Danger: Control Cataracts, part 1 (Repost)

August 8, 2013 — Leave a comment


Control Cataracts is a disorder that occurs in a leader’s vision. It happens when someone becomes desperate to maintain control at the expense of the group or the organization. He or she becomes reluctant to share any measure of authority for fear of losing control. This results in a blindness to the value that could be added by those around them, as well as a short-sightedness as to what success really is. Do you know this person?

Leadership should be about influence – not control. I am not the only person to make this observation, but it is worth repeating. If leadership involves control, it’s only over setting an organization’s course and priorities. Those companies increasing in value the most are those with leaders that have a clear vision, continually communicate that vision, and then get out of the way and let their people do what they are paid to do. Trust is one of the most valuable things you can give to both individuals and teams.  It is important to keep in mind that often our people can do things just as well, or in some cases, better than we do.

Your role as a leader is to bring people to a higher level of effectiveness, whatever the goal might be. A team is only as effective as its weakest link. If you have the unfortunate disorder of Control Cataracts within your organization and fail to eradicate it, you are diminishing the strength of your organization because over time employee self-confidence wanes and self-esteem diminishes across the board.

Even the best leaders, however, sometimes fall into the trap of involving themselves in minute details where they would do better to leave well enough alone. When leaders succumb to Control Cataracts, they are significantly more likely to fail.  Even good leaders need to be reminded to delegate responsibilities and let those responsible for the tasks be accountable for getting them done.

Micromanagers, or those with Control Cataracts, prevent employees from making – and taking responsibility for – their own decisions. But it’s precisely the process of making decisions, and living with the consequences of those decisions, that allows people to grow and improve.  Effective leaders empower employees to do well by providing opportunities to excel; Less effective leaders disempower their employees by hoarding opportunities. And because a disempowered employee is an ineffective employee, he or she will require a lot of time and energy. It’s that time and energy, multiplied across an organization of unmotivated, intimidated employees that amounts to a serious and self-defeating drain on a leader’s time.

There are ways, however, to identify these damaging tendencies – and address them before they cause more harm. Here are just a few signs…Do you or does someone on your leadership team:

  • Resist delegating?
  • Focus on overseeing the projects of others?
  • Consistently correct tiny details instead of looking at the big picture?
  • Take back delegated work before it is finished?
  • Discourage others from making decisions without prior consultation?
  • Consistently fail to listen and forget that employees have important insights (causing people to become disengaged)?

Control Cataracts restrict the ability of people to develop and grow, as well as limiting what can be achieved on an organizational level. Many leaders still have the idea that a key component of their job is to carefully “control” the team or organization. These leaders are highly involved in day-to-day operational decisions, never quite able to relinquish decision-making, even to capable others.  This creates the Pygmalion effect (better known as “self fulfilling prophesy”). This theory demonstrates how when expectations are set for people (even if they are incorrect), people tend to behave in line with those expectations.

People behave according to perceived expectations. Low expectations yield poor performance, thus further reinforcing the notion that the leader has to watch over employees at all times and carefully control their work product because they, obviously, can’t control it themselves. This downward spiral has a crippling effect on organizational performance and morale. The afflicted leader fails to extend trust, therefore “proving” (according to the self-fulfilling prophesy theory) that people are incapable and untrustworthy.

The unintended consequences can be:

  • Micromanagers do all of the talking in meetings – employees appear to listen, but stop thinking of ways they can contribute.
  • Micromanagers make all the decisions – employees stop thinking and do not make even the smallest improvement in their work processes
  • Micromanagers blame their employees for problems – employees hide the problems
  • Micromanagers control all aspects of the work flow – employees take no responsibility and have no accountability for outcomes

Recognize that Control Cataracts causes people to become resentful and turn their brains off: Why should they waste their time thinking if someone else is doing it for them?

Is your organization afflicted with Control Cataracts?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you avoid Control Cataracts and stay tuned for Part 2 of Control Cataracts next week. Feel free to contact me at  Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back soon for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.


Title adapted from talk given by R. Barnes.


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Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

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