Like most things in life, this is for the ones who want it.
Two years ago I was invited to join an organization that worked in self-management. That was the first time I heard these two words together, and I had no idea what it really meant! By Patrícia Faria
Since then, I found many people curious about this topic. From family to friends, when I share my passion for self-management these are the first three questions that pop up:
What is that? How does it work? Hummm, ok… but honestly, does it really work?
Probably, you have the same questions, right?
Well, before we go any further, I should tell you that I don’t have the right answer to these questions. This is a story of how I discovered this world and what I got to learn with it.
Why try it?
When LemonWorks asked me to join the team, the first thing that caught my attention was the honest way how people talked to me. Everyone talked to me as a real person, no Ms. Architect this or that, the team showed me the project and the points where they thought I could add value.
I asked what this self-management thing is all about and they told me that’s just a different way of working where people are fully responsible for their decisions. Long story short: adults treated as adults.
At no point in this conversation, I was told that this was the right way of working, just that this is how the team decided to work and it made sense for them to keep going like that. We talked about autonomy and trust — two fundamental skills for anyone who decides to enter this world — and how everyone gets the chance to decide their path inside the organization.
The team shared that self-management is not all rainbows and unicorns. From the moment you willing to accept that the people you work with are humans (not resources), you have to be prepared for their doubts and weaknesses.
We are raised to avoid failure, so we are afraid of it, even when we know that failing helps us grow.
You know when you’re witnessing a marriage and the priest says “for better or for worse”? I kind of felt the bride about to marry this project! I still had many questions in my head but the idea of trying this myself was exciting enough to overcome my doubts.
After knowing about self-organization, the idea of coming back to a hierarchical workspace stopped making sense to me. I wanted to try something different and see if I could work in this way.
One of my biggest fears was feeling lost. No one would tell me what should I do nor when should I deliver a project. How could I know if I’m not in the right path?
Figuring out that everyone around me wanted me to thrive was the most important thing I could have learned with this experience.
When we stop managing people and give them autonomy instead, you allow them to look for the purpose of their job and how can they bring their best work to the organization.
Although you might think that this is a lonely path (I’m the one calling the shots, right?) I can tell you that building trust within your team is the key to figuring your part in the organization. Doubt is present in everyone’s mind, yes, even in that person that always looks like it as it all figured out!
What I found?
Working in self-management forced me to stop and think about what really matters to me and where do I wanna go. Not once, not twice but as many times as I found my self questioning my own purpose.
Sometimes I just felt lost. Before, when this happened I could blame it on my manager and their decisions. Now I’m the one calling the shots for better or for worse.
I learned that not being sure about my life and my job isn’t a weakness, it’s a chance to discover what I want to do next. I learned to trust the ones around me (this is a really hard one for me, so I’ll keep working on that for the next years!) to share my doubts and listen to theirs. At the end of the day we are all on the same boat with the same goal: keep cruising and not drown!
Working in self-management allowed me to learn new things every day. With the right attitude and the right people around, there’s no limit to what I can do. And this is as valid for everyone else on the team. We are free to choose where each one of us wants to go and because we love and trust each other, we make these choices together according to our purpose as a group.
A different path
Since I joined this project, I got to meet several people for whom self-management didn’t make sense. No, they were not bad people, they weren’t irresponsible nor lack some specific skill. Actually, most of them are amazingly talented people with whom I got to learn a lot.
They just found other paths and projects that made sense for them: some found other challenging projects while others just went looking for more structured organizations. And yes, some of them felt that self-organization just wasn’t for them.
When we notice someone is struggling, our first approach is to stop for a minute and talk to that person: hear want challenges is he facing and how can we help. This happens a lot! For most of us, this is our first time working in self-management so we’re trying to figure this out.
You can’t expect someone who has never ridden a bike to do it perfectly for the first time. You gotta get some bruises before you’re ready to go. And even if you learn how to bike, it might not be for you. Maybe you’re a brilliant runner and the bike is just not your thing.
We always try to keep this in mind when we meet someone that didn’t fit in our system. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just life.
Self-management isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok!