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

Circle Member not filling Role

I could use some insight in how to handle the following situation.

I have a fellow Circle Member who fills a role entitled "Maketeer Maestro". Maketeers are what we call our Volunteers.  Here's the actual role...


Manage the maketeer program such that maketeers develop skills and knowledge and members have a reliable resource for using the space


  • Maketeers@Seattlemakers.org email account

  • Maketeer Schedule


  • Finding, interviewing, training, scheduling and managing maketeers

  • Establishing onboarding procedures and holding orientations for new maketeers

  • Designing, creating, and maintaining the maketeer program

The tension I'm running into is, I'll be at work and a Maketeer shows up for their shift and Jeremy (who fills the Maketeer Maestro role) didn't set them up with anything to do while they are here.  So I perpetually have volunteers with nothing to do hanging around and it keeps falling to other circle members to set them up with things.

I'm unclear if this is a process breakdown or merely a circle member not following the rules.  I'm not sure how to go about handling this breakdown.

Any insight?

4 Replies


Unfortunately Holacracy is not a magic pill that means everyone will do their part. You will still need to have crucial conversations with your colleagues. The good news is that each team member has the authority and duty to speak up when they have tension. 

As in any organization the best solution is likely to have a conversation about what you're expecting and what is not getting done. You will have the increase clarity of a clear role description to help that conversation. I would try to offer a clear observation then invite Jeremy to share his perspective. One phrase I really like is, "What are your next actions or projects on this accountability?" 

Sometimes it is just getting clarity about what the accountabilities mean to each person. They are pretty bundled so perhaps you want to get clarity in governance if different people are interpreting role accountabilities and are expecting different things of each other that tension can quickly be solved with establishing clearer governance. 

Sometimes people have too much on their plate in which case they may need help prioritizing which the lead link can help with.

Sometimes it is an ability issue and training is needed. Perhaps job specific training or just GTD training. 

Doesn't sound like process break down it sounds like a tension to be brought forward and a conversation to have. Good luck!


Jeff Kreh

Volunteers are tricky. The biggest factor for their success with the experience is what we call "return on mission" (RoM). They don't want to come in and take over, to be self-governing, and it's unfair to accept their passion without having shovel-ready actionables that are meaningful and worthwhile -- that contribute to the organization's purpose AND the volunteer's RoM. Onboarding can help (e.g., an exploratory process that surfaces their purpose and aligns it with the organization's SO THAT they can define what a successful RoM looks like in 3-months, 1-week, and at the end of the day). The cutesy "Maketeer" name might understate the importance of volunteer treatment: Jeremy must steward with dignity the sacrifice and unstated hopes/insecurities that volunteers bring. Volunteers can be equally strong natural promoters and demoters of your business. Handle with care...

That said, it seems to me that the tension has to be raised and a solution that calls out serving the needs of the volunteers (not just scheduling capacity without meaningful and worthwhile waiting in the wings or in an easy to follow set if instructions in a folder). Once a volunteers knows you have invested the time and energy to make sure the relationship is a good fit, and once they've stepped into a clearly defined role with shovel ready work to do, then they'll find meaning and value and continue showing up ... and in time, they'll start self-improving their role and the organization (after all, these are the type of folks who value what you're doing and about enough to show up without pay ... value that and they'll expand your sphere of influence).

A lot more to say. Just keep in mind that the satisfied volunteer with a high RoM will have people asking them about your organization ... and so will the volunteer who shows up and leaves feeling guilty for abusing your time and abused for having wasted another weekend or evening or time that they could have spent with family or friends.

Keith Jarvis

This is where the Human Meets Holacracy - and it's not easy for many.

In a traditional hierarchy, you could

  1. Go to the Maestro and say 'have, I've had a number of volunteers show up with nothing set up for them to do, and it's eating into my time, OR
  2. Go to your colleague's supervisor and say 'you know, I've had a number of volunteers show up with nothing set up for them to do. Would you look into the Maestro's productivity?'

In Holacracy, you could

  1. Exactly the same as #1 above - you bring your Tension directly to the Role, who is bound/required to process your Tension
  2. Bring that same Tension to Tactical and say the same thing
  3. Provide feedback to the @Lead Link about the Role fit and/or distribution of resource that could be affecting the Maestro's productivity

What I've found in the 3.5+ years of our implementation is that this interaction between colleagues is still one of our biggest challenges.

I think in many occasions we have found ourselves wondering if/when someone else is going to intervene with colleagues who aren't getting things done.

What I do know is that there is no 'boss' who's going to come along and handle it for me/us/you - and - that if/when I have a Tension about someone else's non-completion of an accountability, I am actually required by the constitution to process that Tension.

Do I? Sometimes.

And I have more often than not been the member of the team who points to the rules (constitution), who points to the agreed-upon processes or structure (governance) that we aren't following, and it. gets. tiring.

and, a bit lonely sometimes.



Thank you all.  This is very helpful feedback.  I'll take this to Jeremy and have a conversation with him about it.  I am so grateful for your thoughtful responses!!