What is Non-Negotiable? How control affects performance.


A simple experiment:

1. Give someone a standardised Intelligence Test.

2. Ask them to describe a situation where they felt controlled by another person. Get them to talk about it for 15 minutes.

3. Give them an equivalent intelligence test.

You’ll find they’ve lost about 8-9% of their intelligence.

This is how acutely a lack of control affects mental performance: if you ask someone to just talk about someone who controls them, they lose 10 points of effective IQ. For the average person, this means 8-9% of our intelligence just disappears!

But the problem is that most people have no control over their work. Even the CEO has to answer to a board and/or shareholders, and this will have a dramatic impact on what is perceived as ‘non-negotiable’.

And the critical word here is ‘perceived’. You see even if people perceive that they have some sort of control, then their intelligence scores don’t suffer. In fact, the opposite happens: people with perceived control over a situation will outscore those who feel they have no control on most aspects of problem solving, speed of task and quality of output.

Even a little bit of control can have this performance-boosting effect. And that’s where the concept of Tight/Loose management comes in.

Put simply, everything we need out people to do will have two components. There will be a tight, non-negotiable component. For instance, you may have some target or project handed down from head office, that simply needs to be done.

But even the most strict instructions will have a loose, negotiable component if you look hard enough. You might be able to brainstorm how the project gets done, what task is prioritised, or who does what and how you structure the work.

The bottom line is this: If you can give your people a feeling of control, they work better. If you take away their feeling of control, they perform poorly (and act dumber in the process). As a leader, you have complete control over which of these your staff is feeling from day to day. In control, or out of control -  It’s your choice.

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