>Inspiring Your Authentic Week

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Inspiring Your Authentic Week

Beyond Control

Posted: 23 Aug 2010 12:07 AM PDT

To some extent most of us share the delusion of control. We imagine that we are able to control people and things to achieve what we want. The control delusion is roughly the inverse of reality most of the time.

There have been some very significant experiments with control, the most sophisticated was probably in the former East Germany. By some estimates there was one informer or Stasi officer for every regular member of the population.

Some businesses today employ software (and people) to monitor internet use, email traffic and phone conversations (especially in call centres). The philosophy of control has it’s own Orwellian doublespeak, “Calls may be monitored for training and security”.

If what you want is conformity and obedience these techniques can be effective, but there are side effects and attempts at control will always incite dissent.

What might be gained in conformity and obedience is lost in responsibility, engagement, creativity and innovation.

I ran an Authentic Leadership course for a Danish software company last week in Mallorca. We did one of my favourite exercises, a game I call “Leadership Football”.

The game is played in three “halves”. In the first half there are no teams and everyone plays for themselves, trying to score as many goals as they can and prevent anyone else from scoring.

The second half is played with two teams and two, non playing captains. The players are only allowed to act on specific and explicit instructions from their captain, they are not allowed to take any initiative and the captains are not allowed to give any general instructions.

The third half is played with two teams, more or less normal football.

What this piece of fun teaches us is that anarchy is only fun for a very short period of time, after which the lack of direction and support becomes tiresome, most people don’t engage and therefore make no contribution.

We learn that in hierarchical control systems “managers” quickly become a communication bottleneck and are unable to cope with the constant upward flow of responsibility. Their “reports” are continually looking to them for instructions and not being allowed to take initiative is both difficult and frustrating.

In the third half communication shifts from top down to peer to peer, with leadership flowing around the team to where it is most relevant in the moment. Engagement, involvement and responsibility are all increased.

These powerful lessons were further reinforced later in the day when we abseiled down a cliff and into the sea to be picked up by a boat. Literally putting your life into the hands of others is a great way to let go of the idea of control. The abseiling was integrated into the usual program by the team at Lifexperiences.

On the whole control is an illusion brought on by insecurity. If you want to maximise your use of resources, to innovate and to be creative you have to let go of it.

One of the most creative businesses in the world is Pixar. Ed Catmull, founder and CEO of Pixar, had the enormous advantage of being able to build the team and philosophy for over ten years in a completely non commercial environment, before making Toy Story. Here is a video of Ed talking about leadership at Stamford University.

I am thinking about running an Open Authentic Leadership event in Mallorca in October, with 15 – 20 places available. You can find out a lot more about the course here. If you are interested please let me know so I can gauge numbers for the hotel.

Join us on our Authentic Business Radio show every Thursday at 5pm UK, 6pm Euro or 12.00 EST. This week we will be discussing “Beyond Control”

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With love


Neil Crofts
Neil Crofts
authentic business

+34 646391384
Skype – neilcrofts


About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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