The story sorts of goes like this:
One of your employees continuously express the desire of leading or managing specific activity and have more control over certain decisions given their particular expertise on that specific area. After months of hearing this argument, you finally decide to promote that person to that management position to implement some of his ideas. Immediately, you realize that, even though your employee is very happy with the new “title” or position he constantly struggles to make any decision and is constantly asking for the involvement of his superiors to address some of the tasks that fall under his new role.
As recent research studies proves, the sense of control is one of the elements that contribute to people’s true happiness. The ability of influencing the outcome of a situation based on our own actions gives us a sense of comfort and confidence that ultimately becomes an important factor in our happiness.
If we extrapolate this to corporate environments or startups, is not strange to find people who constantly request greater and greater levels of controls for no apparent reason other than to feel important or appreciated. Contradicting with that addictive desire of acquiring control, we must acknowledge that most people have no idea how to exercise control effectively. Quite the contrary, most people struggle when making decisions and going through the pain of taking ownership and responsibility for specific situations.
Even though most capable people like the feeling of having control over specific outcomes, they are constantly challenged by the responsibility that comes with any level of control and start making erratic decisions that affect the rest of the team or, sometimes, making no decisions at all. However, there is no doubt, that people are genuinely happier when they feel in control over specific situation. To address this contradiction, most big organizations create all sort of vague mid-management titles like “Director of X” or “Manager of Y” titles that gives employees the illusion of control in very constrained environments that prevents from causing any harm.
During his days at Opsware, Silicon Valley legend Marc Andreeseen famously said something around the lines of “if titles make employees happy, give them titles….”.
Whether you agree with that philosophy or not (I personally don’t ), there is no doubt that granting the right levels of control to the right people is a continuous challenges for most Sr. managers in organizations. The easiest answer to that challenge is to hire really talented people that are also solid team players and granting them the right levels of ownership and control so that they can also influence the rest of the organization.
Easier said than done though