Are YOU a Control Freak? And Why Does It Matter?

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by Deborah Goldstein, Founder Driven Professionals

Are YOU a Control Freak? And Why Does It Matter?

Uncertainty is an uncomfortable state of mind. Most of us wouldn’t mind a career GPS to help us navigate past the bumps and trenches flawlessly. In fact, we prefer the straight, empty highway to the meandering, unkempt country road. And our avoidance of the latter is a testament to our desire for Control— often to the point of self-sabotage. In my recent article It’s My Way Or The Highway: Releasing Control, I laid out for you the reasons we default to control mode, which are typically related to fear, insecurity and good old-fashioned cortisol.

I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey, as we now turn to deconstructing the Control Freak who may be lurking within you. It’s clearly tough to admit it to oneself, but once you acknowledge that you are indeed compulsively (and mistakenly) in control of life and career matters, you’ll be open to the solutions that will make you more functional, inclusive and ultimately productive.

What’s so bad about being a control freak?

When you’re trying to be in-control all the time, it shows. The message your colleagues are receiving is “We’re not good enough”, which chips away at a collaborative environment, not to mention any alliances you may have established. This is the point at which you’ve earned the label “control freak”. Think about it: When a colleague offers an idea and you shut them down, or when you give their idea lip service and then do things your way in the end, how do you suppose you’re coming off to them? Your micromanagement is working against them, and in turn, against you. It shatters the confidence of your direct reports, thereby reducing their sense of engagement— and their frustration reflects on YOU!

Gain A Growth Mindset!

If you’ve diagnosed yourself as the control freak, don’t be afraid to look within. Dare to change! One of your shames is not taking the daily opportunities, big and small, to grow and learn, which also stunts your empathy. Additionally, unless you stretch beyond your comfort zone in this manner, you’ll never discover what’s not within your control, and you’ll continue to make the same misguided assumptions.

Here are some other control freak scenarios wherein a growth mindset will set you on the correct course:

You’re Perpetually Judgmental: This prompts you to be closed off to possibilities. “That will never work” will assure that you won’t listen and hear the person out, thereby dismissing an idea that could work. Keep in mind that the antidote to judgment is curiosity. In such a state, better options will magically emerge!

You Know What’s Best: Do you really want to help someone change because it will be good for THEM? There’s true wisdom in the saying, “Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes”. But that’s incredibly difficult to do, so we’d rather opt to make assumptions, jump to conclusions and “know” what’s best. Instead, try asking questions, as in, “What are your thoughts regarding….”.

You’re a Perfectionist: Being a control freak is actually perfectionism in a different outfit. Your vision of “just right” seems the only way to go, leaving no room to even consider the opinions and perspectives of others. There’s a remedy, however: All of DRIVEN’s January blog articles! Spend a little time immersing yourself starting HERE, and then leverage the potential of co-creation.

Conquering Other Symptoms

The Conviction That There’s Only One Right Way: You’ve heard it before— that colleague who stands by the conviction that “we’ve always done it this way”. Perhaps that colleague is you! People who demand creative solutions but don’t want to try new things fall victim to their own trap. It’s another reason to trade that fixed mindset for a growth mindset.

The Struggle to Let Go, or The Rumination on Tiny Details:When you’re stewing in the past, it’s difficult to break out of your negativity cycle. Try devising a way to touch “back” on the mission, vision and deliverables. Find perspective— like a big-picture consideration of what’s best for the company. Ask yourself what this project will look like in one year.

Handwritten Mark-Ups: I learned of a story of a manager who marked up his direct reports’ project papers in red pen— 5 or 6 drafts worth. Yikes! It was to the point that he was redlining his own suggestions! This sort of activity is reserved for a grade school teacher, not for an influential business professional.

Domination of Projects:Because you think that “If you want it done right, you need to do it yourself”. You find yourself reluctant to delegate, making excuses like, “It will take longer to explain than to just do it myself.” The antidote here is to start small. Recognize what both depletes your energy, acknowledge that you’re clearly not the only one who can do something, and then delegate it. A general rule is that if someone can do something 80% as well as you can, the task is theirs.

Paranoia Strikes Deep: Unbeknownst to others, you’re worried that someone is going to “show you up”. You may be struggling with impostor syndrome, which is stirring control freak tendencies in you that don’t align with your personality. Link to my articles on the subject HERE, and recover from your paranoia.

The Findings Of and Responses To a Psychology Today Article by Amy Morin: “7 Signs You’re A Control Freak” is a great little posting which lays out the telltale signs, like an aversion to the lessons of failure, and a proclivity for doomed professional relationships. One responder even broke control freaks down into subtypes, like “The Passive Aggressive Control Freak” and “The Counterintuitive Hoarder Control Freak”. Link to the article HERE.

Check back soon as I post my follow-up article giving realistic and effective solutions for the control freak in you.

If you enjoy what you’re reading and are considering living life more fully, schedule a complimentary consultative session with DRIVEN HERE.


Deborah Goldstein is the founder of the Driven Professionals, a community driven to support the health, well-being & success potential of NYC professionals. Deborah is also the founder of Goldie’s Table Matters, providing education and entertainment to both corporate and private clients nationwide.

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