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Control freak

07 March 2011

I've been sitting in planes on tarmacs a lot lately. It's the weather - storm delays, sometimes of up to more than an hour. It makes it so hard to manage schedules. I know it's no-one's fault, it's just extraneous circumstances but I feel I've lost control.

So, how do we plan for life's little hiccups? I understand you can't do it as successfully when it comes to one-off events but when you can clearly see the obstacles ahead or a pattern forming, it makes sense to take back the control.

For me, one answer is to fly the day before so I'm not late and stressed. Another compromise, but it doesn't always suit, is to skip the face-to-face and teleconference.

And that got me thinking as the taxi dropped me to the hotel in Sydney from a delayed flight from Melbourne - but before my appointments the next day - life is all about being in or out of control.

Certainly, for a control freak like me there's no halfway point. And because that is my nature, my standards tend to be very high. (I'm known to be ruthless on myself as much as anyone else if they're not met.) Imagine then how hard it is for me to form partnerships, to let others in and work with them?

But forming partnerships is necessary. It requires maturity and means learning to know what you can compromise on - what you won't jeopardize for anything and what is not a big issue.

It means asking yourself: \"Is this because I want all the control and for it to be done my way or the highway? Or, am I able to walk away and say, you do it your way, and that looks fine. (The test is to wake the next day and discover that everything is actually fine and that things done in a different way - with diversity - have a multitude of benefits. Not the least of which is I get to loosen the hold on the reigns and enjoy the ride.)

For many of the women I know in corporate life and especially our SME business owners, the questions surrounding how we form partnerships and why and what we want out of these relationships are fraught with difficulties and tinged with anticipation. Many women will retain the status quo rather than loosen control, or work with the standards and methods of others and, most importantly, other ideas. They can't let go and, in some cases, there's nothing wrong with that.

But, what if you want to grow the business? Doesn't that mean introducing new relationships, new people into the business and embracing all the change and diversity of issues and solutions that accompany that?

Surely, then, it comes down to knowing intimately what your value systems are and what you will change and work with and what you cannot compromise on. (Acknowledging also that as times and markets change, compromise can happen organically. Although, usually not to the core values of the business or yourself.)

And before I know it I am obsessed with this idea of control - life wise, in business, personally and, of course, financially.

Personal control, now that can be complex. The boundaries we put on our selves, the ways we relate to family and friends and the control we do and do not exercise.

I am away from home such a lot and have two dogs. Well, I have one and the other is my daughter's schnauzer, Pepper: 17 years old, blind, deaf, toothless and experiencing every failure under the sun... and we all know the costs of that.

So, here I am left in control, knowing she's given us 17 years of pleasure and having to take control of a rapidly declining situation... Is euthanizing the final solution and how in all honesty, do I make that decision?

Maybe because I work in a bank but more likely because I am now obsessed with the topic, I have also begun to think about financial control. We have been speaking with women in the media on a number of topics, not the least of which is the idea of financial literacy. These are young, dynamic women. But the ones who appear to have it all together - switched on about their own independence and how to achieve it - have had strong female role models: mothers, and in one case a grand-mother, who have worked, were often single and drummed home the need to be aware, look after yourself, work hard and save.

And that is what we need now a Savings Revolution. The easy credit of old has gone. It's now about saving. The GFC changed the way we view money and the way we do business, putting in place new ways of controlling our finances.

According to the experts, the rise of a female economy is set to put us in the driver's seat - and everyone knows, when you hold the purse strings you're in control. This year the GBA (Global Banking Alliance) celebrates its 10-year anniversary with growing member numbers and world-class initiatives for women to achieve financial independence. This month we celebrate women with International Women's Day. For me, it's the amazing inner strength of women that always has me in awe. We may not have the physical strength of men but our resilience, mental fortitude and stamina are proving to be the making of us in the world of business and life. To see what I mean I urge you all to take a look at both our Ruby of the Month, film producer and philanthropist Rebel Penfold-Russell and our new section, called Women @ Work. To kick the section off we have an interview with theatre director Marion Potts, who was recently made Artistic Director of Melbourne's Malthouse theatre. We are also featuring the Chair of the Hills Industries board Jenny Hill Ling, whose family are the iconic Hills Hoist. Both are dynamic, passionate, resilient women in control as much as any of us can be of their own destinies.