A Coaching Power Tool By Adam Bower, Leadership Growth & Community Transformation Coach, IRELAND
Sense of Control vs. Sense of Community Definition
|Control – a sense of power placed over other beings, or the dynamics of a situation, when attempting to achieve desired outcomes.|
|Community–a fulfilling, life-giving sense of shared cohesiveness, achievement, and togetherness created when a group of empowered people connect with each other and work towards a common purpose, (such as a place, action, interest, or practice).|
When we interact with others, we change both ourselves& the other person. Our choice is not whether this will occur, but whether it will be positive or negative. A group of connected people can change how we see an issue, alter our priorities as a group and create a capacity to collaborate around shared values. Dr. Fiona Kerr, The Art & Science of Looking Up.
We Control Because We Care, but at What Cost?
In life, we discover all kinds of people who demonstrate all sorts of controlling behaviors; dictating managers, team members who do not listen, peers who refuse to engage and withhold information, clients who ‘demonstrate’ who is in charge, passive-aggressive spouses, commanding parents, children who insist on having things their way, friends who take over plans – many of us may be guilty of playing these roles ourselves on occasion! Whatever the details, circumstances, or underlying causes, when we choose to control, we do so because we care, and while this may come from a good place, there is always a hidden cost.
We might control because we care about…
But we may not see in the process that we are…
Blind to the negative impact on others
Achieving goals in a particular way
Shutting down the space for creativity
The quality of a particular result
Unable to discover the best outcome
Making an impact
Missing or smothering opportunities to make an even greater impact
Saving time and effort
Ignoring collaborative opportunities which can improve effectiveness in the long run
Getting the job done
Affecting the well-being of others and greater levels of happiness.
Care becomes an essential ingredient for a full, meaningful, and rewarding life when we are able to achieve a balance between respect for ourselves and the needs of others. This balance becomes disturbed by the desire to control.
Control manifests when we become overly attached to our own cares or egotistic desires. This kind of attachment leads us to think, feel and act in controlling, self-oriented, and disempowering ways toward others. Consciously and unconsciously, deciding to place power over others’ limits:
- Our potential as individuals and
- The potential we can unleash together with the groups or systems of people to which we belong.
Furthermore, controlling thoughts, behaviors and actions create friction, which slows, blocks, and diminishes:
- Connections between us, our purpose, the world around us, and what brings us joy,
- Safety& Trust, which Dr. Amy Edmondson describes as a pre-requisite for high-performance learning environments in her book The Fearless Organization,
- The sense of collective drive within groups of people, and
- Creative human energy.
The four buckets mentioned above are crucial to creating community and collaboration whilst finding our potential.
Think of a scenario when someone appeared attached to their perspective and attempted to place power over you to reach their desired outcome.
- What behaviors did this person exhibit?
- How did you feel and react at this moment?
- What was the outcome or hidden cost?
- What might have been different if they approached the situation collaboratively?
What Are the Factors That Influence Sense of Control vs. Sense of Community
Choosing to Control Only Gets Us So Far as Leaders and as People. The Community Has Limitless Potential.
Every day we are invited to play leadership roles in the different domains of life. This invitation might come at work as a team member, a line manager, or a business leader; at home as a partner, mother or father, or child; as a friend at a social event, a person in a group, a member of society, or anywhere in between and beyond. No matter when and where we are called to lead, if we choose to react to the invitation by attempting to place control over other people, we create an imbalance of power. This imbalance sucks the energy out of potential space for creativity, learning, growth, and autonomy.
We can choose to self-impose limits to the level of fulfillment in our lives, the joy in our relationships, and the scale and impact of what we can achieve creatively. Alternatively, we can choose to unlock unlimited potential by discovering power with others by approaching what we care about collectively.
When we consciously shift our intentions to nourish the collective needs of a group or system of people and work collaboratively with a sense of community, we can unlock exponential amounts of creative energy, collective intelligence, talent, and more fulfilling experiences. To build and succeed in this way as a community, we must think, feel, and act with due care for:
- the people we aim to build community and partner with,
- those whom the community aims to benefit or serve, and
- our own desires or needs.
Understanding, appreciating, and nourishing the collective needs of the three layers above is essential for an inspired sense of community to grow. To recognize these shared needs and learn how to best approach them, our role as leaders is to uncover and work with the many collective dimensions, including perspectives, thoughts, emotions, values, habits, beliefs, justifications, desires, ambitions, experiences, intelligence, and talents. A practiced community leader collaboratively animates the space between these dimensions to create something much greater than the sum of the parts.
It would be misguided to say that this is a simple process to navigate, and impossible to claim that any one of us could reach our potential alone in the rapidly evolving world we live in. In today’s time-poor yet accelerating society, one sole person cannot know everything, do everything or be everything. We have limits, meaning control can only work up to a certain threshold. Perhaps control may have gotten many of us to where we are today, but new approaches are critical to addressing the day-to-day events and challenges we face. The need to change our style as leaders are supported by Stephen Covey’s book Trust & Inspire where he explains the ‘nature of the world’, ‘work’, ‘workplace’, ‘workforce’, and ‘choice’ have all changed. Covey poses that to be successful, organizations can only ‘win the workplace’ with an inspiring high-trust culture and ‘win the marketplace’ through collaboration and innovation.
