One of the best pieces of advice I was given early in my career was: “Your way is A way, but it’s just that, A way. There are lots of ways to accomplish the same task. Some ways are more efficient. Some ways are more effective. Some ways are more expensive. Some ways are more creative. But always be open to the idea that there’s more than just A way.”
As I look back at my early marketing and advertising portfolio from nearly 2 decades ago, I am surprised my boss in my first marketing job published so many of the things I created. But he knew he had to give me wings if he wanted to help me grow. He didn’t nitpick. He let me try things.
As I grew and moved on, we met for lunch from time-to-time. As I was going through my young leader development, he would often remind me, “Always remember when you insist on controlling everything, you will only be able to grow your area of care to the capacity of what you can personally produce. You have to let go and trust other people to do what they were hired to do, so that you can focus on what you were hired to do.”
He was right, when I attempted to control everything, nothing grew to the capacity I knew it could grow, and I missed the opportunity to empower and grow others. When I gave those around me wings to fly, eventually they would soar higher than I ever dreamed, and I would have more time to be effective in other areas. It’s true, “teamwork makes the dream work.”
When I lived in the realm of believing only my way was the best or right way, I not only hampered my team’s ability to work together for the greater good of the project, I also failed to show true appreciation for the role they played in it. At the time, I was so focused on the fear others would see something I was responsible for as less than perfect that I was impossible to work with.
Galatians 1:10 (NIV) reminds us, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Pride destroys so many things.
As I pondered my own struggle with pride, I thought about the people I have worked with who have asked for my professional opinion but never took it. More than once I have had people disappointingly leave my office after I have said, “If you don’t like my ideas, feel free not to use them.”
I used to struggle with that. I would try to validate why I was right by sharing my experience or rationale. Then I realized that some things are worth fighting for and explaining, but sometimes, it’s important to understand some people never really wanted my opinion or knowledge. What they really wanted was validation. They knew in their mind what they thought was best before they asked for input and anything answered contrary to their own thoughts wasn’t going to be considered anyway. The invitation they extended for my input was really a formality on their part. That’s their internal battle with pride.
More than once I have worked for months on a project, only to see it killed because others less involved and with less experience didn’t trust me with the job I had been tasked to do. More than once I have let the project die instead of fighting for it harder because my pride was hurt.
As I pondered all of this, I read a sermon that said, “wanting to be in control often reveals a heart that lacks trust in God.” It reveals a heart not trusting He put the right people in your path to help you BOTH live the purpose He has for your life.
I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 (NIV) which reads, “But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.”
My mentor was right. If you spend all your time only seeing A way, you not only lose an opportunity to grow another person, you also lose the opportunity to truly love them and build them up. If you are so focused on being in control, you are often unaware of the destruction you do to the relationships around you.
The other thing I read was that most people who feel the need to control everything suffer with the need to feel like they know everything. In other words, there’s a solid reason control freaks are often called “know it alls”.
Proverbs 28:26 (NIV) reminds us, “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”
We weren’t designed to know it all or do it all. Instead, Christ designed each of us with unique gifts and abilities.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV) reminds us, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
When we use our unique gifts, and we allow others to use their unique gifts, we build the body of Christ instead of tearing it apart. Christ gave us all eyes to see things differently, skills to accomplish different parts of work needed done on a team, and more than “A Way” to tie it all together.