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Podcast Transcript

Firo B Control

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Marsha, so we're back with episode two in our mini series on Group Dynamics, highlighting the work of Will Schutz and his FIRO-B assessment. And this week, we're focusing on the second of his fundamental needs, control. This is a big one for me.

Marsha Clark  0:40  
Thank you, Wendi, and welcome back to you as well and welcome back to our listeners.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:46  
Okay, so just in case we have listeners joining us today who missed last week's episode which laid the groundwork with the background on Will Schutz and his FIRO theory, give us a quick recap of that content so that we can jump into to today's topic of control. But before you do that, I cannot recommend highly enough that you just stop, hit pause on this one, go back and listen to 109 because it was phenomenal. All right, go ahead, Marsha.

Marsha Clark  1:13  
Well, thank you. Thank you for that. And I would offer that as well. If you did, just go back. It's a good thing. So, quick recap. So, I learned about Will Schutz as part of my Master's Program in Organization Development at American University way back when. And I was fascinated by the work because it focused on how the fundamental human needs for inclusion, control and openness or what he originally called affection, how that influences and impacts our interactions with others. And while he was conducting research on Navy submarines during the Korean War, he studied the interactions of the crew and developed his FIRO theory. And FIRO stands for F fundamental, I interpersonal, R relationship, O orientation - FIRO. From that research Will then developed two instruments, the FIRO-B, which is about behaviors and the FIRO-F, which is about underlying feelings, all associated with inclusion, control and openness.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:20  
I think just that quick explanation of the difference between wanted and expressed is how we're going to dig into today's new content.

Marsha Clark  2:30  
Yeah. And so here's the two aspects of each of these. There is expressed inclusion, wanted inclusion, expressed control, wanted control and so on. So, expressed needs are about us expressing toward others. It's outwardly directed. Others can see or hear our need and it's observable or knowable in some way by others. A wanted need is a seeking from others, more inwardly directed. And these are non observable needs and reflect our unspoken expectations of others. We want it and by it, we mean inclusion, control or openness, but our internal want of that is not visible or known to others.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:17  
Excellent. Excellent. Okay, so let's add the quote from Will Schutz that you used last episode that ties all this up so nicely. And I'll just share it. He said: "If I understand behavior, I may gain increased understanding of myself and other people, how and why I behave as I do, why I sometimes have trouble working and being with you, and how to use my full energies to achieve whatever good I desire most effectively."

Marsha Clark  3:52  
You know, and I love that statement. It almost to me is like a purpose statement or an objective statement for why I would want to know about this. So, and it covers it all, right. All three needs the expressed, the wanted, understanding myself, understanding others. So, I'm glad we can do that as a recap, so, now we can dive into today's fundamental need for control.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:14  
Yes, my favorite. So, last week, we looked at inclusion needs, and one of the core aspects of inclusion is the degree to which I want to be quote "in or out of any particular group", which makes sense. So, what is lying at the essence of our control need?

Marsha Clark  4:37  
Yes, so the way that we'll describe said, the control needs is our desire to be at the top or bottom of the group. It reflects how much responsibility and influence we want and how much we desire to be led and influenced by others. And this dimension of control refers to relations of power, influence and authority between people and determines the extent of power or dominance that a person seeks. So, Wendi, for those who kind of like to build Excel spreadsheets, so under inclusion, it's how much I want to be in or out. Under control, it's how much I want to be top or bottom.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:19  
Okay, so when you say top or bottom of the group, you're speaking in terms of who's in charge, who's the boss or the leader versus who's willing to take direction and follow, correct?

Marsha Clark  5:30  
That's right. So, remember that this model was originally developed in the 50's, when hierarchies ruled, so top or bottom one up one down mattered. And the idea of people being distributed across an organization chart with some at the top, a few in the middle, and the rest of the organization at the bottom of the chart was and still is commonplace. So, even though some people may find the language of top and bottom a bit archaic, or in some cases, even offensive, you know, people are talking about associates or members or the cast like at Disney, so it's still reality. And I'm going to use that in terms of our conversation today.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:09  
Exactly. So, control needs reflect how much we want to be in charge or the degree to which we're okay with letting others be in charge.

Marsha Clark  6:19  
Right. And that's where we start to see the difference between expressed and wanted. So, expressed control needs show up in my need to be in charge and to direct others. Expressed control behaviors may also be manifested in my degree of resistance to someone else trying to control me. This is when my five year old self comes out and says "You're not the boss of me." And then the expressions of independence or rebellion indicate resistance to someone else trying to control you. And so conversely, compliance, submission and willingness to take orders indicates an acceptance of higher wanted control needs.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:02  
Okay, so just like we did in last episode, let's break down some of the specific behaviors for both expressed and wanted aspects of this need, in this case control. So, these behaviors come straight out of the work you've done over the years using the FIRO-B assessment in your programs and with your coaching clients?

Marsha Clark  7:22  
That's right, they do. And so, as you said, as we did in our last episode, I invite our listeners to reflect on each behavioral statement and consider how often and with whom they display these behaviors. I often invite you to think about a team of which you are a part because that helps, you know, to put it in reality. And as I describe these behaviors, is it that I display them often and with most people, sometimes with some people, rarely and or with only a few select people? And that can help you determine the degree to which you are a high, medium or low in your needs for control. So, here are the behavioral statements associated with expressed control. One, "I try to take control of situations directly or indirectly." Two, "I strive to influence others in given situations." Three, "I enjoy directing others." Four, "I work hard to get my way." Five, "I enjoy organizing things." And you know, my parenthetical to that is organizing events, meetings, vacations, even closets, or the junk drawer. Next, "I'm comfortable taking responsibility." And last, "I'm comfortable assuming authority." So, as you go through and you think about your responses to these behavioral statements, low/medium/high, one through five, however you might like to do that, so based on your overall answers, where do you see yourself on this dimension of expressed control?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:31  
Well, I know exactly where I am. Anyone who knows me knows where I am. I am pretty much yes, yes and yes to all of these questions. But, just because I'm comfortable taking responsibility or assuming authority doesn't mean I have to do it, right?

Marsha Clark  9:25  
That's right. That's right. So, you may be comfortable taking control, but it doesn't mean you're gonna automatically you know, stage a coup and try to you know, strip others of their responsibility or authority, unless your answer to that first question is I try to take control of situations directly or indirectly. And that is you trying to take control regardless of how it's really going. You know, I want to tie this back to the fundamental foundational elements of 'in absence of a plan, create one and in absence of a leader, be one' - to me, in absence of a leader, if this meeting is floundering, if we're going nowhere fast, if we're talking in circles, I'm going to grab the marker, go to the board and start organizing and getting things back on track. That's me expressing my high control needs.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:16  
Yes. Well, and that is me right there because I literally was on a zoom call yesterday that someone was supposed to be the leader of and it was a floundering, flopping, wet fish mess. And so I started acting like I was the host of the meeting. And because it was making me uncomfortable just sitting there watching the flopping fish on the dock I mean that this meeting was.  But yet, I do sit back and observe to see if things are going to go in the direction that I think they need to go. And if they are, then I am fine and comfortable with letting the others be in charge. And honestly, it's a relief for me. But as soon as it looks like we're veering off course or going off topic or whatever, I will try to influence the group back on track, and what you just said indirectly, take control. Yep, that's me, guilty as charged.

Marsha Clark  11:18  
So, those are definitely signs and maybe our listeners can think of a time when they stood up and, you know, gained control or, or took over the facilitation skills or whatever. Or maybe they were so impressed by the person doing that, that they were just fine sitting back because they viewed them as competent and quite capable. And so another sign of the expressed control needs is, if you often find yourself volunteering or being asked to lead projects or initiatives, and you always say yes, then that's another indication of higher expressed control needs. And when I teach this content, I asked my program participants and I always have fun with this one. If you can picture your clothes closet, how many of you have grouped together your dresses, dress slacks, casual slacks, jeans, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirts, and so on. And for all of our listeners, Wendi is raising her hand. And in one particular program, and it was a technology company and there were a good number of engineers in the room, almost everyone raised their hands. And because I do a lot of work in technology and engineering, I do. But there's a lot of yes on that. And then there was this one lone gentleman, this was in a coed group from marketing. So, all these engineers in marketing, and he just literally laughed out loud. And he said, "I'm feeling good if I even hang up my clothes, much less than any kind of ordered sequence or anything." And I laughingly say those are the two ends of the continuum. And I remind our listeners, there's no right or wrong answers. That's just the way it is.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:55  
It is the way it is. So, it's clear, I have high expressed control needs. What about wanted control needs? What are the behaviors associated with that?

Marsha Clark  13:05  
Well, let's do the same exercise for our listeners. And again, consider how often and under what conditions these statements are true for you. So, the first behavioral statement, "I'm most comfortable working in well defined situations." Next, "I like to get clear on expectations." Third, "I like instructions spelled out well on activities." Four, "I'm apt to ask permission for a task that has specific outcomes when I'm not totally clear about what is desired." Next, "I'm comfortable with others taking the lead." And last, "I'm receptive to others' influence." So, again, you can answer each of these questions individually of low/medium/high. But when you take them all together, collectively, where do you see yourself on this dimension of wanted control?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:07  
Okay, so for me a quick question. I'm a yes on most of them here as well except for the asking permission part. And maybe it's just that term of asking permission. I don't know, maybe that's just like rubbing my cat self backwards, you know, backward rub. I don't know. And maybe it's just a term, but I'm definitely going to ask for clarification and alignment if something is clear. So, I can be high on both expressed and wanted control, correct?

