Should Management Be Considered a Four-Letter Word?

HomeBlogShould Management Be Considered a Four-Letter Word?

Riding home from a volleyball game the other night, I asked my 15-year old, “Do you like to be managed?”

“Heck NO!” she replied, immediately. “I hate being controlled!”

I glanced over at her and then asked, “Why do you feel management is about control?”

She turned and gave me a pained look. “Because it IS, mom! It’s about controlling things to be the way you want them, which means controlling PEOPLE to do what you want them to do.”

This conversation reminded me of one I had years ago with a stranger in a coffee shop.

We had gotten on the topic of laws and rules. This gentleman shared with me that we need these things because people cannot regulate themselves. My response was that we have been led to think this; that is why we have created the need for it. When people believe they need to be controlled, they create the need TO be controlled.

At our core, I actually believe we are very effectively self-led toward greater-good outcomes. The problem is, we have to strip away all the conditioning to find this again.

Over the past year, I have heard from many with whom I have spoken that they are waking up to how tired they are of being managed by others. Whether “other” is people, laws, media, etc., they are realizing how much they want to be in control of their own thoughts and choices and not constantly distracted and led away from their own decisions and what feels right for them.

Since many of the people I work with and speak to are visionaries, I could chock this up to the fact visionaries do not tolerate being controlled and live to call their own shots.

However, taking a deeper dive (which is my tendency) into this pattern really has me thinking more about the concept of management and how I’ve seen it played out and practiced in the world. It really does seem to be more about control and needing to create security for oneself (of one’s position, sense of safety, etc.) than it does about leading others or ensuring that things operate in an organized and harmonized fashion.

As my daughter and others have shared, when the idea of managing others comes up, it tends to elicit thoughts about approaches to doing so that lack true support, reciprocity (equal value-to-value), equality, and trust. These approaches also often create dynamics of disempowerment.

In the late 1960s, psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Karpman, created the Drama Triangle roles and discussed their interplay as a model to demonstrate the most common ways in which people interact (through ego) in an attempt to govern their fears and anxiety.

Later, showing how to consciously move beyond these drama roles, author, David Emerald, created the TED model to illustrate how humans can shift from states/roles of disempowerment to take positive control of their lives. In his book, The Power of TED, Emerald lays out how to gain awareness of the roles we are playing and how to choose and act from more empowering positions, where necessary.

The Karpman Drama Triangle model:

The Victim: The Victim’s stance is “poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight. The Victim, if not being persecuted, will seek out a Persecutor and also a Rescuer (sometimes placing the same person in both roles) who will save the day but also perpetuates the Victim’s negative feelings and position. The victim finds a false sense of “safety” in believing they don’t have to take responsibility because they can’t – the belief that nothing is in their control.

The Rescuer: The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if they don’t go to the rescue. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When they focus their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also pivotal because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems and need for significance (playing the hero) disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.

The Persecutor: (a.k.a. Villain) The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritarian, rigid, and superior. Uses power trip and domineering behavior to control others and situations in order to feel safe and significant.

Emerald’s Empowerment Dynamic model:

The Creator: States what they want and takes action. Understands that they are stronger than they think and that they need two things to grow and evolve in life – challenge and support. Sees these important influences as necessary and, therefore, gives them empowering meanings in their personal stories. Acknowledges their strengths and what is going well – what they do have to work with and owns the power to choose and respond. Focuses on outcomes and the process of growth and thinks in terms of “I can do it!”

The Coach/Supporter: Supports and assists – does nothing for others that they can do for themselves. Facilitates clarity by asking questions “how will you do it? Models and demonstrates how to do something, doesn’t do it for the other person. Encourages others to take the necessary steps for themselves. Is willing to listen without taking on the other person’s story and responsibilities. Doesn’t feel “bad” or guilty for allowing others to do for themselves and make their own mistakes.

The Challenger: States boundaries and calls forth learning and growth – provokes and evokes action that is conscious and constructive – “you can do it.” Isn’t afraid of having the necessary challenging conversations and takes responsibility for what is theirs and asks the same of the other. Is clear about expectations and provides choices. Expects others to be in control of themselves.

The key is understanding what constitutes each disempowering role, how the roles play off of one another and what strategies can be used to shift into the roles and perspectives that allow us to act from a place of effectiveness and empowerment within our own mindsets and in our interactions with others.

In order to see lasting external improvement, we get to learn what produces temporary, and often ineffective, fixes. Taking the time to see where the stories we tell ourselves manifest into the reality we experience is crucial. Understanding where we play roles in generating what we experience is a necessary part of cultivating the empowerment we truly seek.

All of this leads me to consider the fact that there is a difference between Influence and Control.

I think we would all agree that it is important to strive to be an influential leader who, by design and modeling, invites others to perspectives and action that leads to higher productivity and results, rather than one who feels they must control their environments and those in them in order to have power and feel secure.

When it comes to the concept of management, power-focused, fear-based managers often use approaches that create dynamics of disempowerment, thus leading to a negative connotation of what management means and how it should be practiced.

A more passive approach to controlling others to a desired end could be to detach, ignore, or give those who don’t measure up to expectations the “cold shoulder.” In its more active form, this might look like the manager who uses domination through threats, bullying, or other authoritative and forcibly controlling tactics.

Interestingly enough, when we look at how “manage” is defined in the dictionary, we see the language “to be in charge of,” “to direct,” and “to control.”

Since words are the foundation for the meaning we give things, which itself leads to our thoughts, actions, and outcomes, then these meanings or definitions certainly don’t set us up to create the most empowering dynamics.

So, what if we were to change the word choice, thus influencing how we think about and take action on creating organization, accountability, and functional direction toward desired outcomes – all reasons for why we create management to begin with.

Instead of calling it management, what if we changed it to engagement facilitation and those who are in charge of this, Engagement Facilitators?

How might this shift in terms change how we look at and practice the concept of management?

I’ll leave you with the following questions to consider for yourself:

  1. When you think about the word “management,” what comes to mind?
  2. What is the purpose of management?
  3. Based on this purpose, do you see effective management in practice?
  4. Why or why not?
  5. Do you feel a shift in the terms we use when referring to managing and management could change approaches and practices?