This is a useful exercise in considering the extent of control and freedom we impose on ourselves as individuals, teams and organisations.  In doing so, this allows us to consider alternative options so that we can enhance performance.

You: The Individual.
How much control do you impose on yourself? Are you the kind of person that has a rigid set daily routine? Same daily journey to work? Like to park your car in the same spot each day?  How about your evening routine and weekends? Do you tend to avoid change?

Alternatively, perhaps you prefer greater flexibility and freedom in your life?  Spontaneity is welcome as each day is an adventure! Do you like the creativity that comes with a little chaos and welcome change with open arms?

Us: The Team.
How much control is there in your team, either self imposed or imposed by others? Perhaps a little bit of both? Is the daily work routine predictable, careful, measured? Are meetings formal with set agenda?  Does the team tend to react negatively to proposed change?

Alternatively, perhaps the team is loose in terms of its structure and interactions? Maybe there’s a lot of flexibility, innovation and creativity?  Meetings when they occur are informal and unpredictable.  Perhaps, at times the team is so free in terms of structure that it is always in a state of chaos and its hard to set any long term goals?

We: The Organisation

How controlled is your organisation?  Are policies and procedures, regulations and governance underpinning all activities?  Are systems and structures rigid and inflexible?  Is there a set five or even seven year strategy?  Does it take a long time for decisions to be made?  Are daily interactions formal and reserved?

Alternatively, is there enormous freedom within your organisation.  Are the boundaries between teams and departments informal, fluid and interchangeable?  Does your organisational strategy change frequently and are mistakes treated as learning opportunities? Is information shared openly and is there a learning culture?

Where are you?
If one end of the arrows below is ‘controlled’ and the other ‘freedom’, where would you place yourself?

Think about yourself as an individual.  Think about the team you are in and finally think about your organisation. Where would you place each on the arrows.  Right over the left where its very controlled, or right over to the right where there’s enormous freedom?  Or perhaps somewhere in the middle? Are you brave enough to ask somebody that knows you well where they would place you?

Considering Alternatives

Next, I want you to move yourself, your team and your organisation to another spot on the arrows and consider what that might look like.

If you are very controlled as an individual what might it look like to ‘let go a little’? Could you learn new skills, meet new people or create new possibilities for yourself? What actions could you take to relinquish some of the control in your life?

If as a team you are very chaotic in nature right now, would a little more control provide more stability and reduce conflict for example? What actions could you take individually and collectively to gain back some of the control that’s lacking at present?

Alternatively, if you are in a team that has too much control could lessening this provide more creativity and innovation to the group for example? What actions could you individually and collectively take to remove some of the restrictions that too much control has on the team at present?

As an organisation, could incorporating a little more control or a little more freedom improve your collective performance?

Joe McDonald is founder of create10 providing powerful, impactful workshops to teams across all sectors and industries. Also, one to one confidential coaching and flexible online courses on leadership development, coaching for strategy, team development and innovation. See or email