Marsha Clark  14:38  
Yeah, they're discrete dimensions and one doesn't negate or contradict the other. So, if I'm high on one, I'm low on the other vice versa. Same thing with the inclusion needs, you know, you can be high in both or for that matter low in both and, or something in between. And I also want to say about the apt to ask permission for a task. You know, a lot of that has to do with culture because it's the permission versus forgiveness. I'm the kind of person who won't even ask. I'll assume, and then I'll go make it happen and then if I have to, make adjustments. But I'll get the high order of things, but then I'll ask for the freedom to do it the way I would choose to do it. So, even if I'm the kind of person who says, "Just tell me what you want and I'll go make it happen." That's often a high control on the how.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:26  
Okay, so this just confirms that I have high control needs overall, which explains a lot in my life. I think we already knew that. And but yet, what I think what makes a difference with some of these questions and statements, is that it really does matter for me who I'm dealing with.

Marsha Clark  15:43  
Well, I want to understand more about that. But I want to also come back to something, Wendi, that you said a moment ago, I'm not apt to ask permission. You're an entrepreneur and you're an entrepreneur for a reason. So, you ask permission of a boss, and you don't have a boss. So, you may ask for clarity if it's a client or peer or a colleague or something like that. But that, I think, is a significant thing to note here is that that may be why you don't like to ask permission.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:13  
I don't permission, I ask forgiveness. And I also recognize that whenever a decision is made, if it doesn't work out, there's the next decision that can be made. These things are fixable.

Marsha Clark  16:25  
No such thing as the last choice because there's always a next choice.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:29  
So, but with regard to my statement about it does matter who I'm dealing with, I am comfortable with others taking the lead and I am receptive to others' influence. Those are completely true statements for me, but with certain people, or under certain conditions. And you know, I want to, I'm looking forward to us talking about that.

Marsha Clark  16:29  
So, it's a great segue to our next section where we deal with the underlying feelings that are driving our control needs.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:54  
Okay, so as we introduced in the last episode on inclusion, if each of the fundamental needs also has an underlying feeling associated with it, what is the underlying feeling driving our control need?

Marsha Clark  17:17  
Yeah, so at its core, the feeling that drives our need for control is competence. And what I mean by that is my own or my sense or evidence of the competence in me and the competence of others. And along with that driver comes the desire for dominance or success. So, as a simple example, I'm more likely to relinquish control in a situation to someone else when I have a reasonable belief that they are competent or capable of managing the situation to a satisfactory end and especially if that end result is really important to me. So, if the result matters to me, and I have a reason to believe the person is not competent or capable, I'm far less likely to hand over control. It's that alchemic combination of competence and dominance that determines how much control I choose to exert.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:16  
So true. I mean, I'm sitting here thinking of situations in my life where I have really high control needs, and then others where I relax. And in every example, it comes down to those two things, does the result have high significance? Does it really matter? And then what's the level of competence required to achieve the result? And if I'm not sure that the other person involved can pull it off, then I'm immediately stepping in to take over or find someone else who can take over every single time.

Marsha Clark  18:47  
And it's a great way to describe that internal dilemma that goes on as we're trying to decide whether or not to relinquish that control. Does the result matter? Do I want to win or dominate in this situation? I don't really care, yes, no. If I do want to win, and this is winning and this is an interesting one for me - winning to deliver something that's for the good of the organization, winning to be right, and, you know, have a competition and personal individual ego driven thing. So, all of that is part of it. And if the result does matter, then I'm going to start assessing the level of competence required to accomplish the goal. Who can pull this off? Is there an assigned project leader? Are they the right person? Yes or no? Not sure? You know, I just say how much do I need to insert myself to either take over completely assuming I can do it or try to influence the group or leader to find a new project leader? So, all of those are things that when you are a leader of a team, these are swirling around at all times.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  19:56  
Yeah, my life. You just described my life. I mean, but I rarely think of this in terms of dominance. Success, yes. Dominance, no. But it's also success. You touched on this briefly with what you just talked about, you know, how much do I need to insert myself? It also has to do with reputation management, brand management, right. Yeah.

