Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak

"The real impediment to producing a higher quality product more efficiently aren’t the workers, union or nonunion, it’s management."

- Kenneth Iverson, quoted in Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak, back cover

B.R. Smith started in management many years ago, and his mantra was to “fake it until you make it”. Well, make it he did, and he’s here to share the tips he learned (often the hard way!) over the years in one volume, Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak: The Top Ten Sins Most Managers Make & How to Avoid Them.

As Smith points out in his introduction, there are now four generations working in the workforce, each with differing needs and expectations. This can prove challenging to a manager but, with the insight from this book on what to do (and what not to do!), we can reduce the anxiety some people feel in managing their team.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Recognize and Categorize

"The key to motivating people is to figure out what their WIIFM is. Once you know that, you can use that understanding to get them to do what needs to be done."
- Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak, page 17

We’ve all been told not to categorize people; that putting people in a box can be detrimental. Well, B.R. Smith tells us in Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak that it can have its benefits when it comes to management.  Smith uses the old acronym WIIFM, which stands for “What’s In It For Me?” to help with the categorization.

Let’s face it, we all have different motivations for showing up to work each day. A job fulfills some need in all of us, or why else would we have one? While the common denominator is most certainly a pay cheque, motivation differs in an inestimable number of ways from there.  Smith asks that you be vigilant in regards to the motivations of your team.  It’s a good idea to sit down with each employee and ask them what they want out of their job, but it’s equally as important to be mindful and pay attention to their behaviour, which as we know speaks louder than words.

The following two Insights will help you to both recognize and categorize the members of your team; to ensure productivity and understanding across your team. Because when you know more about your team, it’s easier to harness their strengths—and avoid their weaknesses.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Employ the Disc Theory

"Each of the four styles has their own strengths; and there really isn’t one style that is better than any other. It is clear, however, that some styles are better suited for some roles, tasks, or careers."
- Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak, page 52

The DISC Theory isn’t anything new, but thinking about it from a management position is interesting because it allows you to have a greater understanding of behaviour, and the related team member’s performance. (All quotes below are from page 51.)

Dominant “Direct and Decisive: These types of people make quick decisions when others cannot; they will confront tough issues or situations, accept change as a personal challenge, and will keep the team focused and on task.” i.e. ‘Your Type A’ personality.

Interpersonal/Interactive “Optimistic and Outgoing: These people like to make themselves available to others; they spread their enthusiasm and positive attitude to others and will give positive feedback to their colleagues and teammates. They are great communicators and have an innate ability to build collaborative teams.”

Steadiness “Sympathetic and Cooperative: These types are team players; they are sensitive to others’ needs, approach meeting agendas methodically, and are great listeners. They are very loyal, show up to work on time, and will maintain the status quo. They prefer to be non-confrontational.”

Conscientious “Concerned and Correct: These types of people like things done ‘the right way’ as they see it. They are very thorough and will maintain standards; they emphasize accuracy and will try to use some diplomacy to get their way. C’s are your best planners.”

Did you notice anything when reading the definitions of each of the four behaviours? Yes, they all outline the “pros” of each behaviour type. But as we all know, when there’s a pro there has to be a con. The “cons” are outlined as follows:

Dominant: Can appear to be unapproachable, insensitive, impatient

Interactive/Interpersonal: Can be disorganized, appear to be superficial when dealing with others, avoids follow-through, has difficulty working alone

Steadiness: indecisive (don’t want your decision to “make waves”), indirect, dislikes change (anxiety of failure)

Conscientious – perfectionist, preference of working alone, creativity killer

The DISC Theory is useful in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your direct reports, or even your fellow team members if you aren’t in a management position. Use the theory to delegate work, and to anticipate the challenges that may lie ahead for specific people in specific roles.  But don’t live and die by this theory.  In the end we’re all unique individuals and our motives cannot be completely understood or foretold by any theory.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Achievers vs Sustainers

"It’s important for managers to find out who their Sustainers and Achievers are so that when it comes time to delegate additional responsibilities or spend valuable training dollars – they’ll know who to invest in."
- Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak, page 59

Sustainers are content with the responsibility they currently have (special projects are not their thing). They show up when they’re supposed to and leave when they’re supposed to, and rarely work overtime or on the weekends—unless, perhaps, they’ll be compensated with overtime. For sustainers, work is a job and not a career.

On the other hand, achievers are upwardly mobile. They enjoy learning and are eager to add to their responsibilities, the catalyst of which is often a promotion. (It’s important to recognize that if you don’t give achievers more responsibility, they will become easily bored and will look for fulfillment elsewhere.) Their work is a career, not a mere job.

It’s important to recognize that having both on your team is very important. I have been both a sustainer and an achiever at different points in my life. During high school and university, my retail job (working in a cash office) was just that: a job, a pay cheque. I arrived on time, was a supportive member of the team, completed my responsibilities well and in the time allotted, and went home. For me it was the perfect balance between my studies and a social life. It’s important to remember that sustainers are not lazy (they do their job well, of course), it’s just that their job is a smaller aspect of their lives than it is for achievers. But being able to distinguish your sustainers from your achievers—and delegating work accordingly—is crucial as a manager to ensuring the success of your organization.

B.R. Smith’s Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak is an interesting book which combines thoughtful research with his own years of experience in management. It’s a book worth learning from – for those new to management and for veterans, alike.  After all, there’s always something new to be learned, no matter where you find yourself in your career.

Consultant or Coach? Take our Fit Assessment to find out if partnering with Actionable is right for you.
Andy Budgell

ABOUT Andy Budgell

Andy is the Managing Editor at Actionable Books. A graduate of the University of Waterloo's English Rhetoric and Literature program, Andy brings a love of words to Actionable, and complements the team with his distinct writing ability, amazing customer service, and a passion for film.
Read More
blog comments powered by Disqus

Back to summaries