Enhancing Your Sense of Control
Yesterday, about 9:30am, I had settled into my work-rhythm when all of the sudden my entire computer froze. Nothing was happening. I forced a shutdown, made myself a cup of tea, and rebooted the darn thing. All was going as expected until I went to open Outlook…some strange message telling me to “rebuild (my) database” popped up. I clicked the button, followed the instructions, nada – the message kept popping up. “Honey!” I called to my husband, who was working in his office a flight down (there are benefits in having a two-start-up-household), “Ummm….I think I have a problem….!” Over the next three hours my hero-husband and I sat in his office applying every trick around “Outlook database recovery” that we could find (this stuff is so not “where I live” – it hadn’t even occurred to me that Outlook was a database until this happened!). Finally, I am happy to report, my husband was able to save the day (thank goodness I had backed up recently!) and all my contacts, all my scheduled meetings, and all my messages over the past several years did not disappear forever. For three hours I felt lost – out of control – I could accomplish nothing else.
About a week and a half ago, I had just returned from DC, having had a wonderful time speaking to the National Hispanic Corporate Council at the Red Cross Headquarters, when my stomach started feeling funny. Within two hours of making it home I was as sick as a dog (where in the world do we get that expression?….I’ll have to Google…). I won’t go into details, let’s just suffice it to say that it wasn’t pretty. I slept the entire next day (which I never do). For two days I felt like crap – out of control – I could accomplish nothing else.
So much of our energy is spent on trying to control the world around us, not because we’re all power-mongers and want to be “in control” but because as human beings we rely on having a “sense of control” in order to function. If you look at Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, it’s easy to see how when we don’t feel a sense of control over our more foundational needs like health and safety, that we abandon the higher-level needs like achievement, personal growth and fulfillment.
I have to tell you, when I was down-for-the-count with the tummy-flu, I wasn’t thinking at all about growing myself. Not one bit. I was just trying to survive the day.
So if we’re really all about being and bringing our best – which would live in the higher echelon of Maslow’s hierarchy – then we darn well better be paying attention to those foundational needs. How do we give ourselves a sense of control foundationally, so we can then focus more attention on the higher-scale needs that allow us to be and bring our best?
What does that mean in terms of the choices we make and the actions we take? How do we put our finances in place so we’re not in survival-mode when it comes to taking care of biological, physiological, and safety needs? How do we take care of our health? How do we nurture our relationships?
And if we want the people on our teams to be and bring their best, how do we support them to be sure that their foundational needs are addressed so that we can tap into their ability to achieve, be responsible, to care about their reputation, to grow themselves, and experience fulfillment at work? It’s not going to happen by accident. We can put all the recognition programs we want in place and but if we’re not paying a competitive wage that allows them to care for their family, that will always be a problem. We can invest in having some amazing marketing consultants come in and help us clarify our mission, but if people don’t feel safe at work (and I’m not just talking safe from physical danger), they won’t be able to achieve the mission or work toward any higher purpose – they’ll be focused on playing it safe.
Like you’ve heard me say a million times, there are things in life we can control and things we can’t – it’s important to decern the difference. And I think what I’m coming to understand is that if I want to live in the realm of personal growth and fulfillment – those higher-level-needs, I better stop taking things like my health, the amount of sleep I get, and where I might be spending too much on things I don’t need into account. Today, I’m grateful that I have some control over those things – which will not always be the case.
What actions can you take to enhance your sense of control over your more foundational-needs? What conversations might you need to have? What bad habits might you need to address? What changes might you need to make? What can you do to support those on your team to do the same? To ensure that they feel safe to fully show-up and participate? To ensure that their health and well-being are a priority? For if we really care about things like achievement and fulfillment, those “lower-level-needs” aren’t just a nice to have – they’re a have to have.
If you want real results, it’s time to get real.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014
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Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop.