Do you find yourself on either end of this equation? Struggling with the fear of letting go of control, wondering whether to delegate due to fear of it not being done “right”, or squirming under the microscope of micromanagement, feeling not trusted and stifled, unable to move forward with development opportunities? Let’s explore the risks of not and the rewards of knowing when to share power, control through delegating, passing the torch.

Many of my leadership, team and mentor coaching clients have found themselves on one or both sides, as have I. I have certainly felt stifled and resentful of being micromanaged. On this end, it feels like the person does not trust me to do my best and that my best will not be good enough.

I had to let go and trust my colleagues in Asia Pacific, who I had only met virtually and briefly, passing the torch to them to promote and plan our programs and host me in their communities and homes on my three month journey in Asia Pacific. I found myself at first white knuckled on the railing of a decaying ferry soon after a ferry collapse in that region, and then pausing, letting go and trusting so I could enjoy the journey. This image is of Shalini Matai and I’s program in Jakarta, Indonesia for their ICF Coaching Chapter and business community.

Jakarta ICF coaches and guests

And just this week I listened to a mentor coaching client’s coaching session recording where their leadership client, like mine, had to decide when to retain control to avoid  dangerous failure and when to let go, trust, and delegate for team development and success, even allowing a little room for failure! My own leadership and team coaching clients (and me!) struggle with this balance the polarity between holding onto control and trusting, letting go and delegating.

I discovered on my Asia Pacific journey that my primary polarity is control and letting go, trusting. The point of polarity work is not to criticize or blame either pole but rather embrace both, determining when each is most useful.

Many leaders’ as well as organizations’ polarities include micromanagement/freedom; control/out of control. (“Both sides of the same coin” as my dad said) I and my clients are learning to further love, appreciate, accept and respect both poles in ourselves as well as increase awareness and choice, for myself and my clients, after a Bali coach training which includes polarities.

That three month journey through Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea gave me lots of practice! I had been invited by colleagues I had met only virtually, briefly, to co-present and to stay with them in their homes. I let go of the primary responsibility for promoting our events and my hosts stepped into that role. We trusted we would enjoy the experience of co-presenting and their hosting me, which we did.

One of my international leadership coaching clients recently recognized the importance of team work and learning to delegate and how that reflects their organization’s polarities of control/out of control, freedom/micromanagement.  When an organization and/or a leader is afraid to let go of control, they do not delegate, trying to do it all themselves so it can be done “right”.  This also shows up in their interaction with their “team”. It is hard to have a functioning team when the leader is not sharing but rather clinging to power and control. Neither the leader nor the team experience the amount of freedom necessary to excel.

The risks of this include:

1. The leader burning out

2. The staff not developing

3.  The staff not being as invested in the work, because their contribution is not as clear or perceived to be of value

All of this has a negative impact on the organization’s development, including financially.

I have written about my own letting go (including recognizing and accepting the limits of my control), and how that has opened doors to new possibilities and opportunities I could not have imagined or experienced had I been grasping onto control, including going on my three month Asia Pacific journey. Freedom!

My leadership coaching clients are also learning to recognize when to exercise wise caution, step up in a crisis, and when to step back, let go of control (especially in delegating within teams) and invite as well as guide others to step up and take more responsibility. Freedom! Even if it does not go as well as they had hoped, expected and believed they could have done themselves.  Although frightening at first, even a little failure can go a long ways toward development!

Sharing power and control does not have to mean being dangerously out of control. The organizational benefits can include:

1. Renewed leaders (free to focus on the big picture)

2. Developed, invested, energized staff (free from stifling micromanagement, to step into their own strengths!)

3. Fully functioning teams

The result: “Developing and energizing people results in a more prosperous organization” (one of the results of my coaching).

What gets in the way? Leaders, you might complain that delegating requires the same amount of time or even more than doing it yourself, with less certain results. However, time invested now in providing appropriate guidance as your team members take on more responsibility pays off as you come to trust their abilities and results. As you share more responsibility with them, you are freed up to focus on fulfilling your vision and your organization benefits from employees with increased capacity.

Partnering with your coach to help identify when to appropriately take control and when and how to let go can lead to a team and organization where potential and prosperity are unlocked. Sometimes the leader themselves recognize this development opportunity and sometimes they are referred due to feedback, including through 360 assessments.

Coaches you can also benefit from a masterful, culturally intelligent mentor coach who listens for how/whether you provide the space for your clients to step into full partnership for their development and when to appropriately step up and manage the process so their clients receive maximum benefit. We can also more deeply reflect on this polarity through Coaching SUPERvision.

Leaders and coaches, I invite you to apply for an Unlock All Potential strategy session and learn how we could work together to increase your awareness, choice and freedom as you trust, let go and delegate, leading to individual and organizational transformation!

How are you choosing how much control to maintain, and how much to share, let go?

Stay tuned until next week for another Weekly Wisdom.

To our success-we are in this together!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MSW, MCC, LLC; CQ Master Certified Coach, International Coach Federation

Unlocking potential, prosperity and peace for leaders, coaches and their organizations through Leadership & Team Coaching, Mentor Coaching and Coaching Supervision

Photo: Jakarta, Indonesia International Coach Federation chapter and business community, where Shalini Matai and I presented on “Centering, a Door to Presence”. I also presented “Leadership as an Activity” for the South Australia ICF chapter and business community, as well as serving on a panel and doing a coaching demo; prior to presenting at the Asia Pacific Coaching Conference with Josie McLean.

This was originally posted September 2014 at while speaking, training, and coaching in Asia Pacific for 3 months and updated.