Control gets us so far, but community takes us further. An inspired community not only thrives in but generates high-trusted learning environments, giving space to collaboration and innovation. Inspired, purpose-driven communities change the culture and mindsets of the people they touch directly and indirectly. This is not much different from what we observe with living organisms, who learn to adapt and grow with their environments. Adapting might begin as a means of survival, but something remarkable happens when a living organism learns to grow and thrive co-dependently with its environment. They flourish by making a positive impact on other lifeforms in their environment and their ecosystem, helping them flourish too. This energy is regenerative.
When we invite and inspire others to share leadership with us, we can benefit from a wider pool of collaborative perspectives, talent, and support. When shared leadership begins to flourish, we can tap into a deeper source of knowledge, learning, and experience to create regenerative energy, grow collectively, and discover new possibilities. The lens of community is a gift of limitless opportunity.
We Are Hardwired for Community and Grow Through Inspirational Experiences.
In their book ‘Humanocracy – Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini observe no other species demonstrates the sort of intentional, intimate collaboration that is central to human life. To help connect to what a sense of community means, they encourage their readers to reflect on a time they:
- Accomplished something worthwhile with people they cared about,
- Felt inspired and supported,
- They gave their best and felt deeply appreciated, and
- When the emotional rewards far outstripped any monetary payoff.
There is only one way to truly appreciate and understand the power of a thriving, purpose-driven community and the transformation that can be created in terms of trust, support, belonging, togetherness, and opportunities for learning, growth, and achievement. This emergent space can only be appreciated and understood when genuinely experienced with open eyes and a curious mind with a willingness to collaboratively uncover a new way of being.
It is only in encountering the uncontrollable that we really experience the world. Only then do we feel touched, moved, alive. A world that is fully known, in which everything has been planned and mastered, would be a dead world. Hartmut Rosa, The Uncontrollability of the World
What Can We Do When a Desire to Control Shows up Within Us?
In Ferretti’s Ted Talk ‘Rethink Control’ he describes The Paradox of Control:
Release control to receive control. The more we try to push people into something, the more likely it is that they are going to dig in and we are going to lose control. But, if we take the time to respond instead of quickly reacting we often have a better outcome.
The truth is, all we can control is the quality of our own thoughts, actions, and the way we engage with the people and world around us. Each of us holds the power within to collaborate and create community. It takes trust, courage, and commitment to release control and share power with another person, a group, or groups of people. Investing trust in a group or community of people around you is a process that takes effort but pays exponential dividends on multiple levels.
When we sense controlling thoughts, behaviors, or actions arising, we can best respond by choosing to pause and consider questions like:
- How is this desire to control serving my needs and the needs of others?
- What is control costing me?
- What would it look like to approach this situation in a way which builds a sense of community?
Reflect on the different leadership roles you play in the various dimensions of your life. Explore the following questions:
- What kind of environment do I want to create as a leader?
- In what ways might control be smothering this environment?
- What might it look like to release control?
- What might it mean to lead with a commitment to a sense of community?
The Coach’s Role: Sense of Control vs. Sense of Community
When we step into the role of a coach, we do not control clients or the outcomes of our conversations. We create empowering safe spaces for connection, energy, and growth between people, which is the essence of community.
It is impossible to fully know the contents of a session or how a client will respond. Much like our clients, all we can control is how we reply in the present moment. Working together with our clients, we can invite exploration and respond to the challenge by co-creating a path forward and a sense of community in the process.
A sense of community is a powerful force to leverage in coaching too, particularly in a group coaching setting and as a support structure for clients and their journeys. It goes both ways, as communities can also leverage coaching as a tool to build on their foundations of trust and safety, presence, active listening, evoking awareness, and learning and growth.
Supporting and co-contributing to groups of people on a journey to grow, discover a shared sense of purpose and collaborate towards the limitless possibilities ahead of them, is one of life’s most authentic pleasures to enjoy – fulfilling joy coaches know too well.
We all can create a sense of connection, safety, drive, and energy with other like-hearted people to create community. Each one of us has the ingredients inside of ourselves. It is up to us whether we choose to limit ourselves and the people around us to a life smothered by control or a limitless one, flourishing with the community.
So, which path will you commit to today and who will you walk with?
Covey, S. (2022). Trust & Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others. Simon & Schuster.
Dalio, R. (2017). Principles. Simon& Schuster.
Edmondson, A. (2018). The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Wiley.
Ferretti, T. (2019, November). Rethink Control Tedxocala. Ocala.
Maze, D. F. (2019). The Art & Science of Looking Up – Transforming our brains, bodies, relationships, and experience of the world by the simple act of looking up. NeuroTech Institute & GLider.
Robert J. Anderson, W. A. (2015). Mastering Leadership. Wiley.
Rosa, H. (2020). The Uncontrollability of The World. Polity.
Scott Dawkins, L. L. (2020). The Community Manifesto: Building The Final Society. Torrazza Piemonte, Italy.