Energize your roles, but who energizes me?

Change is often painful and some would argue that “no pain, no gain”. So, here we are on our 3rd month practicing Holacracy at BSL and starting to fully embrace its power and the pains of the change it brings. At the beginning we have all been very focused on learning the “technical” part of the change. Some examples:

  • I have 7 roles, not 1 job.
  • Who is my boss…oh, I don’t have one!
  • To whom do I report my progresses?
  • To whom do I ask for help?
  • What is my budget?
  • Can I go on holidays?
  • What should I prioritize?
  • What is a tension?
  • What is a tactical meeting?
  • What can I do in Governance?

And of course the most recurrent general question is: “How do I do this (or that) in Holacracy?”. Sometimes I ask myself questions like: “Can I talk to somebody who is not in my circle?”. The answer of course is yes, but nevertheless, in the process of learning this new language (or rather operating system), you get to question a lot of things, sometimes just too many!

These questions have kept us quite busy until Christiane, our Holacracy coach and consultant, during one of our latest workshops invited us to step back and ask a couple of different questions:

  • Now that authority is distributed in roles and not centralized in people, what has changed for you?
  • Every role needs leadership to be energized, are you ready to exercise your leadership in your roles?

Christiane is talking about leadership that allows you to best energize your roles and do your job. Clearly this is not the same leadership that it takes to lead others to work, but rather the type of leadership that it takes to lead yourself to your highest performance. Also, clearly, this does not leave you with the privilege of being led by others in your job anymore. Finally, this means developing new skills toward a self-managing leadership. Well, this is a bigger question than the ones we started with in our Holacracy journey.

When I reflect upon this, I feel like somebody who was kept busy learning how to build a couple of wings for a while but was never been told that at some point I was going to be asked to fly with them. Now, it takes more than a couple of wings to fly for a human being. It takes vision, courage, discipline, knowledge, action, and persistence to start with. This is the leadership we have now been called for at BSL.

I am ready to take off and fly but not for a solo flight. The greatest paradox of Holacracy is that, while it brings back the individuals at the center of the organization and asks them to energize their roles (otherwise nobody else will do it!), it also sets the context for new forms of collaboration that constantly stimulate the collective intelligence of an organization. The way tactical and governance meetings are structured clearly imposes new decision-making dynamics. You have full authority to take decisions for your roles within your defined accountabilities but you have at any time full access to the collective intelligence to help you make better decisions. In fact, the system pushes for consultation and synchronization of work but still leaving the final authority to make decisions within each individual role.

Recently we took some important steps to help each other further access the collective intelligence through consultation and synchronization of work; two changes in particular. First, we changed our Holacracy structure from 2 circles to 3 circles to group roles in a way that could better focus on their domains (General Business, Marketing and Sales, School and Academic Affairs). It only took two more weeks and we decided to take this even further. We have a new proposal to be discussed soon at our next Governance meeting to move to 6 circles. We are all somehow nervous about this, but it was great to see our sparkling eyes when Denitsa proposed this and it all made sense to us (thank you Deni!). We will certainly let you know in a few months how this big change has worked for us so stay tuned!

The second big change is that we relocated our offices in a way that physically replicates our circle structure. Collective intelligence is now also practically closer to all of us and hopefully better organized to help our personal leadership with an additional boost of energy (collaboration). We can work from home if we want to or we can go to the office if we need a closer collaborative space. I really feel we are moving toward a working system that removes any barrier preventing us from flying. In fact, we do not want to work anymore; we want to fly.

Author: Carlo Giardinetti, Associate Dean, Business School Lausanne

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