Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Being a founder / poking people

Hi everybody,

 I’d love to hear some feedback and perspective on an topic that we experiencing in my company. I’d be especially interested to hear from other owners and/or founders of their organizations, as they may be in a similar situation as I am. I am founder and majority shareholder of creaffective, with 8 people at this moment.

 I repeatedly get feedback from my colleagues that I am "poking" people. That means I remind people to do something that we agreed on. Part of that poking can happen out of a role I have. In other situations I don’t have a role and I still address things.

 

Two examples:

a) For the last term I was the secretary and it is part of the accountabilities of the secretary in our organizations to remind people to put certain numbers into a metric table that we created. The numbers are always collected for the last four weeks. So once a four week period was over, I waited for a maximum of an additional week and then sent an e-mail to the team to remind people to add in their numbers. (Poking from the role of the secretary with corresponding accountabilities).

b) We also have a blog article planning document where people write their names to a preplanned date with an article topic they intend to publish. We agreed that every two weeks an article will be published. We have a role “content magician” whose accountability it is to set dates for when to publish articles for the foreseeable future and to ask people to add their names to the list. So yesterday evening (Thursday) I have looked at the document and seen that there are five dates already scheduled, the nearest one being next week. I have also seen that so far nobody has put their name into the document. So even for the coming week there was nobody who committed to prepare and write something. So I put my name into the cell for the coming week and informed people that the document is empty so far and asked them to have a look at it and put their names in it.

I was then reminded by a colleague that I am “poking again” without having the role to do this.

The role holder whose accountability it is to remind people thanked me and said she would have done it next week.

This is a description the situation.

 

I feel somewhat frustrated about this, as my colleagues are annoyed of my poking. At the same time I think that even though I don’t fill the role to do the blog planning it is also not forbidden (we don’t have a domain here) to do what I have done. I could understand that the role holder might be annoyed that I step into her territory. At the same time I see that a few days before the new weeks starts (and an article would have to published) nobody has taken any action. I just cannot get myself to ignore this and wait to see if anything will happen next week. Especially as people normally need time to prepare and think about a blog article. So I feel as the founder, I created the company, I own most of it and I see it as “my baby” and therefore want to look at the overall picture. I do deeply care about the overall company and feel responsible for it. So when situations like the ones above happen, I just cannot get myself to let it go and wait what happens. I don’t want to get into a state were I don’t care anymore and see it more “relaxed”. At the same time this creates some interpersonal tensions as people feel I am poking too often.

 

I’d appreciate your perspectives on this.

 

Best

 

Florian

10 Replies
Eliana
11/16/2017

Hi Florian! Well, that’s a very good and hot topic! I’m not in an Owner Role, but I have been observing exactly this problem in my circle and I also had problems myself as people seem to believe, if you work with Holacracy you have no deadlines at all, and self-responsibility does not automatically lead to mutual responsibility. We started having the problem, that customers complained about one employee, this person was not ready to react or change anything and there was no role at all wirh the authority to “force” the role to act as our purpose says (offegering a great customer experience). The big risk in this case is to go back to “old hierarchical behaviours” as old managers felt this situation was a big risk for our organization. The paradox problem is: if you react, you are committing “Bossing” if you don’t, you are not taking care of the purpose in a responsible way and put the business in danger. If you ask for disciplinary Power again, you will be damaging the power shift process, so what to do? I have inspired myself on the Colleague Letter of Understanding by Morning Star. Teams do sit together and define their expectations from each other explicitly, and define a process for a conflict solution which will be applied anytime, ANYBODY feels, that something is going wrong or not fitting with the expectation on the role. In this way you have a defined process, which everybody had to sign to be committed to use, will allows you to take action, if somebody else is not taking his responsibility seriously (and it will be legitimately!). It must be clear, that everybody has the right and the “must” to care about the accomplishment of the common goals. A further aspect of this is to build up (non violent) communication skills in the team, so that your request doesn’t sound as an order to others. I hope I could explain this clearly enough, otherwise you can just write to me. I will br happy to share that “app” with you. Best regards, Eliana

Jeff Kreh
11/17/2017

[@mention:551030431173357846], Morningstar's CLoU sounds like a great fit for dealing with the soul vs. role challenge. I wonder how others feel about the CLoU, especially (as a founder) since we are soon to implement it and Morningstar's PCM into our onboarding process - the process over which I energize as Onboarder/TalentRecruiter role-filler.

Vincent
11/17/2017

Hi Florian,

In a) case, if somebody expresses me he/she feels annoyed, I guess I would just have a talk to better understand the situation (his/her understanding of the role i'm speaking from, or what makes him feeling unconfortable). But I would keep reminding people. maybe using a checklist item too.

In b) case, yes if there are no domain or other rule about it you can do it. Nevertheless, depending on the situation (maturity of the members in Holacracy), I would pay attention to let space for the others. And maybe I would use other pathways in the first place :

- go to talk to the role filler (you wrotte : We have a role “content magician” whose accountability it is to set dates for when to publish articles for the foreseeable future and to ask people to add their names to the list) and pitch him first. Asking him about what action he decided to express the accountability, or asking him to take one.

- at some points, I would let people do their own experiences. Maybe there is not a big risk in terms of image, or activity, in the case you described (he says he would have done the same one week after). And I would ask myself if there is a risk to let the role filler do as he wants, even if I'm convinced I would have done it better. That's something I experienced in a circle, it was often hard for me, but a reasonable price to let some roles and concentrate my energy where I wanted. And the question "is there a risk if I let things going that way, even if I find it's not  good ?" helped me a lot to control myself.

- If you're the Lead Link of the circle where the role "content magician" is embedded, you can give to the role filler feedback and have a conversation about it as Lead Link.

Those 3 ideas in order to help him to energize maybe better the role, instead of acting in a way that avoid him to energize it better. 

Hope that helps, have a good day !

 

Chris Cowan
11/17/2017

A few quick thoughts...

Some "poking" sounds like you're simply staying involved with the things you care about. Asking for a projection, or getting updates on projects or accountabilities is all perfectly fine. In your example, "So I put my name into the cell for the coming week and informed people that the document is empty so far and asked them to have a look at it and put their names in it." If they already agreed to put their names in and publish something, then reminding them of this agreement is perfectly fine. Especially, if you're the Lead Link of a relevant circle, in which case clarify the task through a prioritization (e.g. "This is a top priority"). Maybe people have been strategically de-prioritizing it because they are working on higher value stuff. Maybe not, but a prioritization is a good way to get clear (or simply ask, "what's in the way?"). Now, having said all of that, as the former powerholder there may be some additional opportunity for you to assist with the power shift by making it clear you're reminding people of something they agreed to, or you're setting a prioritization as Lead Link, rather than demanding or mandating anything as "the Boss." 

Some "poking," might be problematic because it sounds like you're taking Individual Action (IA), but not following the rules defined for IA. So, one example you mentioned, "The role holder whose accountability it is to remind people thanked me and said she would have done it next week." This is an interesting case. If there is a role with a clear accountability for doing something, then it's actually fine for someone else can act in that role, but there are rules around it (see the hyperlink above). I'll specifically call out this section: "If your Individual Action was effectively acting within another Role, or violated a Domain or a Policy, then you must cease from continuing to take similar Individual Action upon request of whoever normally controls that Role, Domain, or Policy, or upon request of the Lead Link of the Circle holding the affected entity." In other words, if you already know there is a clear Role for something, then you should start by "poking" them, unless you think more harm would be done to take the time to notify them. And if you don't want to wait on their timeline, just ask, "I know this is your accountability, may I take IA in your role to send out the reminder myself?" When I get these requests in my company I'm thankful; "You want to do my job so I don't have to? Please, go ahead!"  

 

Florian Rustler
11/17/2017

thanks everybody for your thoughts, feedback and input.

This is very helpful!

Keith Jarvis
11/19/2017

Interesting stuff to ponder - where Shadow Power might be infringing in your interactions with the team.

One thought here in particular - which respect I ask - what makes you think that as @Secretary you have the accountability to remind people to record their checklist / metric items? I don't see anything about that in the role definition - only that you 'maintain a compiled view'. It's the other @Partners' responsibilities to report on their own items. Nothing in constitution specifies the what how or why of this.  It does not require a @Partner to type the entry nor does it require @Secretary to remind them to do so.

It can be verbally reported during that section of the meeting, then @Secretary records. It might be some self-entry dashboard tool that @Secretary requests the Circle Members to access and utilize - but nothing requires them to do so in advance of the meeting or in any specific way.

We've bumped up against that a few times, including having a @Partner in one circle wanting a @Secretary in another to record items in a different or specific way, location, etc - but as long as the information is available, there is no means to demand or require specific methodology.

Stephen Starkey
11/20/2017

I'm not the OP, but when I read their comment, I assumed that during governance an accountability was added. See 1.4.3 Amending Elected Roles:

A Circle may add Accountabilities or Domains to its own Elected Roles, as well as amend or remove those additions. However, no Circle may amend or remove any Purpose, Domain, Accountabilities, or authorities granted to an Elected Role by this Constitution, nor remove an Elected Role entirely.

Florian Rustler
11/20/2017

Dear Keith,

Stephen is correct, we added accountabilities for our Secretary role. Sorry, I was not explicit enough about this in my post.

 

Best

 

Florian

Olivier Compagne
12/03/2017

I looks like you got some good advice already [@mention:491213757235914012]. I would add that addressing this kind of issues, which involve a lot of small behavior shifts rather than one change, is exactly what a good coach is useful for. So if you have a coach ask them to help -- especially during tactical meetings. If you don't, well something to consider

Aside from that, the first thing I would do is try to understand why people aren't doing it. And it might be different reasons for different people. Based on that the best actions will be different. But one possible (and frequent) reason is that people don't have a solid individual trusted system, like Getting Things Done (GTD), to keep track of the things they've agreed to do. If it's the case. I would suggest investing in that area. 