Marsha Clark  20:24  
And so, it's understandable that the word dominance in and of itself doesn't really have a great reputation, right? We usually cringe or have a negative reaction to that. So, in my programs, and with my clients, and I want to make sure with our listeners here today, I'm very clear that dominance is not the same as being dominating, because that I understand the negative connotation. So, you know, the Webster Merriam Webster dictionary has several definitions. And the one I want to offer in the context of what we're talking about today is that dominance is to occupy a more elevated or superior position; to exert the supreme, determining or guiding influence all on. They also describe it as commanding, controlling, or having great influence over all others. Very important, powerful or successful. So, I like to frame dominance as having a commanding presence. You know when people walk in the room if they're in command, and being able to influence others. So, those are the two things that I key in on - commanding presence, influencing others. Dominating, in contrast, is having an attitude or persona of being superior to another almost an a hierarchical or you know that one up one down kind of way. And for myself, I want to be dominant, I want to have a commanding presence and be able to influence others. I don't want to be dominating. And so, I hope this brings you, Wendi, and our listeners some clarity because if not, the words themselves can distract from the message.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:05  
Exactly.That helps a lot. And yet competence, that word doesn't have the same negative connotation. It's a good thing to be and to expect competence. But I was almost feeling a little bit apologetic, a little bit apologetic, to admit that I like winning, I like succeeding, I like being a dominant presence in a room.

Marsha Clark  22:28  
Yeah. And it's an important distinction, for sure. And, you know, as women, we need to recognize that it's okay for us to hold positions and attitudes of power and dominance. And it's not power over and it's not dominating. We are powerful in that commanding presence sort of way. And we are exerting our dominance by exerting our influence. And this is one reason why the activity we do in class can be so uncomfortable for the women in our programs. And we're just not used to talking out loud about dominance and owning it, especially in a positive way. We're almost apologetic.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:08  
Okay, yes, let's talk about this activity because I remember this one so well, the dominance line.

Marsha Clark  23:15  
So, much as we did "The X Marks the Spot" last week, so, this particular activity is an adaptation from an exercise that Will created. He created it to give people this visceral experience of how it feels to acknowledge our dominance in relationship to others, because we're talking about teams here, right. So, it generates a lot of rich discussion in the groups. And so let me walk through that now. So, the first instruction that I give the group is to have everyone stand up and form a single line facing me, shoulder to shoulder, in the order of least dominant in this group. So, we're doing this as a learning cohort, starting on the left. So, facing me I point, you know, extend my left arm and say, least dominant to most dominant as I point my right hand out, and then I repeat the instructions exactly the same, line up, shoulder to shoulder, no stacking so you can't stand behind someone. You have to be in your... no, there's no time, from least dominant to most dominant in the group.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:33  
I remember we all lined up just like haphazardly, and then we just stood there frozen, because nobody wanted to make the first move. It was just, we were just wondering if we heard you correctly.

Marsha Clark  24:49  
Well, that's right, because it's not something I would typically ask you to do, which is another reason I love this because it's not something we get to do often. So, I'm getting to explore something new. And that frozen moment. And looking at me, with what? in their face, it's pretty typical. And it's a very uncomfortable assignment for almost every group and I will also tell our listeners and remind you, there's usually a higher noise level than in the inclusion X marks the spot exercise. And, you know, like in the exercise of what do you mean by significant, people immediately want a definition of dominant.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:26  
Yeah, which of course you don't give. So, we all stand around debating and trying to figure out what dominant means on our own.

Marsha Clark  25:35  
Yes. And as the facilitator, if anyone asked for any clarification, I simply repeat the original instruction. So, I take a very stone face. You know, I'm not my happy go lucky giggle giggle person. And if they ask for a definition of dominant, I say, most dominant to least dominant in this group. And that's all I offer. And so then, once everybody gets into a line shoulder to shoulder, I ask the group members to look up and down the line and to give me a physical thumbs up, literally, I'm looking at their thumbs, if you believe you are positioned appropriately, according to the instructions. And if you believe you're not, then move to the part of the line where you can give me a thumbs up.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:22  
Man, I remember. I remember this. I remember people giving a thumbs down and then like, all of a sudden debating, no, she needs to be there. She needs to switch. Like it wasn't about them. I really do remember that distinctly that it wasn't about themselves. Like a few people moved themselves. But it became a conversation like a group thing scenario where people were saying, no, she needs to move, that needs to flip. I remember that distinctly.

Marsha Clark  26:52  
Yeah, and there is often some movement, right. But once the person realizes, Oh, because I didn't give a thumbs up now I have to do something is yet another moment of.... So, after everyone's lined up, and again, now I've got let's just say that people have moved, and now everybody's giving me a thumbs up that they think they are where they need to be. It's always interesting because when  one person adjusts themselves to some part of the line, then another person was in the line, you know, because they may have been using that person as their I'm less than or more than and so, it is a barometer of our own dominance when you feel like you have to move, and it creates a bit of a domino effect in the shift. And think about that in teams. Those things are happening all the time.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:43  
I don't know how you kept a straight face in this exercise. I just, yeah.

Marsha Clark  27:49  
Well, and I want to say I am very serious during the exercise and very even toned with kind of no kidding around. And I'll say more about that in just a moment. But, you know, once everybody stopped jostling around, and I asked again, for everyone's thumbs up on their own placement, and I get it. So, then the next set of instructions, I direct them all to look up and down the line once more. If you think everyone is positioned appropriately according to the instructions, give me a thumbs up, if not move that person. So, now you're not moving yourself, you're moving another person to the point in their line where you think they quote unquote, "should be."

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:33  
Yes, this is the part that I remember. This was where the judgment came in. Okay, so scratch what I said earlier. This was the place where people really started like debating and somebody got elected the leader to move the other people around. Man, it was a little tense.

Marsha Clark  28:51  
Well, it is tense. And that's a part of where the noise level of the nervous laughter gets even louder. And you know, in most groups, there's moving someone up and someone else moves and this continues for anywhere from three to five minutes. And I sit quietly watching, and most often in the coed groups, women are moved to the more dominant end of the dominance line and this idea of they are more dominant than they are willing to declare themselves to be. And there are many variations of how it goes and lots of important teaching points along the way.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:28  
Okay, let's get into those.

Marsha Clark  29:30  
So, one of the things I share when I'm debriefing the activity now that everybody's kind of in their place, is that I explain why I've been so intentionally serious during the exercise.

Yeah, I remember this being a little confusing because you're usually casual, easygoing. We're having fun during the program.

Right. Yeah. So, it's out of character for me to get so quote unquote, "controlling" that way, which then draws out the control needs of others and this is where that competition, you know, winning kind of thing comes in. But what I'm deliberately trying to elicit or trigger is their control need response. And it's fascinating how nearly every time I can push that button - maybe not with every individual, but with enough individuals that it becomes prominent in the group. And even with the groups who don't know me well, just being told what to do with little or no explanation or clarification, can really push so many people's buttons.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:50  
Oh, yes, I can see that.

Marsha Clark  29:52  
So, then what I do is I explain to the group that in several situations, and this is a true statement as I've done this around the world, participants have actually refused to do the exercise or as one person said, I will not play this silly game. And so I asked the group, what do you think about that? What meaning do you give that, and there are a wide range of responses, things like they don't want to admit or to show their high control needs, or they don't need to demonstrate their dominance or they don't care or they have no control needs. And I then share with them and this is such an important point, so, listeners, listen up, the refusal to participate comes with this. Withholding or withdrawing (I'm not going to play this silly game) is the ultimate form of control. Withholding or withdrawing is the ultimate form of control. You learned this as a child when you said at some point in your childhood I'm going to bet, I'm taking my ball, or my doll, or my Legos, and I'm going home.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:48  
Withholding or withdrawing is the ultimate form of control. It's also making me remember a quote, "If you don't like the way the table's set, turn the table over."  Like just change. And withholding or withdrawing and not participating in this exercise is a way of completely flipping the dynamic of what's going on in an unexpected response way.

Marsha Clark  32:14  
That's right. So, think about the situation when you may have have a disagreement or even in serious conflict with someone and they won't engage or respond to you. You want to shake 'em, right? You want to reach your hand down their throat and pull out their words, right? And consciously or unconsciously, it's a control move or a strategy.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:35  
Yeah, it's so true. I've used it. Well, I've used it many times. And yet I know how frustrating it is because the person who's being silent or not engaging really does hold the cards.

Marsha Clark  32:48  
Yeah, and I want to be clear, Wendi, and for our listeners, withholding or withdrawing is a tool in your toolkit so, you know, the fact that you've used it. But I offer it as a conscious use or conscious strategy. But use it wisely, intentionally or strategically. And a word of caution to not overuse this tool.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:10  
Absolutely, because then you can look absent or like you don't care.

Marsha Clark  33:13  
Or if you're always withholding, you're a blank screen. So, think about this. So, others can make up whatever story they want to put on that screen, right, they can draw whatever picture they want to draw. And that can often be negative. So, also recognize that withholding can be a temporary or a long term strategic choice. Maybe I'm going to withhold until I gather my thoughts, maybe I'm going to withhold until I do some research, maybe I'm going to withhold before I get over my anger. Or it can be this is a toxic situation or a toxic person. I'm out of here. And so being thoughtful and intentional about that. And so, if you're withholding because you lack the skills or courage to have a difficult conversation, then seek out support or guidance to build the skills and to garner the courage to have that so, you know, being thoughtful and intentional and not just misusing or overusing the tool,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:14  
Right. And I like the implication that withholding can be either a temporary or a long term strategic choice. Like if withholding is a temporary choice, you're buying time to get clear, like slowing down to speed up sort of scenario. But if it's a long term choice, it may be you, as you said, moving out of a toxic situation either personally or professionally. So, all of this is fantastic advice.

Marsha Clark  34:41  
Yeah, and so if withholding is the ultimate form of control. The second or penultimate form of control is insisting on the same definition. And in more times than not, it's my definition. So, what do you mean by dominance? What do you mean by dominance? What do you mean by dominance? And so, if withholding is the ultimate form of control then the penultimate form of control is insisting on this same definition or even better, insisting that we agree to my definition.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:12  
Okay, say that one more time.

Marsha Clark  35:15  
If withholding is the ultimate form of control, then the penultimate, our second form of control is insisting on the same definition, or even better insisting that we agree to use my definition. My definition is my way of controlling. It is my way of being in control. Yeah. So one of the many things that I love about this exercise that we've done over these 25 years, is how it reflects and accentuates the country or cultural norms. So, when I talk about it, you know, having done this in many countries, so for example, in many of the Asian countries, many of the program participants, they defer to elders or those with higher positional power to be the most dominant. So, there's a clear, easy lineup, and nobody moves because it's based on the age, the positional power, the seniority, again, whatever it might be. And one of my favorite examples was in Germany, we were in Munich, Germany, and one man positioned himself as the middle of the line, not the head of the line, not the most dominant, but the middle of the line. And he did not move. It was like his feet were planted in concrete. He was steadfast and he was going to stay there, no matter how many others tried to move him towards the more dominant end of the line.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:41  
Okay, this is just irony. I'm being dominant by insisting that I'm middle dominance. So, middle of the line for him was actually the most dominant and everyone had to then radiate out from him?

Marsha Clark  36:55  
Yeah. So, yes. So just, of course, I had the teaching moment of your steadfastness and absoluteness in insisting that you were there was your way of exerting and being in control. Yeah. And because he was totally blind to it. And everybody else is like, really, like, you don't see yourself in this way? Because everybody else knew. And then one of the, again, a more memorable experience came in India. So, I was working with an in house team. So, everybody there all worked together. And there were multiple hierarchical levels that were part of the participant group. And so at this place where we spent too much time, this is what the this person said, trying to get everyone's thumbs up. And this site manager was the person. And he was the most senior person in the room, he came. So remember, I'm facing the line, he came and stood in front of me, now he's in front of me, blocking me from the vision, looking at the group, and basically said to them, give her your thumbs up, this is taking too long. (Oh, my God.) So, I mean, and I had not been doing this terribly long when this happened. I was probably three or four years in. So, the participants in this dominance line grew very quiet, you know, because I told you loud, giggly, you know, nervousness, and their eyes, you know, were wide, wide eyed. And it was almost what's going to happen now, going back to the drama, right. And since I'd been, I'd been facilitating the exercise for a while. And that's where I remembered my own withholding tool. I'd done it enough to really have this in me and I said nothing after he said this to the group. And after about a minute of silence, the site manager then returned to his position. And by the way, he was at the most dominant end of the line. And the point here is that I was not willing to give my power as facilitator away, because that was the choice point in that moment. And I merely said, that would be a great example of expressed control. And then I went right on with the exercise. And, you know, because this had never happened before, I really thought about this a lot. I reflected on it. And I had several insights about different needs at different times in my life. So, if I'd been my 20 something self, you know, where I was in my first leadership position, but I was still young and new, and rookie and all that kind of stuff, I likely would have acquiesced. I would have accepted it reluctantly and without protest, and I would have said, probably apologize, I'm sorry it's taking too long. So, we'll move on now. And so that's one scenario. If I had been my 40 something self, and I was thinking, you know, I just been named a corporate officer and, you know, it's feeling kind of feisty and sassy, and all those kinds of things, I'm guessing I likely would have been dominating, not dominant, but dominating and told him to get back in line. And so I would have been in this sort of not this time, buddy, competition kind of thing. And, you know, here I was, at this time in my late 50's, and I was intent on providing a valuable learning experience. My goal was different. And, you know, I just want to say to the listeners, when I thought about that, I was embarrassed about myself, right, to think about myself in that way. And yet, you know, I have to own that that's who I was at that point in time in my 40's, and that I was really glad I'd grown beyond that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  40:44  
Yeah, exactly. Well, I love that even that reflection that you just shared, it's another example of how our needs evolve over time, especially as we grow in our self awareness, and, frankly, self confidence about who we are.

Marsha Clark  40:58  
Yeah. And you know, for sure, so. So, one other observation or consistent experience that relates to facilitating this dominance line that I wanted to share is around who ends up doing the most moving in the line. So, that second place where I say, look up and down the line. Is everyone positioned where they need to be? If not, move them. And, you know, it's probably not going to come too much of a surprise to our listeners. But I'm going to ask them to think about it for a moment before I give the answer. So, would it be the people at the high dominance end of the line, the middle dominance part of the line or the lower less dominant? And if you think about people standing there, shoulder to shoulder, who's doing the moving? Do you want to play?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:45  
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So, now I have my guess, because I remember it very clearly.

Marsha Clark  41:52  
And so what's your answer? Who did most of the movement?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:55  
The most dominant end of the line.

Marsha Clark  41:57  
Okay, so yeah, we have a winner, right, because anecdotally speaking, and I haven't calculated this every single time but I've done this hundreds of times so it's pretty clear. In about 80% of the cases, people lined up in the more dominant, that right hand side of the line, doing the moving. So, not a surprise if I am a person who wants to be in control, I'm going to control where people stand based on the way I see them. Around 10% of the time, the moving comes from people standing in the middle of the line. And that's just you know, because it's relative, but I can be most of the people in my classes are dominant people because that's how they've gotten to be the positional leaders they are to get into my class in the first place. And in the last 10% or so of the cases, people in the least dominant part of the line do the moving. And as I said, it's not surprising that about the 80%, and even the middle of the line, but the surprise often shows up when that lesser dominant part of the line does the moving.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  43:08  
Okay. And why is that?

Marsha Clark  43:09  
Well, because I've done some interviewing to find out what was going on for the people in that part of the line, there's usually two plausible possibilities. First, some people will only exert or act upon their control needs when they're given an invitation or given permission to do so. So, when I say look up and down the line, if you think somebody you have permission, you have the invitation, the instruction, the permission to move them. And then second, their need for control may be higher than they realize. And it might be a blind spot for them. And so our discussions around this, quite often yield some greater self awareness moments for everyone.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  43:54  
Oh, yes, I remember. I mean, I remember the conversation after we finally sat down from the line, I mean, because this was like a live petri dish right there in front of everybody. And having to claim your space, claim your spot, especially for those of us on the dominance end of the line. Like this was a, this was a badge of honor kind of thing.

Marsha Clark  44:22  
It was and it's a really important point. So, this activity can be very uncomfortable.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:30  
Yes. I mean, I think for those of us on the dominant end, it wasn't that uncomfortable. But as you went down the line, it was really uncomfortable for those on the other end.

Marsha Clark  44:39  
And even for the ones on the more dominant end of the line, depending on how the others responded. And if you've been together a long time as a group, you know the people so that's not the only data point that you have for them. But if you are still I mean, I'm sure if we did this exercise earlier in my programs, it would yield a very different result. We put it somewhere in the middle, right, so after the group has been together for several days. But it can be uncomfortable. And so as a facilitator, you need to be extra sure that there's adequate group safety so that if there are any breakdowns that you're able to take care of them because it can be a lot for someone who has big blind spots about how they're showing up in the group, or to have someone else or the whole group for that matter, point out the behavior when they're not prepared to confront it for themselves or in themselves. And I've seen it happen, and it can take a lot of work to repair the broken trust that it can create.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:41  
Yeah, fair warning if you do this exercise in your group. This is a tough one, you've got to have high trust in your group.

Marsha Clark  45:50  
Yeah, let me say this, don't try this at home. As much as you have to be certified to deliver the results of the FIRO-B, you have to know what to do should that happen. So, do not try this at home.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:03  
Okay, very good. So, what are some additional insights regarding the when and the why our control needs might kick into gear?

Marsha Clark  46:11  
Yeah. So, you can have different control needs around the what versus the how is one thing to consider. For myself, I have higher control needs around how we arrive at the decisions because I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and collaborate and present their best thinking and their best ideas. Whatever we come up with on the what to do is fine with me. And so our listeners have to decide that for themselves. And you've likely heard these two phrases, and they can kind of help you learn about your own as well as others control needs. And the first phrase is: "This is what I want. Now go make it happen." So the what is clear, no questions asked. How you go about getting that what is up to you. And then the second phrase is: "Make sure you include these people", right? so, whether it's different departments, different subject matter, experts, whatever, before you decide what to do. So, getting that input, and not to confuse anyone I want to offer that often there are two opportunities for how our how control needs show up. Initially, there's the how you want to arrive, right? Who needs to be a part of how are we going to pull together to figure out what the what is. And then once we've arrived at the what the second how is defining the process for achieving it. So, it's like a how-what-how.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:40  
Okay, that's a really helpful distinction, the difference between control needs, over what versus how. Okay. So, what's another example of what can cause our control needs to kick into high gear?

