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Control Protect and Comply


Why don’t some leaders ever reach their full potential? It’s often because they control, protect and comply – behaviors that are rooted in fear. Today, Bill and Ralph break down and define those behaviors and explain how they hold some leaders back. Are you relying too heavily on them? And if so, how can you lead differently and more effectively? Listen and find out.

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*Note: The following text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors


Bill Berthel: Welcome to the Get Emergent Podcast. Our podcasts are focused on individual team and organizational development. We focus on leadership topics and provide concepts, ideas, and pragmatic tips and practices for all leaders. I’m Bill Berthel.

Ralph Simone: And I’m Ralph Simone. And today we’re gonna talk about the business we’re in, which is the people development business.

And Bill, we work with a lot of leaders who. Reach their full potential in organizations, and I’d like to explore why that is.

Bill Berthel: So first I wanna say that’s not a reflection on our effectiveness as a business.

Ralph Simone: Oh, no, no, no. Actually, we only work with a few leaders. I’m not sure. Absolutely. Yeah. That, yeah, yeah, yeah. Good. Good call. Good catch.

Bill Berthel: No, but it’s because as human beings, We’re motivated basically in two directions. This is the work of BF Skinner, kind of thought of as a great-grandfather of motivational psychology. And you know, he suggested that we’re either attracted moving towards something or we’re avoiding moving away from something.

And you know, the primary reason that leaders become either ineffective in their role or don’t reach their potential is because they control, protect, or comply too much In their leadership, they rely on these, what’s called reactive tendencies that are rooted in fear and concern.

Ralph Simone: I, I wanna defend my opening line.

By the way. If we, if we think of what Kier Guard said, that we are always in the process of becoming Absolutely. I think that none of us actually ever realize our full potential. But Bill, of those three things you said, why, in addition to fear, I mean, why do people control, protect and comply?

Bill Berthel: well, there’s a lot of good reasons, right?

So it’s not to criminalize these behaviors because they can be effective and they are at times needed. However, what we know about these fear-based behaviors is that the energetic cost has a lower return on investment than being more creative in our leadership. And by creative what I mean is that we are focusing on moving towards, relating and achieving more effectively in our work, in our organizations.

Ralph Simone: So I’m wondering, I, you just triggered something for me. So protect, I remember hearing this a long time ago that the 10 biggest fears in number one is fear of public speaking. Yes. Number four is dying. That’s right. That’s right. So people would rather die. Then get up in front of a group and speak.

And so would that be an example of protecting, you know what, what, what do we

Bill Berthel: It is, yeah, the protect, the protection mechanism there in the context of what we’re talking about today. It’s about protecting one’s identity. It’s about protecting the sense of who self is. And we do that in different ways. We might distance ourselves, it might be arrogance, but your example of the fear of public speaking being greater than death is as far as we know, you know, once we die, there’s no more finding out who I really am. So I’m safer there than as I speak and you disagree with me, well, that’s a vulnerable space to be in.

Ralph Simone: So it doesn’t necessarily mean that at some subconscious level, I was embarrassed sometime publicly, but it could mean that?

Bill Berthel: It could mean that.

But most generally in the context of protection, it’s about not being vulnerable enough to, so we’re protecting our identity.

Ralph Simone: It doesn’t seem like it would be much fun to work in an organization. That had a lot of compliance, a lot of protection, and a lot of control. I mean, if I think about engagement, that’s certainly not an environment that I would thrive in.

Bill Berthel: So I would agree. And of course every organization and every relationship needs some level of these from a healthy boundary and a safety perspective. But the point here is that leaders that don’t reach their potential or ineffective in their roles, are relying too heavily on these three areas of protecting, complying, and controlling.

Ralph Simone: What would be an example of what organizations overdue in this area of control, for example?

Bill Berthel: So control is really around controlling the processes or the work itself, the topics, the things that are being done. So it might be about not giving enough autonomy. Where appropriate. Now, of course, we need standard operating procedures and we need to be able to have processes that we can follow to get consistency.

That’s not what I’m arguing against for a moment. However, we might be controlling people too much and not providing some autonomy for there creative contributions to come forward. We might be controlling processes far too much to allow growth and development to happen. True innovation to surface. Mm mm And so it’s that type of controlling.

Ralph Simone: We’ve actually seen in some organizations that are fairly creative and fairly innovative on their design of product.

Not so creative and innovative in all their support services, like support is seems to be more governed by not what’s possible, but what we need to do to comply and control and protect, and it almost feels like it’s incongruent with what the overall organization is intending to achieve.

Bill Berthel: So I think in that incongruency, many people can get confused or have a sense of feeling that either the leader or leadership isn’t being authentic or having integrity.

Ralph Simone: Hmm. Could that be an accurate interpretation?

Bill Berthel: Yeah. I think sometimes it is. I, I, I like to believe that very few, if any, leaders are doingthis intentionally or purposely. It’s really what we’ve come to know as kind of safe ways of operating. And I’ll go back to what I said earlier, even in these safe ways of operating, we can be effective, we can get things done, we can really be very successful in many measurements.

