Archive for September, 2011

CONTROL FREAK!!!! Or how being too loving can get you in trouble

Friday, September 2nd, 2011


So one of my friends called me a few days ago. She was very upset because another of her friends is going through a rather messy painful divorce and my friend is trying to be there for her. The problem? Lack of feedback and communication! EEEP!!!!

My friend, who we’ll call Diane, is really trying to be helpful and supportive. But she is also asking for play by play action of what is going on so that she can give feedback and direction. When she isn’t hearing from her friend, Diane becomes upset and nervous, entertains feelings of abandonment, as if she is being taken advantage of, and questions of the value of her contribution.

So she and I talked. Bottom line was that Diane was watching her friend go through what Diane had gone through several years ago and didn’t want her friend to have to go through it herself. There is an old saying that a wise man learns from his mistakes but a wiser one learns from other peoples mistakes. I am going to add to that, a loving person hopes that others can learn from his or her mistakes but recognizes that sometimes the truly loving thing to do is to allow others to make the mistakes themselves.

Diane is a doer. I am too, so I can completely relate to what she is going through. But I finally was able to give her an example which she understood. When someone we know is ill, we go over to their house, bring or make chicken soup, clean the kitchen, bully them into a hot bath while we clean their bedroom and change the sheets, give them meds and fresh orange juice to help them to get well. This is very loving and supportive. The problem comes in if we fail to recognize that the person who is ill may not want to fall in with our agenda. That while they may or may not appreciate our efforts on their behalf, if they choose not to cooperate, there is nothing we can do about it. Because it is not our decision.

But, but, but. . .

We all know this scenario. We’ve all been there. We all are simply trying to help. And we start to feel totally unappreciated! And in fact, many times this rebounds on us and we are perceived as being interfering and controlling. More energy is put into justifying ourselves the defense of our actions and into the defense of the actions of the other person which could be used more productively

This happens everywhere. Even in business, although we rarely ascribe being too loving as the reason. But how often does a manager want to get into the minutia with someone on their team, trying to keep tabs on every aspect? Back in my Movie Production days, I worked with a Producer who found letting go of an aspect of a project sometimes was VERY difficult, because he tended to lack trust that the people he was working with could get my vision. While he wasn’t sure he could do what they did better, but he knew that he could do it, and really, they needed his guidance! (Once we were working with a Director of Photography who had over 25 years experience and a few awards. I was always grateful that the DP not only had experience, but patience and the wisdom to finally say, I think you can trust me.)

When we choose to trust our choices in our staff, along with our ability to articulate the dream, the vision, the goal, this is when things become easier. Stress is lowered and the ability to actually achieve things increased. As executives, there are choices, many of them are actually very fundamental, but they start with choosing to trust our own discernment. It is in that moment of choosing that the choice to empower our staff and which allows more open to communication with them and, eventually, people in other parts of our lives.

So what to do? Well, from a Coaching point of view, if you are experiencing this phenomena, it helps to review what part of what is going on is your responsibility and what part is not. Also, what is the goal? And not simply the immediate goal, but the greater goal of the team, and the company. How are you showing up? Are you allowing people both clear feedback and the necessary space for them to use in order to not only fulfill the demands of the position, but to grow and excel? If not, what might you want to do in order to help this happen?

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Kay Shuman