The Control Freak and the Calm Clam

Often we think that there are two types of people in this world when it comes to people who are looking over your shoulder. There are the control freaks, and the people who are cool with whatever you do. Generally we think that we want to work for the people who are calm and collected rather than the people who are constantly making adjustments to what we are doing. This concept is outlined extensively in Daniel Pink’s book Drive. Pink points out that everyone wants to have the elements of autonomy, mastery, and purpose in their work. These three ingredients keep employees engaged, and performing on a higher level. Acknowledging that what Pink says is true, you also have to remember that if you do your job right, you will also be a control freak that pushes those around you to greater success.

We often forget that being a control freak is how the world get’s better. If you always let things go by, and never have any concern about anything you miss the opportunity to sharpen what you are good at. The key to being a good control freak is to only be a control freak on the key pieces that really matter. You have to decide what really matters, and what you want to control for. Maybe what is most important to you is that your project is completed on time. Maybe you want to make sure that one piece of the project is just right. Those are the pieces that you must let your inner control freak out. Don’t be shy.

Steve Jobs was a control freak. He controlled almost every single part of the products that he made. He did this by limiting many parts of his product. There was no stylus for the iPad for example. He kept the interface of the iPhone simple. He limited the types of hardware and coding language Apple used. Apple held on tightly to the Apple Store. And with all of that control, Apple built a company whose purpose was to promote individuality. The companies employees wanted to work on products where they could be delivering amazing things. I understand that there were things about Steve Jobs’ management style that were not kind and uplifting. I would not be able to continue working for a boss that belittled me, and you should never use bully tactics for the sake of controlling your project. But the truth remains, if you want to have success you have to provide control and direction to the work that is happening.

So as you think about your project today, think about the things that you should be controlling. Make sure that you communicate (kindly) about what you expect. Check up on these areas. Make tweaks. Tell people what you want. You get a better product, and those working with you will be more engaged as they see the vision of what you are working towards. You can be the control freak, and the calm clam.