Connection > Control

In positions of leadership, the natural pull is often for people to want to control the situation. There is a comfort level in being in control, in dictating the terms, in directing how things go, and in making the decisions. There is something empowering about posting a sign on your desk that says, “The Buck Stops Here”.

As a parent, I find myself constantly striving to gain, and maintain control. When do we eat, when is bed time, how do we keep our rooms (some version of clean), how do we speak, how loud is our house, and so on. Some of these things are routines, and they are important. I believe some consistency and routine is healthy for our kids and for the rhythms of our family.

But the unfortunate reality that we have to deal with, is that control is a myth. It’s like trying to grab hold of a puff of smoke. There have been a number of times when I’ve been sitting in my office, writing award winning blog content, only to hear my wife yell something that amounts to, “Why isn’t anyone listening to me?!?”.

This never happens to me, of course, but being a good husband, I feel badly that my wife is struggling with this.

Again, while there are standards to uphold, norms to aspire to, character to build, and manners to develop, we can’t be the grand dictators of each and every step, behavior, or action. Not when they are young, and especially not as they grow older.

Attempting to gain control is not only a P90-X style exercise in futility, it can also be harmful to those that we are trying to control. Our frustration can grow, and fester, and eventually overflow into our interactions, leading us to treat our kids (or players, or employees) in a manner that we are not proud of, that we regret, or that damages the relationship.

And at some point, the people under our care, may grow weary with all of the control we are trying to maintain. People get tired of feeling like their bucks are getting stopped all of the time.

I read once about the difference between power and authority, and this relates well to the issue of aspiring to control. Power from one particular author’s perspective, is when people listen to you because of your position. In many instances, your boss may have power over you. You listen to them because you don’t want to be fired, or because you want to gain favor. Their position and “control” over your future influences you to listen to their directives.

Authority relates the feeling that you have concerning people you hold in high regard, respect, or admire. This may also be your boss, depending on who you work for and what that relationship is, but instead of acting out of fear or necessity or command, the interaction is centered around a connection or an internal desire to please.

So, you can insist on or demand control, but authority, or connection, must be earned. Even as a parent. Tim Elmore, student expert and author of Marching Off The Map, says,

“We earn our right to genuinely influence them.”

For a time, and in some scenarios, your power will be enough. “Because I am your dad and I said so!” will work some times, but it will only last for so long. We can use it for now, as needed, but it won’t last forever. We better start:

“Building a bridge of relationship that can bear the weight of truth” (Elmore, Marching Off The Map)

with our kids that will last long after our power wears off.

When our control disappears, (and remember, it’s mostly imagined anyway, our kids get to choose, based on our authority or our power), we will we need a connection to sustain us if we want to have meaningful relationships with our children into adulthood.

Whether we are dealing with our family, our team, or our employees, connection wins in the long term. People feel better, work harder, and engage more, when they feel connected to the leader, one another, and to the mission. When considering the costs associated with trying to exert control — stress, frustration, tears, throwing away Easter candy one piece at a time in order to exert one’s power (not one of my proudest parenting moments) — I don’t believe connection is really any more difficult. It’s just a markedly different type of investment.

Everyone’s situation is different. I wonder what it would look like for you to “build a bridge of relationship that will bear the weight of truth” with your children. Where could you stop controlling and start connecting? What would your relationship look like in 5, 10, or 15 years if your bond was one of authority and connection rather than one built on power and control?

I’m pulling for you,

Bryan

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Bryan Hendley

Bryan Hendley

Coach, Teacher, Author, Encourager. - I write words of encouragement focused on personal growth, parenting, and leadership. www.bryanhendley.com