What You Need to Know To Design Self-Management For Your Workplace

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At Delivering Happiness we shifted to self-management years ago. We've been steeped in learnings ever since, and are now applying them in our coach|sulting work. Many ask, how do you know if your organization is ready for it? Here is a simple intro and guide to self-management:


It's no secret, holacracy is hot. Whether it’s a fascination, a spectacle, or, in some cases, a dirty word, the idea that organizations can be self-managed, purpose-driven, and can function better has our attention.


The solution in self-management is not always getting rid of managers, but it is in doing things differently. Here is a simple way to assess your organization and three game-changing concepts to evolve your approach:

Determine where you are now

Let’s look at the values and beliefs your leaders hold about people. Three stages describe most companies today. Which is closest to yours?

Stage A:  Your organization and managers value competition, control, delegation, stability, and top-down structure. People function best when there is order and clear rules. Most companies are run this way. Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy led from these beliefs.

Stage B: Your organization and leaders value equality, acceptance, consensus, and resource sharing. People function best when there is value alignment and family spirit. Ben & Jerry’s and nonprofits thrive here. Jimmy Carter led from these beliefs. Delivering Happiness wrote the book on this.

Stage C: Your organization and leaders value change, flexibility, transparency, learning, freedom, and individuality. People function best when they are purpose-driven and self-organized. Patagonia operates this way. John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, leads from here. Self-management thrives here.

No stage is better than the others; each can be exceptional. However, they do build on each other. So you now have a pulse on how far you may be from adapting a holacratic model.

Three Principles

These concepts of self-management can help you evolve. The goal is to integrate these in a way that feels natural and works with your culture. Keep these three principles in mind as you implement this new management style into your workplace:



How do your managers lead? How much are trust and control shared? What drives performance?

In self-management, the role of leaders evolves to that of a servant-leader: they empower, enable, and inspire others. Leaders coach individuals to realize their unique purpose and how it aligns with the organization’s purpose. Ultimately, they hold the space where employees can be their best by offering education, a sense of progress, and meaningful relationships to adapt and thrive. Solutions are not handed down; employees find their own approach. Trust and autonomy tap into powerful personal motivation.



Does your organization have a higher purpose? Does it resonate? How do leaders model it?

In self-managed organizations, the mission goes beyond making money or winning, to making valuable contributions to a cause that elevates humanity. No small stuff! Leadership’s role is to exemplify this purpose and use it to inspire decisions. People are able to align and pursue their own purpose and gifts through their work.


Related: How to Create a 'Higher Purpose' For Your Company Culture



How is organizational information shared? On a need-to-know basis? How about financial information?

In a transparent organization, information is no longer a commodity; it flows freely. Teams need information about finance, organizational direction, and cross-functional initiatives to make the best decisions. In practice, it’s about openness and a commitment to truth. Transparency removes shadows, silos, and fear to free everyone up to focus on the work that matters.


Original publication was featured in Training Magazine


Have you already tried different management styles in your workplace? Determine how your culture can make the best one work for your business: 




About the Author

Sunny Grosso

Currently the Culture Chief at DH, Sunny’s mission is to inspire others to live BIG by being true to themselves and following their purpose. She is passionate about realizing this through positive work cultures. Through her diverse journey Sunny has been a wellness researcher, saké trainer, ultra-runner, one of the world’s first happiness coaches and, finally, a global culture consultant.

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