When you’re a consultant, you get the luxury of viewing people from afar. With the distance comes a real sense of perspective. It helped me realize that a recent client – a printing owner – was completely out of control.
It wasn’t a pretty picture, I’m sad to say. He had built what he thought was a solid business, and he had big plans for the future.
But when he brought us in to take a look at his financials, we realized things were going quite badly. He was losing huge money on his accounts receivable; his sales staff was in disarray; and he had no long-term direction.
Now when I say he had no long-term direction, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have dreams. He wanted to be the very biggest, the best, the richest, etc. But his plan on how he was going to get there was fuzzy at best.
So why do I say he was out of control?
It was the simple fact that he did absolutely everything he could to ensure that he was in control. He wasn’t allowing the “Energy of Surrender” to take hold of him – a concept illustrated in a great post by Dr. Amy Johnson.
Control = Fear
At first glance, the post seems to be a bit of a departure for the LaManna Alliance, which pushes business metrics as the foundation for great strategy.
But don’t forget, our quantitative/qualitative approach sometimes needs to lean a bit more heavily on the qualitative aspect of life – in this case, the human condition. Specifically, how we deal with control.
Why do people feel the need to exert control? As noted in Dr. Johnson’s post, “We try and control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t.”
In other words, she says, “control is rooted in fear.”
That’s so very true, and it’s so very difficult for a small business owner. Most of us have built our own businesses from the ground up, making all the big decisions and running the show. You’re constantly reminded that the “devil is in the details,” and that if you want to get a job done right, do it yourself.
So naturally, you don’t even think about losing control. You can’t.
What would happen if you’re not there, hands-on and running the show? What if people screw up? Your livelihood, your family’s livelihood, your employees’ livelihood – there’s just so much on the line.
You had to be a control freak. That’s how your business grew, right?
Well, according to Dr. Johnson, it also may actually be holding your business back. I’ve already alluded to how she equated control with fear. But consider this: “Control is also a result of being attached to a specific outcome – an outcome we’re sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best.”
Do you really know what’s best? By being so stuck on thinking you know what is right, are you shutting out the possibility of other great opportunities?
I think you are. And it’s largely a physical reaction that comes from “being in control.”
The Energy of Surrender
Think about yourself when you read this next excerpt from Dr. Johnson. Think about yourself in the midst of a heavy-duty strategic meeting, where you’ve got problems with the production schedule and a lack of resources.
You’re in “control-mode” at the moment. And I’m going to bet your control mode mirrors Dr. Johnson’s.
“My vision gets very narrow and focused, my breath is shallow, adrenaline is pumping and my heart rate increases.
My mind shifts from topic to topic and from past to future very quickly, and I have little concentration, poor memory, and almost no present-moment awareness.“
This is similar to people who are in an accident. In periods of high stress, your peripheral vision literally shrinks. You lose sight of much of the world around you, and you have trouble remembering exactly what is happening.
Now granted, your disposition may not be that extreme, but I don’t doubt that your problem-solving ability is compromised.
Contrast that with Dr. Johnson’s “surrender mode,” in which you let go of some of that control. “I see clearly and my vision extends out around me, allowing me to (literally) see the bigger picture.”
Like I mentioned earlier, when you’re a consultant, you have the privilege of perspective. It’s like you’re in surrender mode. You’re calm, and you can see the big picture.
I could see where the client was making mistakes, how he was stressed and irrational. He could not. He fought me, even though my team of advisors thoroughly studied his finances and concurred on his current state.
But he really wasn’t fighting me. He was fighting against losing control.
Moving Into a Friendly Universe
My client’s problem is he has already lost control. Control of his finances, of his staff, and of his life.
He is in a downward spiral, and the farther he pushes me away (or anyone with a solution), the faster he will fail.
Am I saying that I have the answer to all his problems? Absolutely not. My point is that he doesn’t have the answers to all his problems.
In building out my alliance of advisors, I’m constantly intrigued by new thoughts, and new perspectives. I draw power from riding along the wave of energy they provide – the surrender energy that Dr. Johnson described.
I feel calm when my team digs deep into a problem. I know that in areas I’m not an expert, they are. I surrender to their expertise. It gives me flexibility to take a step back, and spot the qualitative issues – the people issues.
I’ll leave you with a tremendous quote Dr. Johnson closes with in her post.
“Einstein said, ‘The most important decision we make is whether we believe in a friendly or a hostile universe.”
I believe in a friendly universe.
Being receptive and allowing things to happen is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon. It helps to believe in a friendly universe – one that is supporting you at every turn so that you don’t have to worry yourself about the details.”
I feel bad for my client. I have other clients, but he has only one business. And I wish he would understand that he is welcome to join us in a friendly universe, one where we will support him at every turn.
Photo by: .faramarz