The new "holacracy bosses"

I stopped being a boss; here are the 3 lessons I learned

So we became holacratic in the spring of 2017. It was the end-result of an intense but very rich process. You can read more about how we embraced holacracy in my previous story. 

No boss

I often wondered what life would be like when I would no longer be a boss. It sounded crazy, scary and wonderful at the same time. But it was also confusing. How you can NOT run a company you founded? How can you NOT always let the company benefit from your wisdom? How can you NOT run around and be important? It turned out both the team and me benefited greatly from me not being in charge any longer.

Holacracy and bosses

Holacracy gives everybody in the company the power to craft their own work and make meaningful decisions. This mandate is on a detailed level but also on larger topics like recruiting, marketing, sales and even salaries. Effectively, Fronteer is now being run by everybody in the team. One role though gives me a boss-like appearance: I still am a shareholder. Within that role I make sure Fronteer is well funded, supportive of the people working there and stable as an operation. This does not give me the power to intervene nor to propose ideas all the time. Ouch.

Everybody is a boss

So what happens on a daily basis? A few examples. New hires are recruited by the circle ‘Our People’. This circle decides on who to hire and how to hire them. This is powerful since it makes sense that you hire your own new favourite colleagues. Another example is a policy we have for spending money. All costs (in any category) below 250 Euro are to be spent based on people’s own judgement. No discussion. And lastly: we created a new brand strategy for Fronteer within the ‘Our Brand’ circle based on heuristics and everybody’s input.

Personal impact

The first thing people ask me when I talk about holacracy is: What if things go wrong? What if people stop working properly? What if you want to steer a company when things go terribly wrong? I saw the opposite happening. Things went better! This also affected me personally. Here are the 3 lessons I learned:

1 – Freedom

The fact that our people work based on their own gut-feel and judgement meant I could do the same. Hey, I am part of the team as well! I could spend more time doing what I liked best and stopped doing what I dreaded. One of my roles is being a shareholder: that means thinking ahead about the company’s growth. I spent the last months seriously drawing up scenarios for the next steps for Fronteer. I worried less about progress in projects, since I trusted everybody to execute these really well.

2 – Energised

The more I let go, the more happened at Fronteer. Initiatives popped up left and right. People started using and implementing new systems. The quality of our projects went up. Our financials improved. Informal activities blossomed. People were seriously happy at work! The effect on me personally was that I felt anything would be possible with this team, if we put our minds to it. Especially if I could let go of the little ‘control’ button inside me.

3 – Relaxation

Lastly, the more I trusted other people and the process, the more I could relax. When feeling less tense and tired, the mental space to create and craft great new ideas increases dramatically. When feeling safe in an environment, you feel OK to put your personality forward and open up. When knowing what the purpose of an organisation is, many things fall into place. This all happened to me over the last few months. It created a great sense of relief and made me truly happy at work.

I am no longer a boss. I am a founder. And I have a few other roles. Would I even want to be a boss again? No way. Life is too short.

Are you still a boss, have a talk with martijn@fronteer.amsterdam