Everything is Broken

The way we traditionally organize business is completely broken. Gallup says only 32% of staff are engaged and nearly 70% are phoning it in. Just as critically, 51% of everyone in your company is proactively looking for another job, right now. The same percent expect to be in a different job within 12 months. And worse yet, Harris says 86% would take some other job if it fell in their lap.

We Know It's Broken

A recent Deloitte survey of hundreds of leaders showed that "after years of struggling to drive employee engagement and retention, improve leadership, and build a meaningful culture, 92% of respondents rated redesigning the organization itself as a critical priority." This new organization is "built around highly empowered teams, driven by a new model."

Will We Fix It?

If a machine only functioned at 32%, would you put up with it? Of course not, but when it comes to staff functioning that way, we just throw up our hands and say, "Well, what are you going to do? Everybody has the same problem!" Except not everybody does.

Some companies like W. L. Gore (GoreTex, 10,000 staff), The Morning Star Co. (4,000 staff), GE Aviation (26,000 staff), Nearsoft (a few hundred staff), Red House Staging (55 staff), our company, Crankset Group (16 staff) and thousands of other large and small companies approach 100% engagement. If someone in these companies starts functioning below that, the teams either get them back up to speed (everybody has a bad day or week), or they get somebody else who wants to play at the highest levels. In these companies, deep competence and full engagement reign as the norm, and nothing else is acceptable. For them, 32% engagement isn't even on their radar.

How do they do it?

Spodak Dental Group in Delray Beach, Florida is one of our clients. Craig Spodak, DMD and his self-managed teams have created a $12 million single location practice that continues to grow in size, revenue, and most importantly, in legacy and positive impact on the surrounding Delray Beach community. In their morning huddles, everyone is participating, sharing kudos, and supporting each other. And they play together outside of work. They have full engagement, not 32%.

At Spodak Dental Group and the other companies above, nobody works for any one individual who can hire, fire or tell people what to do. The teams hire, the teams fire. And the teams set other goals and objectives that would normally fall to the owner of the practice to set. In general, decisions are made where they are carried out, and the result is highly engaged, fully empowered staff who understand that their future growth, income, and opportunities are all in their hands. The more initiative they take, the more opportunity is theirs going forward.

Companies of every size are leaving behind the outdated management practices of the Industrial Age to grow exponentially faster, with fewer staff. They're doing it with what we call a Participation Age culture that results in increased stability, faster growth, more profitability, and much higher staff retention. In short, what is going on in the emerging work world is a full on mission to rehumanize the workplace by giving everybody their brain back. And the result is nearly 100% engagement, and business leaders who are free to lead, not manage.

How Did We Get It So Wrong?

The way we manage organizations was inherited from the Factory System of the Industrial Age. That dehumanizing top-down culture and those micro-managing business practices still dominate most companies. Concepts like manager, employee, trading time for money, separating work and play, limited vacation time, an addiction to benefits, and other Industrial Age diseases still plague the business world, suppressing growth, profitability, and longevity. The assumption for 175 years was that people would not be motivated to work if someone wasn't standing over them. It turns out that management itself is the biggest factor in making people unproductive.

Why is Managing People So Unhelpful?

1) We set managers up to fail - Survey.com says fifteen of the twenty reasons someone will leave your business are directly related to their manager. Get rid of managers and you eliminate 75% of the reasons people will quit!

It's not the manager's fault. We are asking them to be superhuman: highly relational yet highly detailed, highly strategic yet highly tactical, very patient but with a high sense of urgency, great trainers, mentors, psychologists, etc. It's an impossible job. Participation Age companies split the former managerial duties among team members based on who is good at what, and the team functions at a much higher level. Nobody is the manager. Everybody is a leader.

2) The management tax is killing us - In the Factory System model most companies still use, we are taught that we need a manager for every seven to ten staff. At a large dental practice like Spodak Dental Group, they should have six or seven managers, all managed by another high-level manager. They have none.

Managers don't contribute to daily productivity. The tacit assumption is that managers make other people more productive by their presence, and the manager can get paid from some of that increase. But what if people were even more productive without a manager? In companies that have given everyone their brain back, managers are unnecessary, eliminating a huge and unnecessary financial burden on the company.

3) Managers dehumanize work and create the overwhelming lack of engagement - Engagement is not a program, it's a result. We don't need to engage people. We need to eliminate managers. Why?

Simply put, the problem is that Managers tell, leaders ask. When you "tell", you take away any need for others to make decisions, and that is dehumanizing.

Managers also delegate tasks - put this nut on that bolt. But leaders delegate responsibilities like "create happy customers" (Zappos). When you delegate tasks, you dehumanize people. When you delegate responsibility, you show trust, respect, and honor, and you lift people up to allow and require that they make great decisions as a team (this is all much more organized, safer and less chaotic than traditional management).

Leaders don't tell people what to do. They ask hard questions and train others to make decisions, and then they get the heck out of the way. Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, says, "When I'm making decisions, I am not leading." He's dead on - when he's making decisions for others, he is managing, and in the process is teaching them to be codependent on him forever going forward.

This Might Work for Others, But...

This isn't a fringe idea or experimental. It's happening in every industry, with companies of every size and shape. Some companies like W. L. Gore have worked this way for up to 65 years, and a growing tidal wave of companies are moving in this direction. In a few years, the Participation Age office will be commonplace. Those who embrace the Participation Age will thrive, and those who don't will be left behind.

Where's the Proof?

That's the fun part. All the data regarding growth, revenue, profits, productivity and staff retention is on the side of rehumanizing the workplace, creating self-managed teams, and replacing managers with exponentially fewer leaders. I had a three-month long Twitter discussion with one of the most famous management consultants of the last thirty years, who challenged every aspect of Participation Age structures and practices. The problem was that all his arguments were emotional, and all our responses were data. He eventually gave up when a friend of ours who leads a large self-managed company chimed in and let him know how much better self-management works.

A Trapeze Moment

For 175 years we've known intuitively that reducing people to extensions of machines was a bad idea, but we just didn't know what else to do. Now we know what else to do. We have options. Real, proven, time-tested, data driven options to rehumanize the workplace and give everyone their brain back. Data that is more than six decades old, with companies of every size in every industry showing great results by eliminating managers and creating self-managed, fully empowered teams. The top-down military style management model we inherited from fiefdoms of the Middles Ages is on its way out.

So the answer to 32% of engaged staff and 51% actively looking for something else is no longer, "Well, what can you do about it?" The answer is you can do what 92% of survey respondents intuitively know they should do - rehumanize your business by reorganizing around highly empowered teams. To help you get started, here's a TEDx talk I did a couple years ago on The Emerging Work World, and my second book, "Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea", to give you more confidence to embrace the emerging work world.

Don't get left behind. Please, come join us in the Participation Age!