Brian of Holacracy

Brian Robertson, Joanne, Ron & Michelle

Brian Robertson of Holacracy

Episode 23: Brian of Holacracy

Joanne introduces Brian and then ties the idea of moving towards holacracy and the stories we all form in our own heads. She asks him to describe the story of what holacracy is and how it works.

  • Brian describes holacracy as a framework for running a company without a top-down hierarchy.
  • He continues to describe it as a way of getting clear roles, responsibility, accountability, and alignment.
  • He then uses a metaphor comparing holacratic practices to the human body, and how nature has chosen this approach to scale levels of autonomy.

Joanne then asks as people are moving towards this new story of holacracy, what are the stories people have the hardest time getting rid of and replacing with the new stories.

  • Brian says the hardest part of learning holacracy is not learning the new framework, but rather unlearning the old framework.
  • He then details an example story of needing a boss or an authority figure that makes decisions, is particularly difficult to change.
  • He goes on to detail other stories that are difficult to get rid of such as only getting the authority to do something if everyone agrees.

Ron then asks Brian how the story people have in their head about fear, and how he leads people through that space and that story.

  • Brian says that the key to removing the fear that people feel is by giving a sense of purpose.
  • He then continues to say that it has to be a compelling purpose, and while the fear might still be there, people won’t give that fear power over them.
  • Brian describes how when you get into the meaning-making frame of someone, their identity, having a purpose can help someone more clearly have a sense of identity.

Michelle describes how in certain roles, there has to be a consistent story of trust. Trusting others to perform their roles, and trusting yourself to perform your role. She then asks Brian what is required to work in this type of environment.

  • He says that nobody is typically ready, but rather by putting people into a role that expects it and calls upon them to build the skills in that context is the best way.
  • The best way is to live holacracy, but with support, and understand that everyone is going to be constantly learning and growing in their roles.
  • He then details lots of the different ways and sources where people can find others to support them in the process.

Joanne tells Brian of how they have found the less career experience people have, the easier they adapt to different models, learning, etc. She then asks Brian what characteristics he notices that clue him into who will have an easier versus harder time making the transition.

  • He agrees with Joanne that the younger people are, the less stories they have to forget and overwrite to put new stories into practice.
  • He then says that is one of the challenges as well, as the younger people are the less experience they also have.
  • For a company however, he has typically found the leader is the one who has to bring in the idea of moving to a holacratic system. That leader has to be very capable of changing their frame and be an expert self-architect of their own stories.
  • Brian then describes these leaders as typically having done a lot of self-development work and very self-aware, as well as very conscious of others.

Joanne realizes that if one’s current role is focused on the management of others, that this new system might seem like one big threat. She then asks Brian what the story should be for the people holding those types of roles.

  • Brian says he gets asked this all the time, along side how he, as a former CEO, dealt with giving up power.
  • He tells them that their question is wrong and that he hasn’t given up any power, but instead feels that he has more power not less.
  • He then details how holacracy and the processes it involves gives more power to everyone in the system, and gives an brief example of how this played out at his own company.

Ron then says as people work through their programs, people are always surprised at the end with a new way of being and a new space for themselves. He asks Brian what that process looks like for him and others that go through the change to holacracy.

  • Brian says people tell him all the time how life changing the process has been, not just professionally, but personally as well. He then gives a story he heard from an old client.
  • The other change he sees is that when the boss – subordinate relationships are gone and everyone is working together as peers, it creates room for more love in the workplace and for people to be more human in the workplace.

Ron then asks where people can learn more about holacracy.

  • Brian says start with the website:
  • He also has a book people can find called Holacracy
  • There are also trainings and online webinars to give people a better taste of what holacracy is, and what it looks like in practice.

Join us to hear how understanding the idea of “self talk” — and what you can do about it — could change your relationships and life for the better.


Episode Summary

Brian of Holacracy

In this episode of “The Story in Your Head,” Ron, Michelle, guest host Joanne Rusch, and guest Brian Robertson discuss holacracy. The group asks questions about it as Brian tells what it is, how it works, and why it is so revolutionary in the way that businesses are being governed.