I have heard this statement proclaimed countless times by various people I have worked with in the past 11 years of my career being a leader of teams and now a corporate coach. Only yesterday this was repeated by a person who approached me to share their feelings of disillusionment and unhappiness in their current role.

‘…but that is not within my control…’;

I have heard this statement proclaimed countless times by various people I have worked with in the past 11 years of my career being a leader of teams and now a corporate coach.

Only yesterday this was repeated by a person who approached me to share their feelings of disillusionment and unhappiness in their current role.

This individual was frustrated at what they believed were a number of key areas within their role which they could not change as these were ‘out of their control’.

It is a theme I have heard so often, and which I am so passionate about changing, that I have chosen to build my coaching specialism around the principle of supporting individuals and teams to discover control to achieve success.

I have recently discovered the work of Dr Carol S Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, and her research into achievement and success which has centred around the power of the mindset. Through her extensive research Dweck has identified two forms of mindset which exist amongst us; the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.

The fixed mindset is described by Dweck as follows:

‘Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you only have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character – well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them.’

And the growth mindset:

‘…the hand you are dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience.’
Dweck’s research has found that the most successful individuals are those who consistently and continually believe that they can change their outcome through application and effort and see every challenge as an opportunity to grow and improve further; rather than accepting everything inside and around them as the status quo.

I interpret this growth mindset as a mindset which believes that everything is within the realm of their control,where they have the power to choose, and which they subsequently take action on, to shape their current reality at any given moment.
In the modern business world, we are increasingly demanding people to do more to deliver success. However, in businesses we build a culture filled with complex technologies, processes, rules, policies, restrictions and controls.

It is key to have processes and controls to create an efficient and effective business, especially with a growing focus on corporate responsibilities and protecting the consumer. Yet when this translates to individuals working within an organisation, this is where the art of control has to be thought about differently to enable a business to grow and succeed.

I repeatedly see the product of misinterpretations of management and leadership where individuals see their role as being to control people to deliver the required output.

Often I hear managers discussing their objectives on the basis of other’s actions:

‘I will do well as long as they deliver against their targets.’
‘What I need them to do/think is this…’
‘I will be a success when they feel happy in their role.’

This type of thinking builds a culture of micro-management and suffocating control if not challenged correctly. It also grows a group of disillusioned and unsatisfied managers continually trying to strive to achieve success not within their full control.
In my encounters with this type of thinking I have coached individuals to ground their goals fully within the realm of their control and base their actions on what they will be able to implement i.e. you cannot control another’s thinking or feelings; be the change you wish to see in others.

I see this in practice within the writing of Henry Stewart. Stewart has questioned thousands of people on when they worked at their best and has found that in the vast majority of examples it has been when ‘…they were trusted and given the freedom to carry out the task in their own way.’ Stewart concludes; ‘To enable (the people you manage) to work at their best, and to ensure they are motivated to do so, you need to find a way to put them in control of their job.’

This way of leading people obviously requires trust and a belief that people generally want to do well. Stewart acknowledges that areas of business can be complex and need to be delivered to specific requirements however within Happy Ltd they work on the basis of these beliefs and the following principle;

‘We talk about systems rather than rules. There is a crucial difference between the two. A rule has to be obeyed. In response to a rule you are expected to suspend your judgement. A system is the best way we have found so far to do something. If any member of staff can think of a better way in the situation they are in, they are encouraged and expected to adapt the system.’

All of the above was true within the beliefs of the individual who approached me yesterday to share their feelings of disillusionment with their role.

Breaking it down through specific questions I was able to support the individual to see that their challenge was around a lack of perceived control and a limiting belief. 

Having agreed the goal, we will next work together to identify their options to move them forward. These will be options which they will be in control of choosing and in control of turning into action depending on what they believe is right for them and the outcome they want to see. The beginnings of a brand new control mindset.


  1. Dweck, Dr Carol S. Mindset, How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. London, Robinson, 2012. P6
  2. As above
  3. Stewart, Henry. The Happy Manifesto. London: Kogan Page, 2003. P6
  4. Stewart, Henry. The Happy Manifesto. London: Kogan Page, 2013. P34




Other Articles

Posted 1625 Days Ago in: Coaching Articles

Make a difference in the education sector, we'll show you how.

The education sector is booming with opportunities to utilise your coaching skills and there is currently a huge demand for coaching across the entire sector ranging from young people and parents to teachers and school leaders. The coaching in education diploma is a methodology that has been specifically designed to meet the current demands of the industry to ensure that you can make an impact and thrive.

Read More

Posted 1625 Days Ago in: Coaching Articles

Coach in the Spotlight - Phil Maddock

I was first introduced to coaching when I was working as a primary school teacher. Attending The Coaching Academy's 2-day event was a very positive experience, I went away with a newfound skill and something that I could explore further, in order to help me become the most effective leader that I could.

Read More

Call Us On 0208 996 5057