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5 Steps to Move Towards Culture Based on Partnerships Rather Than Hierarchy

May 16, '19 by Gabriel Fairman

A Boss will set the expectations, provide the tools to reach those goals and oversee the execution. That's the traditional approach right. And a good boss will set clear expectations, provide great tools and constructive feedback. Right? Wrong. At least for me.

Step 1: Sharing Values and Vision

The way I enjoy being a boss starts by agreeing on a vision. If we cannot agree to aspire towards the same overarching vision, then there is not much sense in engaging in something together. The vision requires a true emotional buy-in from the team. It's got to matter. That is why the "why's" around the vision are just as important as the vision itself. And in order for an authentic buy-in, we need profound alignment of values. In our case for instance, we value change, transparency, simplicity, compassion and effectiveness. If our vision does not reflect those values, or if the people who embrace the vision do not embrace the same values, the engagement will quickly fade away.

Step 2: Agreeing on Goals as Parameters Rather than Bottom Lines

Externally imposed goals are not as satisfying as self imposed goals. By allowing teams to set their own goals, they will truly own their failure and their success. Reaching or not these goals can no longer be blamed on the arbitrary nature of goals that are set by people who do not really understand the challenges and opportunities that the people on the ground face. Goals need to be revisited according to how the organization as a whole is performing. Sometimes the goals was too low given how well the product is performing, sometimes the goals was too high based on any number of challenges the company can be facing. Goals are important so that we can draw lines on the sand and agree on how something will be measured but they cannot be do or die things in an organization. If goals become overemphasized and rigid we start to promote a culture of fear of not reaching those goals rather than a culture of mutual commitment and interdependence. 

Step 3: Understanding the Goals are Systemic and a Symptom of Good Work

We also need an understanding that goals are systemic, interdependent, and a consequence of the work. A sales team that has a sales target cannot achieve that goal without the proper collaboration of marketing, product, customer success as well as the company as a whole. By oversimplifying goals and putting excessive pressure on a few individuals, rather than producing a cohesive and harmonious organization that is committed towards a single goal, you will have frustrated, overworked sales people that will begin to bend over backwards to achieve that goal. This is not good. We need the goals to be shared and owned by the organization as a whole. Goal driven cultures will trickle down to all levels of the organization and pretty soon you have an entire organization that is committed to gamifying these goals as opposed to really putting in the best work so that the company achieves those goals as a result of the great work. 

Step 4: A Deeper Understanding of Accountability

It's really easy to be another angry boss. Why is this not ready? Why did we not achieve this? Who screwed up? Spreading blame is a cowardly and toxic game in an organization. As leaders, we need to understand that all of the success and failure is owned by the leader and a result of the shared vision and ownership with the team. Sure, sometimes there is clear negligent work that needs to be addressed, but in a harmonious organization where people have their hearts and minds in the right place, it's about understanding the interdependencies and intricacies that require solving in order to move the organization to the next level. It's about empowering people to decide more, own more and determine more their own professional destinies. 

Step 5: Leaning on Everyone's Virtues

I don't know perfect people. I do know lots of people that are amazing at a few things. Those few things are the pillars of a strong organization. Instead of giving into the temptation of requiring people to conform into an egomaniacal self-inflated perception of how I work, it is much more productive to appreciate and heighten what each one does best. And if I so happen to know something that could be useful to that team, i can collaborate with that team rather than demand them to be a certain way. Here is an example. I am great at starting things. Not so great as a manager once those things have been started. I can get to work with people that are much better than I am at managing and rather than being critical of them for not starting as many things as I would, I can get those things started for them and transition them so that they can manage them. 

This is not a recipe for success. It is a recipe for my personal satisfaction at work. While I am competitive and determined to get our organization to its vision, this needs to happen because all of the elements are carefully orchestrated and coordinated rather than by brute force. It's the only way I can ensure that once we get closer to that vision, it will still remain true and relevant to me. If the ends justify the means, everything falls apart in the process and I will most certainly lose sight of the immense pleasure I see in my work. 

Gabriel Fairman

Written by Gabriel Fairman

Gabriel is the founder and CEO of Bureau Works. He loves change—and eating grass.

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