After this experience, I had several more experiences. Some undeserved wins. Some hard-fought losses.
Is God in Control
In the secular world view, it’s called fate, or kismet, or destiny or the universe. In my world view, it’s God.
This doesn’t mean that God is a puppet master making people do what he wants them to do. He is also not an order taker, doing whatever you want Him to do. Nor is He someone you can hold accountable for all goes wrong. Likewise, he's not going to strike you with lightning every time you screw up.
How is God in control? God created everything that we see. If I know one thing, I know a creator doesn’t create without purpose. This purpose is elusive to us at times. For me, the purpose becomes apparent when I extract myself from life situations to see them objectively. I see God’s hand at work in my life and others.
As I’ve reflected on my life, it’s not about winning or losing. Frankly, God has been on the side of losers just as much as He’s been on the side of winners.
Why try if you’re not in control?
The logic could follow that if God wanted you to win a deal, you’d win it. If God wanted you to lose a deal, then you’d lose it. It has little to do with your individual effort. So, why try?
God wants you to be who He intended you to be. Not a winner… or a loser. He wants you to use your talents, treasure, and time at their best. This use may result in a win… or it may result in a loss.
Level 7 – Total Awareness – (Winning & losing don’t matter)
This attitude of “winning and losing don’t matter” is found at the highest anabolic energy level in Core Energy™ terms. When I first heard this phrase, Level 7 seemed apathetic. After all, if you don’t care about winning or losing, why try at all? That is not what this statement means. Winning and losing don’t matter means that your ego is not attached to a win or a loss.
I routinely help my clients set goals and help them achieve those goals. In many cases, the goals will change along the way. In some cases, the goals were too ambitious. In some cases, my clients find they have different priorities. We then adapt those goals to their enlightened state and move on. In some cases, my clients view this change in their original goal as defeat. It’s as if they value winning a fake war to be more valuable than being authentic. In many cases, such a win-at-all-costs attitude means that ethics are sacrificed, and people around you get hurt.
I liken this to playing golf. The best golfers take dead aim at a target. They then line up their shot considering wind, and other factors. When they take the shot, their eye stays on the ball and their concentration is on their swing. If they were to look at the target in the middle of their swing, bad things happen. A professional golfer understands that their swing mechanics and focus on the ball will be their best chance of success. If they were to look up to focus on the target, they'd fail.
If a pro misses the shot, they rarely get angry and throw their clubs like an amateur. Their ego is not tied to the outcome of the shot. Their focus is now on their next shot.
If your focus is on results, instead of your own personal performance, relationships with your family, relationships with your customer, you will fail to achieve success. All you can control is your performance. You cannot control the result.
If we believe we're in control, our ego will be fed when we win, and it will be harmed when we lose. Both are illusions… and harmful to us long-term.
Level 7 awareness allows you to learn, shift and grow… instead of protecting your ego.
How I stopped being a control freak
If you ask my wife, there are still remnants of “control freak” in me. However, I have learned to stop trying to control; and now show up as my best self. How did I do it? There are three aspects in my life that have stopped my control freakiness.
I have been a man of faith for a long time. Honestly, I have not always fully understood what God wanted with me. As I read the Bible, there are countless stories of how Biblical characters tried to do their own thing. When they followed their earthly desires instead of God’s will for their life, it didn’t go well. I have reflected on my own life and realized that my most content and peaceful times in life were the times I was most engaged with God in prayer, reading the Bible, and connecting with other believers on a regular basis.
iPEC is the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. It’s my life coaching school. After completing life coaching training, I learned how we can identify and control our attitudes. This level of control tends to control our actions and the results obtained by those actions. Prior to this experience, I had no idea how my controlling attitude was affecting me and those around me. I stepped back from manipulating others and stepped into checking my own thoughts and feelings.
I love my clients… ALL OF THEM. I’ve learned so much from my clients. I see how they succeed and fail in their business. It is this objective view of them that has given me insight into myself. I've witnessed my fellow “control freaks” crash and burn as they try to work themselves to death. I've watched my easy-going leaders effortlessly grow their businesses.
What can you do?
I hope you understand that you’re not in control. I think you can also remember a story in your life when your attempt at control didn’t work. I hope that you understand how damaging a controlling mindset can be to you and those around you. If you’re not in control, how can you show up to work and do your best?
I urge you to honestly answer these questions:
What gifts have you been given?
You could be artistic. Maybe you have an ability to solve complex problems. You may be highly organized. There are several personality profile assessments that can help you gain an objective view of your talents and skills. I urge you to take these assessments to pull out your gifts and talents. Beware of those around you who criticize talents you possess that they do not.
How can you make a positive difference in the life of others?
Think about your work. What is it that you do that helps other people? Don’t minimize your work or its significance. I don’t care how much you get paid or what your friends do that may seem important. What you do, whatever it is, is helpful to others.
What core values do you represent?
Have you ever heard a person say they have a value of dishonesty? Then, why are there dishonest people? The truth is that we will sacrifice our values, if we believe such a sacrifice will give us a “win”. This is unnecessary and harmful. If you’re in a job you don’t like, seek out a job that you do like. If you feel your values are being compromised, find a way that is consistent with your values. The more you stay consistent with your authentic values, the more authentic you will be.
Who will help you find your way?
We are not an island. We desperately need the help of others and the eyes and ears of others. This can be a mentor, a therapist, or a coach. There is a limit to how much we can see of ourselves. These objective viewpoints are shortcuts to help us to be authentic in all that we do.
I hope you have more insight to control… especially if you’re a “control freak” like me. If you’d like to learn more about how I coach my business owner clients, please visit my website at www.mmbizcoach.com.