Control What You Can

“You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sails.”

~Elizabeth Edwards

There are so many things in life that are outside of your control. This is as true in business as it is in life. In such cases, what you do next can have a profound impact on your employees, customers, vendors, and your entire business. These are the unexpected things. The unplanned things. The, “I wish that hadn’t happened,” things.

We all understand that these things are going to happen. You simply can’t plan for everything. Stuff happens. And if you are a MacGillicuddy’s Corollary kind of person, these things will happen “at the most inopportune time.”

So I think that we have all experienced these kinds of things in our lives and in our businesses. And hopefully, we have all learned valuable lessons from these experiences, for all of them are teaching moments.

Here’s what I don’t understand. Many companies and many business owners spend a lot of time worrying about those things they can’t control. They spend a lot of time worrying about worst case scenarios that will probably never occur. They spend more time worrying about things that they can’t control and far less time thinking about those things that they can control! Why is that? Why don’t business owners consider the things that they have control over? Don’t they realize that many of the things they can control help in making sure that the things they can’t control never occur?

I come across a lot of companies who are striving, struggling, stagnant, and in some cases suffering. In many cases, they don’t even know why they are in this current situation because they have not established control over the things they can control.

What kind of things am I talking about that every business owner has control over? Here are four things that you have control over:

How you lead or whether you lead – Are you a leader or a manager? Do you coach or do you dictate? How does your team react and interact with you? Does your team fear you? Do they respect you? Are they open with you or do they have a tendency to tell you what they think you want to hear? Do you have a lot of turnover? These are all good indicators of what kind of a leader you are and what kind of a leader you want to be. Think about this. If they are not open with you, then they will not tell you the truth relating to your ideas even if they know that they are destined for failure. Isn’t this one of those things that could potentially mitigate or prevent those unexpected things I mentioned in the paragraphs above?

Leaders lead by example. Leaders utilize the strengths of their employees and coach them in order to promote them to more leadership roles. Leaders respect their employees. Leaders respect their employees’ opinions and input. Leaders listen to their employees.

Determining your leadership skills and how you put those leadership skills into practice is an area in which you have complete control. Is your team following your lead, or are you just out for a stroll by yourself?

Your company’s core values, focus, and strategy – When did you last look at your company’s core values? When did you last check to make sure that you and your team still believe in those values? When did you last check to see if you were still living those core values? In the same respect, when did you last check your focus? Has it changed over the years? Was there a compelling reason to change and is it working out? Finally, has your strategy changed? Do you even have a strategy for where you want to be in the next three to five years and do you have a plan to get there?

These three areas are not only extremely important to where you are now, but also to where you want to be. Some of those “outside of our control” experiences happen because companies have forgotten their core values, have lost focus, and/or have no strategy for the future. And guess what? These three areas are completely in your control.

Who you hire and how you hire – As the business owner, ultimate accountability for who works for the company falls on you. What does your hiring process look like? Who interviews prospect hires? What kind of questions do they ask? How much do you really know about your prospective candidates? Hiring people is time-consuming and can be very expensive so it’s important that you identify all you can about these candidates and that means going beyond the resume, interview, and LinkedIn profile.

Have you ever heard of job benchmarking? It’s a process where you identify the key accountabilities of a position and the qualities, behaviors, and competencies of what the ideal candidate would look like. This process helps to eliminate internal hiring and interviewing biases by providing more objective information about the candidate. With the cost of hiring being what it is, business owners must utilize the tools that are available to them in order to hire the best candidate they can and to avoid the cost of turnover and re-hires. Who you hire, and how you hire them is completely under your control!

Whether you measure and what you measure – Many companies have financial measurements. How much did we make last year? How much did we spend last year? How much is it costing me to run my business? Unfortunately, financial measurements only tell part of the story. Additionally, by not measuring areas that affect the financial measurement, you are only looking at numbers, not the things that influence those numbers.

All companies should have a dashboard of metrics that identify the health of the company. At the very least, these four things should be measured – financial health, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, project/process efficiency. You can’t fix something unless you know it is broken and you can’t know if it is broken unless you measure it. Can measurements help to identify and thus avoid those unexpected experiences? Absolutely they can! And, as with the other three mentioned above, the measurements you select and track are completely under your control!

Want to prevent or mitigate those out of control moments? Then control those things you can control.


Ron Feher
Ron Feher
“Making your business better by making your people better,” captures Ron’s commitment to helping people. He possesses a breadth and depth of experience in a variety of disciplines including job benchmarking, staff development, manager mentoring, executive coaching, employee and management training. Ron has over 30 years of experience working in large, mid-size, and small companies in both technical and management roles with responsibilities covering management and technical training, strategic planning, tactical implementation, P&L, budgeting, vendor and relationship management, user design and testing, PMO, and process/project management of corporate-wide. He has worked for large, midsize, and small companies in a myriad of industries including telecommunications (AT&T), computer manufacturing (Gateway), mergers and acquisitions (RSM EquiCo), real estate, IT outsourcing and publishing (Spidell Publishing). He possesses an MBA in Technology Management, certifications in project management, international management and eMarketing. He is a Value Added Advisor with TTI Success Insights™, a certified Behavior and Motivation Analyst and certified Career Direct® consultant. Ron is currently serving as Irvine Chamber of Commerce Leads Group Chair, FUSION Leaders Chair and Board Member along with being actively involved with several task forces and committees. As an outreach to the community, Ron offers a Career Transition Workshop to churches and non-profits and was a founding member of the Career Coaching & Counseling Ministry at Saddleback Church. Ron’s favorite quote is “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

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  1. Yesterday I was talking to our consulting manager between management and leadership. She proposed there is an intersection between the two. I told her that their philosophies are so different that an intersection would significantly reduce of value of both of them. They are very different view points.

    Leaders support people using the organization.
    Managers control people to support the organization.

    Though different view points, when used in combination it can produce a very powerful cocktail.

    Lead by better supporting the people using the organizational sails.
    Control these people to support the organizational boat.