Dialing Down the Control Freak

control freak rectangle

Back when I was still a one-woman-shop, I was struggling with the idea of hiring some help. There are many things to consider when you’re overwhelmed with work, and we’ll get to more of that in another article (subscribe to get notifications). What I want to talk about right now is the fact that I’m a control freak and how that will affect my future team.

As I started thinking through hiring a contractor to assist with all the extra work I was getting, I asked my husband, “What is the biggest thing I should consider?” He knows me best and always delivers the truth, as one should, so I trusted that he would cut right to the core.

And he did.

He said, “make sure you don’t micromanage, you’re a control freak.” He may not have used those words exactly, but that’s the gist. He hit the nail on the head. I needed to make sure I didn’t dictate everything exactly as I wanted it.

But how do you do that? How do you make sure you’re not being a control freak?!?!?

I had no idea, so I started researching and found several great books on the topic:


Here’s a summary of how I operate based on this research and assistance. When giving feedback:

  • DO: Explain the outcome you want or how you want it to feel.
  • DON’T: Dictate the changes and tell a person exactly what you want. Like, move the image 10 pixels to the left.
  • WHY? If you explain the direction you want to go, your teammate will come up with solutions on their own, giving them the freedom to think it through and learn more in the process.
  • CAVEAT: Unless they are the type of person that just needs or wants to be told what to do. It’s also important to know who you’re working with, do they need free thinking or straight up instruction? Which do you want to work with?


Caring Doesn’t Always Mean Sharing (Everything)

We use care plans for our clients that allow them to request what they need. Instead of having a manager telling us how to do each task, we create a task list or an overall process. We then complete the tasks but team members make their own decisions as to how to carry them out.

This strategy leaves the door open to:

  • Managers not having to review how each task was completed.
  • Asking for tweaks on each task including how others do it.
  • Team members are free to ask for help on tasks.
  • There is a clear timeline for each task.
  • Certain tasks can be designated as optional.
  • Team members feel free to expand their abilities and challenge themselves to complete tasks.
  • You are free to focus your efforts on more important items.


Feedback Sans Control Freak

Below is a brief example of an actual email to demonstrate the motivation used to get a new teammate on the right track:

This design is a great start, but I want to push you further. I know you’re capable of more, so let’s see if we can tease it out of you.


– First, I want to see more fun and edgy. Find a fun font for the title headings, use Google Fonts or Typekit.

– Use real words rather than “lorem ipsum,” as it gives the mock up a more genuine feeling. Grab some paragraphs from the live site as filler…

Open-ended feedback and more push in the right direction will go a long way. A year or two later as we look back on the experience she said, “that helped SO MUCH without you telling me exactly what to do.”

Tools For The Control Freak

You’ll need a way to assign tasks, check on their progress, etc. This is why we use a number of tools to do the heavy lifting in this arena. They include but are not limited to:

  • Teamwork: Our favorite project management tool is ideal for assigning tasks. It lets your team see what is assigned to them, when it’s due, give the ability to track progress, upload files, and much more.
  • Slack: You need this tool if you have a ton of team members. Even five to ten can have your inbox filling up fast. This IM tool allows you to communicate in real time without the formality of writing an email or placing a call. Best of all, you can see all your past conversations to keep track of who is doing what.
  • Dropbox: Keep all your team files organized with this tool. You can share, add, edit, and much more online or on your own hard drive.

When working with others, ask them to do things rather than telling them what to do. I would wager that most people don’t want to work with dictators. Explaining why you want something or why something works the way it does will be much more beneficial to a teammate who is trying to learn your trade and help your business grow. If you just tell, it’s less likely to stick.

Conclusion: guide, rather than tell.

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1 Comment

  1. […] this is where it can be really hard to dial down that inner-control freak. This doesn’t mean that you need to check in every five minutes. If a day or two has passed, and […]

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