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Sam Davidson's blog

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How much control do you need?

Feeling in control is crucial to our wellbeing. In fact, for the entrepreneur, leader, or change agent, a sense that one is losing control can be detrimental, and not just to one's work life. After all, for someone who defines his or her professional life around the idea of controlling something, realizing that it's all a farce can be downright depressing.

But, how much control do you need? I'm not asking how much control you'd like (we'd all like the maximum amount, I'm sure). Today, ask yourself how much control you need over work, life, and that elusive balance between the two.

Understanding where you need control and where you don't can help with your stress level, saving energy for those tasks and ideas that really matter most. Would you rather be in control of your company's marketing or its hiring? Sure, it's possible to do both, but could you be outstanding at one if you give up control over the other?

Would giving up control of your schedule allow you to earn more so that you then have more control and choice when it comes to leisure time or your retirement? Would giving up control of your career path allow you to control the ship that is yourself on the open waters of entrepreneurship?

Take heart. In this short TED talk, Tim Leberecht shares the true stories of companies that are giving up control of many traditional corporate strongholds. As a result, their brand is benefiting:

Go read the blog post if you want a rundown on the companies he mentions.

What does this all mean? It means that when pressures start to mount, relinquishing control may be the best move for a leader or visionary. It means that in order to stay in control of what truly matters we have to give up control of other things that can be handled by someone else (or determine if they're truly important to begin with).

Here are two quick questions to ask yourself to determine how much control you need in any given situation:

Is there someone nearby who can better control this than me?

This is the primary reason entrepreneurs and leaders must be surrounded with people who compliment their skill sets and who garner trust. When the going gets tense, you can hand off a responsibility or project to the right person who can champion it. But, when you hand it off, get out of the way. No ones likes a giver who lurks incessantly and tries to tweak from the sidelines. When you give it to the next person, give it fully and trust that they'll deliver something outstanding.

Will controlling this thing halfway prevent me from controlling something more important all the way?

Don't let something you care about more suffer at the hands of something else that you only moderately care about. You'd hate to see something very important (family time, a new product launch, a big speech) suffer because you did an okay job at something sort of important (budget reports, marketing strategy, a PR opportunity). Leaders lead well when they are focused on what will have the best impact in a given setting. Everything else can be done by others who believe in your vision.

What about you?

When do you give up control? When has something been made better because you were willing to hand over the reigns to someone else?