However, the energetic cost is going to be really high.

Ralph Simone: So it sounds like we want leaders to become more aware of how their behaviors are perhaps un resourcefully influenced by too much compliance, too much protection, and too much control.

Bill Berthel: Yeah, that’s really it. An awareness of where are these, again, reactive tendencies.

They’re more immediate, they may feel more natural, or first for us, where are they showing up? What might I be afraid of that I’m protecting, controlling, or applying for?

Ralph Simone: Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking about, I have had 360 s done that look at these areas and one of my lower scores. Right? So it’s not, it’s not something that will help me step further into my potential is protecting or being distant. Hmm. And I was reflecting on this and I think it was, uh, influenced by my early days in corporate procurement. Hmm. You kept your cards close to your vest, you didn’t wanna share too much information because that might make you vulnerable. That might actually, Result in a bad deal for the company.

So I think really looking deeply at what beliefs or thoughts are driving that behavior would be critical not to get stuck in too much of these areas, which could be energetically draining.

Bill Berthel: I think that’s beautiful. You know, we, we haven’t really talked about complying yet, but like you, I’ve taken similar 360 s and my low scores, or my areas for better awareness is usually around complying.

And in this context, complying is about protecting the relationship. Hmm. It’s about complying, it’s perhaps acquiescing or not being fully authentic, out of fear of harming the relationship.

Ralph Simone: Uh, so it’s not following the culture of the company necessarily. It’s beyond that. It’s holding back beyond kind of the norms in behaviors of the culture.

Bill Berthel: Holding back is perfect, Ralph. It is a holding back. It’s an avoidance of being fully authentic or fully one’s self at a fear of harming the relationship, not at a fear of being seen as self, but thinking I won’t necessarily be agreed with, accepted, embraced, or understood. And so the protection mechanism is protecting the relationship so it can stay intact.

Ralph Simone: Now a little bit of go along to get along type thing.

Bill Berthel: Very. More than a little, I think. I think. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. You know, so, and when I look at that, you know, I, middle child, you know, I’ve got a little bit of that going on for me where I was always trying to make siblings feel safe and secure. And so there maybe wasn’t as much room for me to operate, to be authentic. So this can come from our formative years, it can come from some of the roots or the root causes of our tendency to control, protect, or comply can come from very early childhood development. It can also come, you know, context matters here. Uh, you know, when you’re playing poker, you don’t show all your cards.

You should protect, right? Okay. But however, when you’re negotiating, what if we did really come to a place where we were talking about, uh, everyone’s interests and needs instead of positioning too much.

Ralph Simone: Got it.

Bill. I’ve seen a lot of pretty successful, but at least by traditional terms, corporate leaders and executives that control.

They’re driven, you know, they’re smart. Uh, they’re perfectionists. They expect high performance. You might say type A personalities, but it’s interesting. So the control, there are people who seem to be reluctant to let go. They seem to be people who are reluctant to get out of the way and allow other people to learn, grow and develop. And so is that the energetic cost that you were referring to

Ralph Simone: earlier?

Bill Berthel: I think that’s the immediate energetic cost, and there are later energetic costs as well. If we track those organizations, they typically have more difficulty in their succession plans. When those leaders are ready to either, whether it’s retirement or leaving for a promotion internally or externally in the organization, they may not be filling the pipeline as well.

There’s a cost there to the organization. Folks tend to leave those types of leaders. There’s a turnover or churn cost that exists in that space as well. And that can be true for any of the three areas we’re talking about. Right. But controlling does tend to come to mind.

Ralph Simone: Yeah. I, I left because I think these are the people that made that find delegation as easy as others.

And I’m always amazed, you know, when people say, well, nobody can do it as well as I can. I say, well, maybe not right away . If you’ve been doing something for a long time and you’re reasonably good at it, you know, the first time you hand it off. But I think we have to think bigger and we have to think broadly about scaling and really developing more production capability in the organization, which requires us to be less fearful, less fearful.

Bill Berthel: It requires us to be less fearful and there’s two directions to move at the same time. These two directions are equally important. Leaders that are reaching their full potential and that are scaling their leadership in their organizations are both excellent relators and achievers. They’re getting stuff done through teams collaboration.

They have intelligence in the systems around them and their emotional social intelligences in relating are excellent. And so these two directions of relating and achieving are the antidote to those fears.

Ralph Simone: So we’re transcending binary or either or thinking as we move up and mitigate these fears and actually maximize an organization’s potential.

Bill Berthel: It is, it’s a bit of a dilemma. It’s not just about getting stuff done. And it’s not just about relating. It’s a both and there. I like to think of it as a creative tension. .

Ralph Simone: So it’s got me thinking of just really asking leaders to spend some reflective and contemplative time around, what are you afraid of?

Yes. And how is that holding you, your team, and your organization back?

Bill Berthel: And you can listen to a new podcast two times a month here at Get Emergent, where we’ll bring you contemporary leadership topics and ideas, balanced with best practices you can apply in your leadership.

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