By Jim Struck, Owner and President, Leadership Vision, LLC

In the course of writing this column I often choose topics that are reasonably mainstream in their origin and designed to improve some aspect of your leadership or your business or both. Every so often I pick a topic that will help you to think a little differently. I hope you find this column helps you to do that.

Letting go. We do it frequently. We let go of siblings, of our children, of other people, of how we used to do things (sometimes), of grudges, of jobs, of pain, of dreams, etc., etc. Some of this letting go leaves a hole and we are sad. Sometimes letting go brings relief and we are glad. Letting go is a natural part of our life.

I was very mindful of “letting go” this morning as I took my daughter to the airport for her month long trip to Thailand. Even though she is 26 and fully capable of this trip, I found myself at times holding my breath – mostly after she was gone. As I reflected on the dynamic of letting her go, I saw the “art” of doing it. During her preparation my role was to support and encourage while demonstrating just enough apprehension for her to know how much I cared. The goal was to fully support what she was doing WHILE being scared to death about what might happen. (HONEY, DON’T YOU REALIZE THAT THE CHIEF ECONOMY IN THAILAND IS HUMAN TRAFFICING?!) In the next breath, however, I found myself extolling the virtues of what she would learn and how awesome the trip would be. Being able to embrace that which I had no control over helped me deal in a more healthy way with my fears.

In my work as a business coach I frequently encounter individuals who struggle with letting go. Most often, this “need to control” is in their way of being more effective.

Humans want/need a certain amount of control over their lives in order to feel comfortable. It is normal. When I do behavior profiles with leaders we spend an hour talking about our need to control and the by-products of our actions. I won’t take time to talk about that here. Some potential warning signs concerning abnormal control issues are a lot of tension in relationships, delegation issues, delving too much into the details, struggling to manage time, and not being able to prioritize work. These aren’t absolute and there are others, but these symptoms have been present in the people I have coached.

Bottom line problem with wanting too much control – we aren’t as effective. We aren’t as effective in our relationships and we aren’t as effective in our work. Maintaining abnormal control places additional pressure on ourselves, our time, and fails to fully develop those around us.

During the industrial age it was very common to find top down leaders, where all decisions ran through them and they ruled with an “iron fist.” This autocratic style began to be challenged as we moved into the service and information age. Not only were people challenging the oppressive culture created by an autocratic style, it was clear that if we were to be effective as an organization we needed decision-makers throughout the organization. The dynamic of distributive decision-making has become more prevalent in agency management as well. The need to create effective teams, increase collections, lower costs, deploy and manage technology require the engagement and talent throughout our organizations.

Recognition of control issues is a matter of looking closely at our lives and asking ourselves “Am I satisfied with the nature and amount of the relationships in my life?” “Do I delegate enough?” “Would others on my team/organization do better if I delegated more?” “Are there aspects to the way I work that prevent me from getting more done?”

What is your internal tension around these issues? Mild? More than mild? That tension is telling you that there is room for growth. If you see nothing, but suspect you might have issues with control, ask people around you that you trust. “Am I too controlling?” “Do I have trouble delegating?” “How do you see my issues with control getting in my way of being effective?”

Making changes is a function of awareness and motivation. The art of letting go is the ability to begin the process even while you are not fully convinced you should. It is not comfortable. But, the payoff is greater breadth in who you are as a person and who you are as a leader. Your personal life and business life will have greater satisfaction.