Marsha Clark  47:48  
Well, I found that other times when these control needs show up is during a crisis or when there is chaos or confusion. So, I go back, again, to that foundational element, and we have a magnet, "In absence of a plan, create one." Right? So, that's, we don't have a framework, we don't have a blueprint, we don't have a plan. So, I'm going to create one. I'm going to go to the board, I'm going to do those kinds of things. So, and during those crises, when you know, the building's on fire, somebody's got to take charge of that. And your control needs are going to drive you to handle the crisis and bring order to that chaos or confusion.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  48:39  
Yes, there's nothing like a good crisis to get my control needs, you know, grinding.

Marsha Clark  48:45  
And I would say that our control needs tend to show up most when it's time to make a decision. And I would also give this note to our listeners, this is often when conflict occurs. So, this is where all our competence and dominance buttons start getting pushed, when it's time to make a decision. So, at that time, if you offer up your position or your point of view, will you be seen as competent by others? And thus will your contributions be given weight and consideration? Will you be dominant enough to even offer your position or point of view to begin with. If you choose not to offer your thoughts and you have high expressed control needs, that withholding or withdrawing is creating a strong dissonance within you related to your desire or drive or need for dominance. And if you do choose to offer your thoughts and then others ignore them or diminish them, now your underlying feelings of competence are in jeopardy. So, just thinking through anytime a decision has been made, how it's been made, what you've contributed or not all get tied up in control needs. So, in the end, it's up to you to decide how you want to proceed. So, will you acknowledge your control needs and step into your power to do what's best for you and the organization? Will you leverage your competence and lean into your desire to be successful by being dominant and well you know, determining what you will choose to do? You know, for me, that's where your control lies is choosing and where your power lies.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:26  
Yes, these are powerful calls to action. Marsha, thank you for the inspiration and the energy.

Marsha Clark  50:32  
Yeah. You know, I was channeling a little bit of Will Schutz here. And he had, I think, an inspiring message of freedom and choice in the power of choosing our responses. And for our longtime listeners, Dottie Gandy and I wrote a book on this. So, the idea of choice is just really key for me. And for him, choice was central to the dimension of control. He referred to choice also as self determination or autonomy. And he invites us to consider that a key factor in extending capacity is to assume that you determine your own life and you are capable of making changes you wish for yourself as well as in your relationships or your work situations. And so, I'd love to share a few of his thoughts on choice and how they've inspired me as a way to wrap up this episode on control.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:32  
That sounds wonderful.

Marsha Clark  50:34  
All right. So, Will believed that once you accept that you determine your life, everything is different. Now just get that. Once you accept that you determine your life, everything is different. You accept your power. And this includes several steps required to get to that point - acknowledging that you have power, understanding your power, embracing your power and expanding your power. Do you see that connection with the book titles? If you're willing to take on this concept of choice and power, you have real freedom. Others don't get to define you. And that is such an important piece of the work that I do. You define yourself. You don't allow others to define you. And you understand that such things as group pressure, manipulation, using people, brainwashing or scapegoating will no longer be done to you. You cannot be pressured or manipulated or used unless you allow yourself to be. This choice principle reorients your search for solutions. Before when things didn't go well, you blamed others and maybe even cursed the fate that made you a victim of the circumstance. When you assume that you choose a situation or a response to a situation, you get beyond the blaming part. You look for the payoffs you get for contributing to the situation in which you find yourself. It's holding yourself accountable. And from my own personal experience, when I find myself in an unwanted position and I know that I've contributed to it, I ask myself, "What am I getting and what am I giving up if I continue this behavior or action?" It's how I hold myself accountable. And one of my ways of describing leadership in general is being accountable for the intended and the unintended consequences of my choices. And with all of that being said, I can always choose differently. It's all within my control. And that for me wraps up the whole concept of what control is, how it's tied to power, how it's tied to choice, how it's tied to me being the best leader that I can be.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  54:00  
Beautiful, Marsha. Thank you so much for this episode today. And thank you, listeners, for joining us. Get ready for next week as we complete our little mini series exploration of Will Schutz's work on group dynamics and the FIRO-B with a focus on the fundamental need for openness. Marsha, I can see why you still honor Will Schutz's work. So, listeners, please continue to visit Marsha's website at Again, we're going to stress again if you or your team want to engage Marsha in taking the FIRO-B assessment, we cannot recommend it highly enough. And you can find out more about book one "Embracing Your Power" and get ready for book two "Expanding Your Power".

Marsha Clark  54:47  
All right! Well, thank you very much, Wendi, and thank you, listeners, for sticking with us. You know this word, even the word 'control' whether it's 'in control' or 'controlling' can be a high trigger word, right? It's often about control over versus being in control. And so, I hope this has helped clarify the power of being in control and having that commanding presence and being able to wield influence in in various situations and decisions. So, thank you for listening. And we all need support, you know, in being seen for who we are and getting behind one another in supportive, informed, higher purpose servant leadership kinds of ways. So, as always, "Here's to women supporting women!"

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