Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the most common fight in the world. Coming from the very core of human beings and place of many needs; weighing more than we can tell, the Control. His opponent this day, coming from the growth and the conscience, land of self-development, the lightweight Confidence. Let the fight, Control vs. Confidence, start!
The other day, while hanging out with a dear friend (all security measures met), she told me about her kids and how they, the parents, manage the “I want to use my mobile phone all the time” issue. She explained that her teenagers’ father did install a software in the phones, so they switch off after 10.30 pm or two hours of usage. This method, she said, was extremely useful and prevent them to have any argument. Simply, the children can’t use the phone (emergency calls not included) until the next day and because it is all automatic, they – the parents- don’t have to care.
I’ve found this quite interesting and, at the same time, it made me think a lot.
Two mechanisms to feel safe
There are two mechanisms by which people feel safe (I mean, reducing the uncertainty inherent to how things develop). The first, which we all are familiar with is control. We all do this to some extent. By doing this, we try to predict the future as much as we can.
Of course, it works. The more we control how things develop, the fewer surprises we’ll have (at least, that is what we think). The other side of the coin, when we are working on people development –as every parent on earth does- is that we are not teaching what is the correct behaviour (only prevent the bad) and, more important, we are not making our people responsible for their actions. We simply take away their power on making decisions.
The other way we can keep ourselves feeling safe is that little, lightweight thing called confidence.
That is to say that we trust in the others’ competence: they can handle the challenges, and they will be responsible for the outcome. Of course, first we need to be clear about what the correct behaviours are and what the expected outcome is. And, needless to say, what the consequences will be in case of failure.
Regarding this, we need to understand that, sooner or later, failure may occur. It is part of any learning process. We, leaders, need to be ready for that and be able to support that said process.
Confidence come after a successful learning process. Once we think knowledge is there, we can trust in others’ abilities to handle a situation.
Responsibility should come with this learning acquisition, or better, as a part of it. Feeling that we can control our actions, make decisions and be responsible for the outcome play an essential part in our development.
Engage someone into a task, it can’t be achieved from the control but from the confidence development.
That is not free. Deploying a control strategy requires less effort and is faster than going through a complete learning process in the short term.
Therefore, when does confidence development pay off?
If we are involved in developing something (ability, skill, behaviour) for the future we should invest time in making our people grow instead of controlling them. We should invest time in making them autonomous, responsible and accountable.
Going back to my little joke of the beginning. If we are not dealing with an urgency, and we are in building some skills for the future, we should bet that the lightweight confidence may win the fight.