Command and Control

There are two key levels of activity that have to be exercised to successfully carry out any plan, action or even routine.

‘Command and Control’ are usually applied in a military sense but in fact they apply to pretty much everything else as well.

Most people like to think they are ‘in control’ of their lives, their relationships, their careers, their health and their lifestyle.

But who is actually ‘in command’?

In the military, the ‘command’ is given by a senior officer, and the junior officers control the execution of that command – by giving commands to their subordinates who then control the actions that they need to take.

The trouble that most people have, particularly those who are employed, is that they may be in ‘control’ of what they do and how they do it, but they aren’t in ‘command’.

They do what they are told for the benefit of their employer or the shareholders of the company they work for.

And the same happens with some marriages or partnerships – one person is ‘in command’, and the other goes along with what he or she wants – ‘for a quiet life’.

They are in control of what they do, but they have made a choice.

They’ve chosen to be under the command of a spouse or an employer – and in some cases, those who are self employed, or own their own businesses, find themselves under the command of their customers and clients.

The producers who supply the big supermarkets for example.

You may be in control of the car you’re driving – but if you don’t know where you’re going, or you’re going where someone else is directing you, then you’re not actually in command of the vehicle.

The thing is – you and I can quite easily take control of our lives – but how do we ensure that we’re ‘in command’ as well?

It’s all a matter of choices.

The ‘right’ choices.

Control is about how you and I do stuff – what we do and how we do it, and how long we take to execute our plan to achieve a particular goal or ambition.

It goes wrong when someone else, or some circumstance, interferes with whatever it is we are doing.

When the goalposts are moved during the process, when the playing field is no longer level, and when we run into a fog of uncertainty.

We can get diverted, we can get stuck in a traffic jam, or the weather conditions can suddenly deteriorate.

When these things happen the likelihood of our losing control of our vehicle or our journey increases as the parameters we are working within are disrupted.

But, even if we lose control, we can regain it because the primary goal we are working to achieve remains the same – unless . . .

We receive a new command – that doesn’t originate within ourselves.

When a situation of our own making goes out of control then we can take action by issuing a new command to change the primary goal according to the circumstances we find ourselves in.

If we are stuck in a two-hour traffic jam we can perhaps re-command ourselves to abandon the objective and set an alternative.

If we issued the command in the first place, then we remain in command, whatever the situation.

You and I answer only to our own commanding officer – us.

But what if all is going well and is, as far as our part in the process is concerned, ‘under control – and then we receive a new command, or instruction, from someone else.

An employer, a client, a partner, a colleague, a spouse

And by new command or instruction I do mean something that is not simply a suggestion.

The trouble is, that people do tend to make ‘requests’ or even ‘suggestions’, that are actually thinly disguised commands.

We’ve all been there haven’t we?

There are essentially two ways of dealing with this – and the choice boils down to ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

We can agree to the new command or we can reject it.

But how does our response affect the level of control we have over our lives or just what we’re doing at the time?

Our response will of course depend on who the new instruction comes from and consequently what effect it is likely to have on our relationship with that person.

If we reject all the ‘suggestions’ that come from others we might get fired, we might lose a good client, or we might end up in the divorce court.

And it depends on the level of control we might want to retain – because sometimes, those alternatives are really the ‘right thing to do’ if we really want to take full command of who we are!

On the other hand, if we accept all new commands without question, then we’ll be seen as ‘weak’ or an ‘easy touch’ or as ‘having no backbone’.

‘Giving in’ to avoid a ‘fuss’, or a ‘scene’ or any form of confrontation, however mild that might be, is rarely the right thing to do.

What is needed in the situation when you or I are directed to ‘change course’ in some way, is simple.

It’s called ‘feedback’.

Commanding officers quite often make decisions with a lack of awareness of what is actually going on ‘in the field’.

There are numerous examples in military history of the front line intel being ignored or decisions being made without any information about what is actually going on.

But you and I are not ‘under orders’ so we can feed back our situation and we can question the new direction, and we can discuss the issue with our employer, client, partner to discover why this new command (or ‘suggestion’) has been made.

“If we carry on doing this then the outcome is A, but if we change and do that then the outcome is B. Is that what you want?”

This way, with a client, with an employer or with a spouse or partner, you and I can retain control.

And of course, we can use the same argument with ourselves when we are in command!

By giving feedback like this, most times, relationships will be strengthened and made more equal; and if not then it’s probably time to end that relationship – or if you are the ‘commander’, change the way you think!

Are you in control?

And are you in command?

And if not (to either of these questions) – who is?