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, step 2 in the MCG framework

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. Part 1 on Membership is here.

MCG = Membership, Control, and Goal. MCG is a useful model for leaders working with any team or group including those that being formed and those that are 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 set boundaries, testing the skills and knowledge of formal and informal leaders and team members.

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 realized.

Figure 1, Type of Leadership in the Control stage of team development

Figure 1 illustrates type of “control” leadership. In crisis situations, teams need “take charge” leaders.  Creative settings often feature elements of loose or casual leadership styles.  Participative leadership can help foster “those who rarely battle the plan,” by increasing engagement in agenda and goal development. 

Avoid overcompensating in response to feedback.  Team member feedback can help leaders adjust their styles for different team development needs.  However, leaders sometimes overcompensate stylistically after receiving feedback from individual team members. Leaders: Take a measured, thoughtful approach tied to well-rounded information and feedback tied to business goals.

To better manage the Control stage, consider these 12 questions:

  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 team roles resources listed in the first post in the series here as well as the MCG model.)
  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?

Push-back on changes, (control, testing of boundaries) such as 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? 

Change or die, is not an absolute

Photo by Pixabay on

Resistance can be a lifesaver. “Change or die,” is NOT an absolute.  Disruptive, unneeded or poorly selected change that is not well supported, even in high commitment groups leads to change AND die as discussed here. Excerpt:

…Companies that shifted to [a] more effective way of managing people were actually more likely to fail than companies than had begun with a different, less effective way of managing but stayed with it.

…the benefits of changing to a better way of doing things did not outweigh the disruptive consequences of the transition.

…change, in leaders, in strategy, or in organizing models, almost always leads to a higher risk of failure.

The Trouble with Disruptive Change, by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Aside from the thrill and difficult challenge of managing change, dealing with the more mundane though necessary aspects of meeting logistics listed below, can be a reprieve in the Control stage. These items are best shared / discussed 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?

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

Additional questions to help your progression through control stage:

  1. Meeting review: Did this meeting help us meet our goals?  (What’s working, what’s not, suggestions for improvement) 
  2. To what extent do I feel accountable to the well being of the whole?
  3. If I don’t like what is happening, what can I do to change the situation?
  4. Am I a full participant or an observer of what is going on in the group?
  5. If I’m an observer, do I talk with subgroups later about what is happening?  (This can deplete the energy of the group.)
Photo by Karolina on

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

Brian Kessler

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Published by dnrevel

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

3 thoughts on “Control Issues in Teams: How Do You Take Charge?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: