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Picture Me Management-less

By Loren Miner, COO, and Nicole Cox, CRO
With Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

Part 2 of the ‘Leadership Without Management: Pipe Dream or Viable Model?’ series

In Part 1 of this blog series we explained why we at Decision Toolbox are committed to running a “managementless” organization by providing the right kind of leadership. So what would that look like? How would you structure that kind of organization? Here in Part 2 we’ll explore just that.

Right off it’s important to point out that we’re talking about an approach rather than a role. To say, “Leaders do this but managers do that” just isn’t accurate. LOTS of people with the title “Manager” employ the kind of leadership approach we advocate. Now let’s put some structure around the approach.

Structure: Oppressor or Hero?

“Structure” is often seen as having a life of its own, whether it’s an overbearing spirit that stifles productivity or a superhero that defeats the arch villain Chaos. In a managementless model, you need to “disempower” structure and make it work for you. Your structure should make sure that the real power lies in your people.

For example, the largest number of team members at Decision Toolbox — including Recruitment Partners, Sourcers and Writers — have an entrepreneurial relationship with the company. They can choose whether or not to take a project and Decision Toolbox pays them on a project basis. Structuring the basic relationship this way ensures that talented people don’t work for us, but with us. They are partners more so than employees, and leaders aren’t bosses, but resources.

Any structure will need to include performance measurement. To ensure that power lies with team members, we’ve developed self-evaluation tools so that Recruitment Partners can monitor their own performance, identify areas to improve and come up with their own development plans. We’ll explore accountability more fully in Part 3.

I Trust You, You Trust Me, We’re a Happy Family

Clearly this structure takes a great deal of trust. At the risk of oversimplifying, it’s as if the leader, let’s call her Maria, tells a new team member, Nick, “Here’s our vision and the resources. Let me know how it works out.” It’s a leap of faith for Maria — but also for Nick. He needs to trust in Maria’s leadership as well as the company’s vision and resources.

In a traditional model, Nick might have to “prove himself” and earn Maria’s trust. Our model flips that. We think it falls to Maria to demonstrate trustworthiness to Nick. If he trusts her, he is motivated to live up to expectations, showing Maria that she was right to trust him. Now we’ve got a full-on trust-fest.

Integrity and Caring: It’s a Culture Thing

So how do leaders prove themselves trustworthy? With integrity and caring. The leader needs to model high ethical standards by consistently doing the right thing. Confucius put it like this: “The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.” That one step further: the superior leader understands what is right by caring.

Of course you need to care about margins and other business concerns, but to be effective in this model, a leader needs to care about people. Decision Toolbox’s Chief Growth Officer, Jeff Bloch, calls this “heartspace” and wrote about balancing business success with compassion in a recent blog.

Caring needs to be embedded in your company’s culture and nurtured. The way to nurture it is to demonstrate it regularly. Access to financial rewards is always a welcome way, but you can also show you care by providing opportunities for professional development and network building, and by recognizing people’s successes.

To circle back to the Decision Toolbox entrepreneurial employment model, you might think that giving people the option to decline a project would create problems. As it turns out, however, they rarely say no. Of course they wouldn’t make any money if they declined all the time, but they know a tough project when they see it. However, by giving them that option, we’re demonstrating trust . . . and they step up, time after time.

Caring + integrity = trust, and trust makes it possible to go managementless. But we’re just getting started! Next up: accountability and servant leadership.

To learn more about Decision Toolbox, send us an email – we’d love to hear from you!

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3 Responses to “Picture Me Management-less”

  1. October 02, 2013 at 4:38 pm, Leadership Without Management: Pipe Dream or Viable Model? | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] us the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. How about you? Next up: what the leadership-without-management model looks like in […]


  2. October 03, 2013 at 5:20 am, Leaders’ Responsibilities in a Management-less Model | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] the first three parts of this series (in case you missed them:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) we laid out a general blueprint for running an organization using leadership but not […]


  3. October 03, 2013 at 6:49 am, Accountability and Servant Leadership | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] a case for running an organization using leadership but not management, and we described what this looks like in practice, using some examples from Decision Toolbox (DT). Rather than being structured according to org […]


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