Moving Away From Control

When people learn about "the Unilateral Control Model" and "The Mutual Learning Model", they can't help but begin examining their own behavior. It is amazing how conditioned people are by "The Unilateral Control Model" and just how much it impacts their interactions with others. Recognizing this and understanding that there is an alternative, many individuals will want to change their behavior and begin practicing "The Mutual Learning Model."

The question then becomes how to make this shift. As I observe individuals who are trying to be less controlling and more participatory, there sometimes is a complete swing in their attitude and behavior. Many believe that to move away from being controlling means they must give up all control, which actually results in them abdicating their leadership and/or authority. This is done with the intent of being more participatory.

In his book The Skilled Facilitator, Roger Schwarz describes this swing as moving from "The Unilateral Control Model" to "The Give-Up-Control Model." This is not a move to being more participatory by using "The Mutual Learning Model", and actually results in the same outcomes as "The Unilateral Control Model." Upon examination of the core values and assumption of "The Give-Up-Control Model, " it becomes clear why this is really just another form of control. The core values are;

1. everyone participates in defining the purpose,

2. everyone wins and no one loses,

3. express your feelings, and

4. suppress using your intellectual reasoning.

These values look good until you understand their impact. When trying to make the best possible decision, why would you want to ignore or suppress intellectual reasoning?

Add to this concern the assumption of "The Give-Up-Control Model" and it becomes apparent why this model is really another model of maintaining control. That assumption states that in order for people to learn and be involved and committed, they must come to the right answer by themselves. And, of course, the right answer is the one that leadership, who has chosen to give up control, has already determined. When the individuals involved don't "see the right answer", the leadership then eases into the right answer with leading questions that help people get the right answer by themselves.

I see this process happening all the time. I have worked with leadership in a number of organizations who have said to me something like; "I want to engage our staff in an exercise that will leave them feeling like they had a say into our decision. I want them to own the decision that has to be made by us." This same leadership will then wonder why their staff are confused, get defensive at times, resist any changes, and lack trust in management.

While this may appear somewhat judgmental toward leadership, that is not my intention. I firmly believe leadership behaves this way out of a desire to be participatory, but their preferred, and mostly unconscious, style is one of unilateral control. Just the fact that leadership is deciding when to take control and when to give up control is demonstrating unilateral control.

Therefore, the only way to move away from control is to behave from a different perspective altogether. "The Mutual Learning Model" provides that alternative perspective. Studying and practicing the model can lead to enhanced group effectiveness and increased learning of the group members.

Continue to monitor your behavior and become more and more aware of when you operate out of "The Unilateral Control Model." Then, and only then, can you make a conscious choice to move away from control.

In my next post I will begin to look at working with individuals who may be considered difficult people. Until next time, have a great week.