Saboteurs: Overcoming The Controller Saboteur

Written by Darren Kanthal

February 14, 2021

For this next installment, I’m going to introduce you to one of the top-notch saboteurs that often crop up in our lives. First up is one of my top saboteurs: Controller.

Read through these thoughts; do any of them resonate with you?

– “Nobody can do it better than me!”

– “No one tells me what to do.”

– “If I’m in control, the situation will go the way I want.”

– “Give it to me! It’s easier if I just do it!”

If any of those resonate with you, congrats! You have a very strong Controller in your Saboteur army. Welcome, make yourself comfortable, stay awhile and learn how to combat your Controller effectively.

The Controller Saboteur at Work

My Controller would often rear its ugly head at work. See, a big part of the Controller brand is to not trust others to pull their weight and deliver. Take, for example, a project I was working on with a former boss who was more of a peer on this project…or so I thought. We were tasked to collaborate on a specific initiative. Now, let’s be clear: she was smarter than me, more experienced than me, and more savvy overall. But that didn’t matter to me. I didn’t want her help, so I didn’t seek it. With every suggestion or insight she shared, I felt like she was holding me back. So what’d I do? I decided to say “screw her” and go it alone. “Just give it to me, I’ll make it right” became my battle cry for success, and boy was it lonely. I was so focused on “doing it right” (which really meant “doing it my way”), I alienated myself, took on way more than I could handle, and screwed up a whole lot of stuff in the process. The initiative was rocky to say the very, very least. I’d messed up my relationship with my former boss and she provided negative feedback (that, yes, aptly described the scenario) to my other bosses. In the end, I had to eat crow and own my companywide mess up, which had already impacted hundreds of people and negatively influenced my relationships with many people I respected. And to think I did all of this just trying to save face and prove myself.

And here’s the thing: there are definitely benefits to the Controller. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t employ it so readily! Because my Controller makes me want to take over and do everything myself, you can bet I know how to get shit done. I’m self-reliant. Dating back to the days before the Internet when I’d ask my pop a question, he’d tell me to look it up…in an encyclopedia! My pop’s response taught me how to fend for myself, and, in true double-edged sword fashion, taught me that I didn’t need to ask for help.

And that’s what the Controller is — a double-edged sword. The same attribute that empowers me to take lead of a situation where a leader is needed and set a course to completion, is the same attribute that had me politely called “enthusiastic” and “passionate” in corporate-speak which, in layman’s terms, roughly translates to “being a complete and unwavering dick.”

Keeping the Controller Saboteur In Check

As I’ve grown both personally and professionally, I started to realize the other side of that sword — what helped me get to where I was also was hindering my ability to connect and continue to grow. Where I saw passion and healthy debate, others saw intimidation and argument. Through my PQ quest, I can absolutely see how my feelings and the feelings of others (which frankly I had no time for when my Controller was running the show) are absolutely paramount in forming, maintaining, and growing effective relationships, which in turn empower myself and those I interact with to problem solve and work together effectively.

When I bore deep and really looked at myself, I learned that at the heart of my Controller was the fear of being controlled by others. I fought authority at every turn, be it my parents, teachers, bosses, and even law enforcement. If I could be louder, I couldn’t be controlled. With time, and PQ, I’ve learned that’s not the case. It did me no good to play by my own rules. All that did was create a lonely island for me to exist on. Through Positive Intelligence, I learned an effective way forward that empowered me to grow personally and professionally. And if anything I’ve shared about my journey as a recovering Controller resonates, let’s chat. Reach out to The Kanthal Group and we can help you get control…of your Controller.

Darren Kanthal

Darren Kanthal, Founder of The Kanthal Group, is a values-driven leadership and career coach with over 20 years of experience in HR and Talent Acquisition. Darren is intensely passionate about helping mid-career leaders cut through the BS, do the foundational work, and achieve their greatness.

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