I recently read Fast Company’s publication of Tony Hsieh’s email to all Zappos employees entitled “Adopt Holacracy or Leave.” I love how progressive Tony is with his business model and management thinking. Even more, I appreciate Tony’s gentle demeanor blended with his blunt honesty. Tony has a vision for creating self-organizing and self-managing business-centric groups at Zappos. His mandate states that as of 4/30/15, “in order to eliminate the legacy management hierarchy, there will be effectively be no more people managers.” Tony has gone as far as telling people that if they don’t like the new model or don’t believe that they will be successful in the model, then they should quit. In true Tony style, he will make it easier for people to leave with outplacement assistance and severance. He is a class act!
I understand the desire to remove the role of “managers” at Zappos, people don’t want to be managed, and they don’t want to be told what to do and to be checked-up on! A dictionary definition of “manager” says “one who handles, controls, or directs.” Handles? Controls? Directs? I’ve never wanted to be handled, controlled, or directed. Have you? Those words are about telling people what to do . . . the outdated management style of “yell and tell.” Where are the words that focus on coaching and developing the people who are the heart and soul of any business?
The concept of a manager-less organization is one that I talk about it my book, The Un-Bossy Boss. I predicted, that in the future, the role of managers will go away but will be replaced by a “Coach”, a people coach. A coach’s job is to bring out the best that others have to offer, a partner in people’s development. Tomorrow’s managers…these individuals must learn to coach, to engage employees as human beings, and organizations everywhere are awakening to the importance and impact coaches can have on their businesses. They’re starting to invest in building the skills of managers to become coaches and developers of successful people. This should be seen as a wake-up call for old-school managers. For them, the future may be bleak. But for those who want to coach and develop people, their time has arrived.
I didn’t see anything in Tony’s email to Zappos employees about coaching. What do you think? Is the role of traditional managers dead? Are coaches the new managers? Is there a place for successful organizations with neither managers nor coaches? Let me know what you think.