Control Issues in Teams: How Do You Take Charge?

“Contrary to popular belief, people don’t resist changes, they resist being controlled. …the corollary to that is people who plan the battle, rarely battle the plan.” ~ Pat Zigarmi, co-author, Who Killed Change?

CONTROL by faramarz, Flickr
– faramarz, Flickr

This post is the second of three in a series about the MCG model of helping a group or organization develop.  This includes developing greater team skill in resiliency and adaptability (beyond resiliency) in order to meet changing goals.

MCG = Membership, Control, and Goal – is a useful anchor model for leaders working with any team or group that is changing, such as gaining or losing members.  In the  CONTROL stage, group members encounter natural structuring and inevitable control issues that develop once the  group has formed and has begun to test boundaries, the skills of the leader, and team member abilities.

The following leadership diagram illustrates choices available to the leader and team members in negotiating what type of actions and behaviors are needed matched to team tasks.  Acknowledging the control stage needs helps the team stay on track toward Goal (Stage 3) where full productivity and results are seen.

Control-Leadership Model

Note that in crisis situations, teams need “take charge” leaders.  Creative settings often feature elements of the loose, or no agenda style of leadership.  Participative leadership can lead to “those who rarely battle the plan,” by increasing engagement in agenda and goal development. 

Feedback:  Team member feedback can help leaders adjust their styles for different team development needs.  However, leaders sometimes overcompensate stylistically when receiving feedback from individual team members. Leaders:  take a measured, thoughtful approach tied to well-rounded information tied to business goals.

Twelve questions are listed below to help you develop your approach to how to best facilitate or manage this stage.

  1. Who is in charge?
  2. What style of leadership prevails?
  3. What roles do we need to have and who will fill them?   (See the Belbin team roles resource here.)
  4. How will we handle “power” in the group?
  5. How much power do I want?
  6. What control do I have over what happens?
  7. How will we handle conflict and disagreements?
  8. How will we communicate with each other?
  9. How will we make decisions?
  10. When decisions are made, who implements them and how?
  11. Is it working?
  12. Is it fair?

Note that push-back on change, new rules and new structures is a opportunity, not necessarily a problem.  Resistance is a resource is a helpful phrase I learned from the late Kathie Dannemiller, a local & nationally known consultant who consulted regularly with Ford Motor Company and at the University of Michigan.  How can you use resistance productively, collecting data to inform and guide your leadership efforts through the control stage?  (Ask me how via my contact page, as I’ve been doing this for years for clients.

Another saying that illustrates why resistance can be a lifesaver is, change or die, which is NOT an absolute.  Disruptive, unneeded change, even in high commitment groups leads to change AND die as discussed here – describing the trouble with DISRUPTIVE change

Meeting management questions are also listed below, as meetings are often the place where control issues surface and can also be managed efficiently with all members present:

  1. When will we meet, for how long, where?
  2. Will we start on time, end on time?
  3. What are our meeting roles:  Who will set the agenda, who will take notes – if any, who will facilitate?
  4. What will we do about missing members
  5. Will our meetings have a format/design – how will we arrive at the format/design?
  6. Do we need to report our progress to anyone – who, how often, how?

Meetings provide evidence as to what is going on with your group or within your organization.  During meetings, when discussing the status of a project or task, members evaluate how things are going. If there is positive energy, trust builds and team membership strength deepens. If not, things start to unravel, team productivity slows, the team may devolve into cliques that have meetings after the meeting that are tend may include talk about how the team is not a team.

The control stage also works with the developmental model by Bruce Tuckman, including norming (unwritten/informal and written ruies) and storming (how will we handle conflict) stages – referenced here.

Addition questions that can be used as tools to help flow through the control stage productively include:

  • Meeting evaluations:  How did this meeting go to help us meet our goals?  Any kudos/suggestions for next time?
  • To what extent do I feel accountable to the well being of the whole?
  • If I don’t like what is happening, what can I do to change the situation?
  • Am I a full participant or an observer of what is going on in the group?
  • If I’m an observer, do I talk with subgroups later about what is happening?  (This often drains energy from the group.)

More resources on this topic are listed on the tools page here.  (The MCG model is fully described here. via a 2 page download.) 

Next month’s blog post:  GOAL.

I’ll also cover suggestions of what to do when teams become stuck and cannot seem to reach the finish line of GOAL.


“The closest to being in control we will ever be is in that moment that we realize we’re not.” ~ Brian Kessler




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Published by dnrevel

Change & transition, Leadership team & organization development. Executive Leadership team coach. My LinkedIn profile:

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