In your professional and personal life, there are things you can influence and there are things outside of your direct control. Many people experience a lot of frustration in life because they believe they can control more things than they truly are able to control.
If you have a poor performing employee, you can influence many things and control only a few. Through performance management conversations, you can influence that employee’s behavior and thusly their performance, but you can’t control it. You can’t control how someone else feels about their work, but you can influence it by helping to inspire them and adjust their perceptions.
You can think about this idea in your home life. If you have kids, influencing their behavior can be VERY frustrating, but remember you don’t have direct control. You can control their environment and their resources. If they do something wrong, you can deliver consequences, but as a parent, you know that you have to employ a combination of incentives and consequences to produce the desired outcome in your child's behavior.
The most important lesson here is to recognize the limitations of your control. With employees, kids or anything else in your life, don’t confuse influence and control. You can do your best to predict how people will respond to influence, but remember the choice is usually their own, not yours. You can show someone a path, but you usually can’t make them walk it.
The responsibility for behavior and perceptions belongs to the individual. Help that person to recognize that he or she is in control of their own choices. If successful, this will eliminate excuses and blame shifting. This exercise is empowering for both the employee and the leader.
Knowing the difference between influence and control will not only save you a ton of frustration, it will help you approach difficult conversations from a position of confidence and compassion.
Ronnie Hay is the Marketing Director for UBEO.