Self-Led Teams

Ron Macklin & Michelle Mosolgo

Self-Led Teams

Episode 9: Self-Led Teams

Michelle asks Ron: How do you hold self-led teams? Doesn’t someone have to lead, somewhere?

Ron says it’s about people leading themselves. It means the group works together without having someone in charge. Then, the team decides together how to achieve the outcome they’re working toward.

How is a self-led team structured?

There may be different points that different people take the role of leader, depending on who has the best knowledge, the best capacity, or the best idea at the time. There is no ego in this way of being. But there may be an “artist” who paints the picture of where the team is going. It means everyone will build on the team’s work.

Michelle asks Ron what management or formal leadership needs to know about self-led teams in order to find success with it.

Ron says the most important thing is to believe in the team you have. Notice if they’re scared, notice if their fears are showing up. Be there to encourage them to come back to the self-led team if they try to step away. Setting your ego aside to create with other people can help you celebrate as a group.

Ron shares a metaphor about Egypt and the Pharaoh -- it can be scary making the shift from being told what to do, to having the freedom to do things how you want to do them. We may have a tendency to drift back into old habits, and being in a self-led team can be scary.

When it comes to managers of self-led teams, or the “Chief Believers,” Ron says it’s all about trust. Believe your people are trustworthy, and create the story in your head that they are trustworthy -- and then speak that to them.

Michelle shares a story about a previous position she had as the head of a help desk that had operations in 73 different countries. At first, she had a hard time letting go of control but she found that the local teams knew their markets better than she could, so she just had to trust that they knew how to do the job best.

Ron asks Michelle: How do you work through it when you feel that a self-led team comes up with an answer that you don’t feel is the correct answer?

Michelle says the first time she experienced this, it turned out that, after running an experiment, the team’s answer was actually correct, even though it wasn’t what she had expected. So they changed it, but it was hard because her management didn’t understand.

Ron shares a metaphor about forming an “umbrella” around the team to keep his team protected from outside forces so they can create. And sometimes, Ron has to put himself on the outside of that umbrella. He thinks back to an old management training video he once saw: “The greatest compliment a manager can ever have is that he’s no longer needed.”

Michelle asks Ron: Do you have any stories about leading a team to the “other side” and becoming self-led?

Ron shares a story from when he was in Houston, Texas. When he joined the organization, the team was tired of hearing from upper management what they could and couldn’t do. Ron and the team did some rearranging, storytelling, and believing in people. It took a few years, but eventually they were nominated as the best place to work in Houston. You could see the trust, authenticity, and vulnerability with all the members of the self-led team.

Ron says they ran lots of experiments for those who weren’t ready to transition into being a self-led team.

In Ron’s experience, being part of a self-led team doesn’t work for certain people, and their best option may be to find a different place to work. He never starts by holding the story that they’re going to “get rid of someone,” but it might not be the right fit. But he always wishes them a happy life, wherever they go next.

Ron says one of their stands was: “If you don’t want to be here, we’re okay with that. But then, you’ve got to go away.” The amount of people that were let go, in this example, caught the attention of the larger company. But Ron and his teams wanted to make sure the people in their self-led teams really wanted to be there.

Michelle says that in her experience, sometimes people who have gotten let go are happy down the line, because it forces them to really sit down and examine what’s important to them and what they want to do.

Ron says that it can be scary as a manager at first when you have a self-led team. You have to have the courage to let your team run experiments and figure it out. But you have the space to take care of your team in better ways before. Michelle says she was amazed how much she could learn from each person on a self-led team.

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

Self-Led Teams

What is a self-led team and how do they function? Ron and Michelle discuss the power of self-led teams and letting go of control in this episode of “The Story in Your Head.”