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10 Signs Your Managers Are Controllers But Not Leaders

10 Signs Your Managers Are Controllers But Not Leaders

Whether you are the CEO or the most junior person in the organization, we all have managers who exert power over us. A controlling boss makes you dread going into the office. On the other hand, working for a leader is often inspiring (and challenging). Here are 10 clues that managers may be controllers in an unhealthy way instead of leaders.

1. They Use Fear To Achieve Their Goals

A controlling boss or manager tends to use their role power (i.e. the power to fire or discipline employees) to achieve their goals. While power matters, effective leaders understand that it is a tool to be use sparingly. Instead, modern leaders influence their staff and persuade them.

Tip: Learn how to leaders master the tools of influence by reading 6 Ways To Influence Others.

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2. They Think They Know Everything

A controlling boss often or always assumes that they know everything. They never ask for opinions from their staff and they do not believe in doing research before making important decisions. In contrast, leaders understand how to be humble at work. For example, a leader may realize that she has a weakness in accounting knowledge or software development. As a result, a leader will seek the advice and recommendations of others in those areas.

3. They Treat People As Pawns

The boss who is fixated on control soon starts to view their staff as pawns. If your manager simply views you as a “pair of hands” to get work done, you are probably working for a controlling manager. Leaders take a different approach. They realize the value in drawing on the full creative powers of people around them. Leaders recognize that treating staff as valuable contributors is a key way to win their respect and improve productivity.

4. They Dominate Meetings

Meetings are an important tool for getting work done in modern organizations. Unfortunately, some managers never learned effective meeting skills. Instead, they simply yell to make a point and issue orders to staff. In contrast, a true leader understand that meetings are concerned with drawing on the wisdom and experience of everyone attending the meeting.

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Tip: Learn the 7 habits of highly effective meetings to become more effective in meetings, even if you have a controlling manager.

5. They Take A “My Way Or The Highway” Approach To Conflict

Conflict is a reality that we deal with in our daily work. Unfortunately, a controlling manager assumes that aggression is only sure path to resolving conflict. This kind of boss views every disagreement as a conflict to be won by them, no matter the cost. In cost, modern leaders use a variety of conflict resolution techniques such as collaborating to find better solutions.

6. They Ignore The Competition

A controlling manager has a hard time with competing companies. At the worst, a controlling manager will resort to immoral efforts to undermine the competition. Other controlling bosses take pride in ignoring the competition. Successful leaders maintain focus on their goals while monitoring the competition. Leaders know that observing competitors gives them new ideas including joint ventures and other forms of cooperation.

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7. They Never Practice Active Listening

Arrogance is one of the hallmarks of a controlling manager and this means they have a lot of room to go when it comes to listening. There’s nothing worse than suggesting ideas and improvements to your boss only to have those ideas ignored. Leaders understand than listening is a skill that requires practice and study. Fortunately, everyone can become better at listening. Use these resources to improve your listening skills:

5 Ways for Leaders To Listen Harder by Michael Hyatt

Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

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8. They Focus on The Short Term

The controlling manager is often concerned with the short term. They have little interest in anything beyond this week. Their need for control undermines their ability to plan and think about the long term needs of their department and the organization. Leaders take a completely different perspective. They start with long term goals first and then they ask their staff to help them achieve their goals. The long term perspective means a greater interest in new ideas and less interest in micro-managing the details.

9. They Never Inspire People With Their Own Example

Managers driven by the need to control rarely look for ways to lead by example. In contrast, let’s consider the inspiring example of Winston Churchill. During the First World War, he had a senior leadership role in the British government. When he was forced out of office, he decided to return to the field. He actually went to the front line and led soldiers in battle. His willingness to lead by example in war and expose himself to danger shows one way to inspire people by your example.

Tip: Read about Winston Churchill’s approach to life: The Churchill School of Adulthood – Lesson #7: Work Like a Slave; Command Like a King; Create Like a God.

10. They Are Unable To Work Through A Crisis

A boss who focuses on control is rarely able to work through a crisis. They have little ability to manage the unexpected in life. In fact, some controlling managers simply freeze in a crisis. It’s a sad state of affairs that hurts them and the rest of the organization. Leaders, on the other hand, know that life is full of unpredictable challenges and situations (10 Challenges Leaders Always Face And How To Deal With Them). They stay focused on taking care of their people and coming up with solutions. All in all, working with a leader gives you a greater sense of confidence.

Featured photo credit: Hand Thumb / Geralt via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

More Tips on Advancing Your Career

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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