Controlling: The dirty word in business

I have a dear friend who works in a bank. He started as a part-timer in college; later working his way up the ladder of the teller world until he landed in the bank’s vaults, counting money. And over the years, I’ve watched him go from optimistic and open minded about business to being a cynical, bitter employee, convinced anyone with an office door has had their conscience and ethical core removed before accepting the title of “manager.”

While certainly there are many things we as managers do, they can generally be categorized into one of four areas:

  • Planning (Setting goals, developing courses of action, rules, processes, proceedures, etc)
  • Organizing (Identifying jobs, hiring, firing, delegating, etc)
  • Leading (influencing others, morale, company culture)
  • Controlling (standards, measurement, actuals versus projections, etc

For those of you who were business majors – we know these as the four functions of management. Have no fear though – this isn’t a lecture with a quiz at the end!

Let’s focus on just one of these areas…. the last one. The word “controlling” gets a bad rap. It conjures images of dictatorial managers, micro-managers, nit-pickiness…. ok, ok, I’ll stop. I felt the collective tension building among all of you out there in the web-world.

My point is this: call it a review, an evaluation, control mechanism, whatever you like – and most people will immediately have some form of visceral reaction, because measuring performance inevitably raises the question “What if I don’t (measure up)?”

I see this all the time with clients: they want to know what their clients or customers think… but they don’t. They want to know if the project they just worked on for weeks made a difference… but on the other hand…..? welllll…….. Maybe not so much.

I think we can all relate to that feeling. Not wanting to go in for that check up, that performance review, the mechanical check up to see what’s that “tinging” sound I hear in the car motor? No one likes even the potential of bad news.

But ignorance is not bliss in business… or in life for that matter. Not seeking feedback – whether from customers, employees, or yes, even your boss – means running the risk of not doing what you need to be doing to keep the business (or keep your job). And in the end, if you’ve not kept the customer happy, you could find yourself with an empty order box, a storefront that’s not producing, or a boss telling you “gee, we’ve found someone else we like better.”

My advice: none of us likes to hear we aren’t “good” at whatever it is we do. But not taking time to critically assess what’s working, and what’s not working, is the business equivalent of ignoring that tinging sound in your engine… and ultimately being replaced by a different person or company who paid attention.

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Category: Organizational Management

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