by Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM | December 3, 2013

Meeting professionals are classic control freaks. Many of us have spent so much time fixating on details and taking pride in being good at them, that it can be hard to take a different view of our work -- or anything else for that matter. Then we take on more responsibilities, or we get a promotion, and we find that we can no longer hang on to the minutia that gave us so much validation up until then.

When I became an independent planner years ago, I intended my business model to remain centrally small but with fluid project teams. Meaning, I would put together varying groups of experts who represented the specific knowledge and experience that the project demanded. This allowed me to pull from the best talent available, but it also required that I think like a delegator. That's a hard thing to do when your history is logistical and your future depends on being strategic. But, that's the reality we all face on some level or another.

Here are some things I learned in the process of transitioning from a team player to a team leader.

Face your fear. Maybe things won't be done the way that you would have done them, and maybe you will remain adamantly convinced that they weren't done as well. Maybe someone else will have to answer a question that before now would have come straight to you. Your value doesn't come from knowing all the answers; your value comes from knowing who does have them. Show respect for others' competencies by allowing them to shine.

Identify what it is that only you can do. These should all be things to which you personally bring the highest level of added value, and anything else can be delegated. As above, this requires a certain amount of fearlessness.

Have simple reporting systems. View your deliverable product not as a meeting or program, but as information. Your critical role becomes knowing where the moving parts are located while not being the one in charge of their movement. Develop a task management program (something as simple as Excel is great for this) whereby you know where your team is at a given time. Not only does it help with supervision, but also it keeps your attention focused on the bigger picture.

These things sound so easy when you read about them, but shifting your mindset is not easy at all. There will be many times when you have to resist the urge to take back control. Don't do it! Start viewing control as understanding the big picture, the strategy and the overarching role you play in that strategy. Forget what you used to believe about control, which was knowing every single detail at any given moment. Not only will this shift silence your inner control freak, but it will improve the quality of your work product.

What have you learned about letting go of control? I'd like to hear your stories. Please comment below or email me at