Self-Management Article on HuffPost!



I’m proud to report that my first article on Huffington Post is live! A huge thanks to my friends at the Great Work Cultures tribe for including me in their initiative. I hope you enjoy this piece on the future of work and self-management.

When I was doing the research for my book, Igniting the Invisible Tribe, I stumbled across an article by Gary Hamel called “First, Let’s Fire All The Managers.” Released by Harvard Business Review in December of 2011 about a California-based tomato processing company called Morning Star, I found the idea of an organization “self-managing” itself to be fascinating, compelling — and frankly, confusing as hell.

How in the world could an organization work without leaders!? It seemed absurd.

But it clearly… wasn’t. Morning Star was apparently a very successful organization where hundreds (in peak-tomato season, thousands) of people work. They’re the world’s largest tomato processor; or in other words, you’ve almost certainly eaten their product. They claim revenues over $700 million per year. And they’ve been working this way for over two decades.

What’s going on here? Perhaps more importantly, if traditional “management” is as grossly inefficient as Hamel suggests in the above-mentioned article, why hasn’t self-management caught on?

Here are three reasons why “self-management” principles haven’t yet taken hold as a viable organizational structure… and why they will, (very) soon…



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We Need Less ‘Or’ and More ‘And’



Are crazy polarities the only way we can think about life now??

We have to be a Republican or a Democrat.

We have to be liberal or a conservative.

We have to love Apple or hate them.

We have to love Microsoft or hate them.

For me to be right you have to be wrong.

For my company to win, yours has to lose.

The whole fabric of our thinking seems to be based on scarcity, not abundance.  Built on fear, not love.

This is a dangerous, zero-sum game we are playing.

While I understand how this dichotomization of society continues to happen (our incessantly hyperbolic media is not helping, of course), the truth is that polarities, while interesting thought experiments, are rarely helpful in real life. They tend to bifurcate our culture and make us intolerant to nuance (at best; they make us completely oblivious to nuance at worse). They flatten our world into blacks and whites instead of spectrums of color.

I wonder if a shadowy side-effect of our digital age is that’s it has slowly pushed us all towards being a bit more binary; towards thinking in 1’s and 0’s, on and off, dark or light. I wonder if the resonance of our personal growing echo chambers have subtly infected our ability to see from another person’s perspective and to appreciate viewpoints that don’t originate in our “camp.”

I have some hope, though, that the more “social” world of technology could potentially push us out of our endless choir-preaching, and back into the messy, beautiful fray. True, we may have to electively opt-in to see the bigger world view, but there’s no question that alternative viewpoints are now easier to find than ever before… if we want to see them.

In any case, I’m convinced we need a lot less OR and whole lot more AND.


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No One Cares About Your Boundaries



…if you don’t care enough to set them — and stick to them.

This may seem like common sense, but even if it is, I’m pretty sure it’s not common practice.

The reason I know this is because even though I write and speak about (and try my best to pay attention to) these things, I backed myself into a corner this week on this very issue.

Due to a small email miscommunication with a client, I did something I would never normally do — I offered to do a call at 7:30am. Now, besides being empirically too damn early to be talking business on the phone, this directly conflicts with one of the primary times of day when I get to hang out with my daughter.

Not cool, Josh.

After I offered that time via email, I went home and started to feel resentful. I thought, “Man, this guy is really screwing up my life…!

But of course, the guy screwing up my life wasn’t the client… it was the guy in my shoes, pacing around the house and bitching about the “other guy.”

(If you’re curious, I did finally notice my ridiculous behavior and found a different time to talk to the client.)

Here’s the hard part — I think we often want “big” solutions to these kinds of problems. But this isn’t a big, sweeping problem; it’s a tiny, treacherous one. And fixing these kinds of problems is actually much harder, because it requires us to examine the details of our mental models, look deeply into our natural responses to things, and notice the nuances of what zaps our energy. Even worse, we have to do those things over and over and over and over, because we are constantly in the deep rut of our habits and patterns.

Then, the most difficult part might be the somewhat simple task of just setting a boundary and sticking to it.

Even with a reasonable amount of practice, I have to constantly fight against putting myself back in the “victim” place — blaming other people for the choices I have made or the boundaries I haven’t set (or held to).

And at the end of the day, this is the crappiest thing about these challenges… most times, there’s nobody to blame but me.


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