“Positive control” is a term I first learned in the military. Ironically, it has nothing to do with the traditional understanding of the word “positive”. Unlike positive in the sense of upbeat or enthusiastic, positive control is more about awareness and leadership. Being in positive control indicates that there is direct (or sometimes indirect) leadership presence from the person in charge. In some ways that is simplistic, because the term means more than that as well.
In my experience, part of positive control means having situational awareness and team awareness at the same time. Situational awareness is the understanding of one’s entire surroundings with more of a big picture view. It is important for leaders to keep situational awareness throughout a challenge; things change along the way. In order for leaders to be effective, we have to recognize the changes that occur or pitfalls up ahead for our teams and are ready with the plan to adjust. It is that ability to “adapt and overcome” that helps set apart great leaders from good leaders. Team awareness is the same thing, but instead of the overall focus, the leader has to stay involved with the team members.
Teams change over time. People get tired of long projects that seem to have no end, or a long journey that gets physically taxing. People also get tired of other people and need some space. Sometimes leaders can accommodate those ups and downs of the team dynamic with rest or personal space and sometimes not. The important thing is to recognize that they are happening and try to handle any tensions before they boil over. There are many examples where teams started out cohesive but one person or the entire team fell to pieces. For leaders, positive control indicates the juggling act of keeping in focus the path ahead and the people walking the path so everything and everyone reaches the finish line.
CEO, The Professional Development Team