As a tip, if you need to remind someone of doing something regularly, then it's really inefficient and a drag on your own work time. You could then ask the person to define a personal process for making sure that they catch it and do it themselves, without you having to "poke" them. After all if you're doing that, that's because they're dropping something they are already accountable for. Concretely, you can ask them to capture a project (e.g. "Process in place to consistently add name on blog post spreadsheet every week" or whatever). Once the project is captured, you can ask for updates on that, and offer help (or even defining a role, e.g. "Personal Organization Coach") for how to do that best. Again, that's where a good individual trusted system comes into play.

I'd also use checklists during tactical meetings to get visiblity on whether people have done something — it systematizes the reporting of whether they have completed an action or not, so it's not "you" poking them, it's just one of their checklist items. And if they say "no check" you can ask clarifying questions ("why didn't you do it? what got in the way?")

Finally, I'll emphasize what others have said: poking people because you're the founder is not a good reason, but poking because you are the Lead Link, or any other role that directly cares, is perfectly appropriate in Holacracy!

Hope that helps

Juliane Martina Röll
12/11/2017
 
Florian Rustler posted:

I just cannot get myself to ignore this and wait to see if anything will happen next week. Especially as people normally need time to prepare and think about a blog article. So I feel as the founder, I created the company, I own most of it and I see it as “my baby” and therefore want to look at the overall picture. I do deeply care about the overall company and feel responsible for it. So when situations like the ones above happen, I just cannot get myself to let it go and wait what happens. I don’t want to get into a state were I don’t care anymore and see it more “relaxed”. At the same time this creates some interpersonal tensions as people feel I am poking too often.

Florian, I am a bit late to the party, but I still want to offer you a perspective. 

For me, the key is in the part I quoted above. Specifically: "I just cannot get myself to let it go and wait what happens."

In understand that you don't want to wait and therefore you poke.

I am thinking that instead of poking / reminding people, you could inquire about their relative priorities: "Hey, you agreed to work on this blog post, but I don't see it happening. Could you tell me what is going on / what other things you are working on at the moment?" As a colleague, I would appreciate this open question much more than a "poke", especially since it comes from the founder and majority shareholder.

If you are the Lead Link you could set a strategy that guides this (but it sounded to me that you are not the Lead Link here, is that right?).

A second thought that comes to mind, is that you may actually be filling a role that is not captured yet. Is there a role in your organisation that would have a general responsibility for "publishing" or "marketing" or so? Which role actually cares about those blogposts? Do you hold any of them? If not, you may want to create a role that holds the larger responsibility for the area you have an interest in developing. (In Structure & Process we have "Event Business" and "Consulting Business" as roles that look at larger business areas. They sometimes nudge people who hold roles such as Sales, or Marketing, or individual Event Project Leads to get down with things. (We don't "poke" in @strucproc, we gently nudge.

Finally, I think the need to speak as "the founder" or "the majority shareholder" or a person otherwise strongly personally being impacted by company decisions is perfectly valid!

For myself, being the founder and owner of Structure & Process, I use a Role called "Founder / Owner Context" which is modeled on a stakeholder representation role I saw in H1. The accountability is: "Representing the founder / owner's world within the organisation".

Having this role on the GCC allows me to speak from personal tensions, such as worries or frustrations  - or from joy and care. 

I use it to share information for the company mostly, as what happens in my personal life often has an impact on the business. When I do use it to put pressure on roles or criticise other people's decisions, it is clear where this is coming from: From a strong personal sense of tension, which is probably an expression of care for my own and the company's well-being. (That is my personal test for speaking from this role: Am I actually speaking from love and care, or am I just frustrated that things are not the way I'd like them to be?) The role also makes clear that when I give impulses from it, I am not pretending to know what is best for the business: I am merely giving my view from my personal position.

Of course, this is a pretty intense thing to do: I am the only person who has a Role that is specifically designed to do this! This intensity gives me an extra clarity on when I need this space, and, more importantly, when I _don't_. It gives me a moment of mindfulness to check if I am controlling or acting from boss-think rather than with a collegial attitude. I can then consciously decide wether to proceed with a soft inquiry or a piece of feedback as a colleague; or to a "poke" and request from the strong role.

(Side note: I also have a role as "company historian", which allows me to share information from the past as a neutral resource, rather than it sounding that I know everything better. This allows for expressions such as: "Nice idea. As Historian I want to tell you that we have tried it before and it never worked, and as Founder I would like to encourage you to use your freedom and decide for yourself what is wise!") 

This has been a long answer. Thank you for sharing and asking, this has been fun to sense into and think about!