Building Company Without Managers

On Monday I am flying back to Prague after spending almost 3 months in my beloved Melbourne with my family. People ask me when we start to talk about my company – “who is now running it while you’re here?”

Nobody I say (which is true) – we don’t have any managers in our company.

We don’t have any managers in our company. Everybody has his/her area of responsibility and does everything to make sure it’s working. It’s how we operate and this is our company culture.

We also don’t have any meetings. We talk to each other and help each other. We haven’t done inventory check in last 8 years. There is no set time when people should be in the office, no tracking system. I never know who is on vacation, as nobody asks me or tells me. We don’t have budgets – we’re spending as much as needed. Not more, not less. Certainly not based on last years’ budgets…

How Can You Build Company Without Managers?

Couple small tricks to help:

i) don’t pick up the phone
I used to not pick up the phone when I saw my people calling me. I called them back in like two hours and guess what they told me when I asked them what’s going on…”oh, nothing. don’t worry, it’s solved”. After some time they stopped calling 🙂
Once I had chef calling me saying “there is a lady on the course that spilled hot oil on her leg…”“I am not a doctor, don’t call me” I told him and hang up. Sure, he figured out and all turned out great. People don’t like solving problems, it’s much easier to call boss and ask what to do.

ii) never give them solution
Anytime somebody comes to me with a question I ask him/her – “what would you do?”.
Most of the time we go ahead with what they say they would do or we refine their proposal with couple questions from my side.

iii) agree on result not the way
Everybody has it’s way of doing things. I certainly do. But I respect different ways of different people. At the end of the day, I don’t care how result is achieved as long as we stick to our values.
Most of the time when my people ask me what to do (and there is not too much in stake) I tell them “do as you feel is the best”. This not only saves you lot of work, but also motivates people and gives them sense of ownership and responsibility.

iv) hire for cultural fit
Not everybody is fit for this. Your hiring efforts need to focus on choosing people who will fit into this kind of culture. Past performance (results – not activities) is usually best predictor of future success. Somebody who have done things before will do them again in future. People who didn’t do anything so far (because of various – mostly external reasons) will not suddenly awake productivity gene within.

Can Company Without Managers Last?

Currently I can leave for like 3 months without harm to company’s performance.
People do need somebody to motivate them, energise them, help them. At the end of the day, leader is there to be in front row leading people. It shouldn’t be a distant voice and image from afar.

It will never work without a manager/leader (I needed catchy headline though) but I am enjoying it so much – being part of this and creating, learning all the time.

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More on this: Invisible Muscles; Why People Leave My Company; Empower Your People