Edwin Jansen is Head of Marketing at Fitzii, a recruitment company based in Canada. We talk about the three stages of self-management adoption he’s noticed (Head, Heart, Habit) and why it’s so challenging for us human beings in the “messy middle” stage. Edwin also shares some practices that Fitzii has developed around “radical responsibility”, such as feedback, teal onboarding, and the Role Advice Process, as well as his own personal journey of transformation as a former manager.
How to follow Edwin:
- Twitter: @EdwinJnsn
Lisa Gill: So Edwin, you told me that every year on the 14th of February, you celebrate this thing at Fitzii called 'Valen-Teals Day'. What's that? Tell us about that.
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, that's our favorite holiday of the year, Lisa - it marks the anniversary of when we decided to move towards self-management. So it was February 14th in 2015 that we made an official declaration. As you know, there isn't a moment when you are entirely self-managed and everyone has done the emotional and intellectual transformation, but we thought we would have a cake and have a reason to celebrate every year if we mark that occasion. So it's been four years now, since our company has been entirely self-managed and in that time, we've doubled in size and just had an amazing journey.
Lisa Gill: So if you go back to the start of your journey then, how many people were you then? And I know you've also written a really great blog about what you see as the three stages of self-management adoption, so maybe you could signpost the journey with those three stages as you see them.
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, that's been really interesting. So I think we were eight or maybe ten people, four years ago when we started and we, like everyone, had read Laloux's book and were quite inspired by that and we had seen the challenges or the limitations, I like to say, of the 'Green, Orange' paradigm. And after reading the Laloux's book we realised these are the limitations of the paradigm - if we shift the paradigm those limitations can be gone. And so we started off saying, "What are all of the processes that require a manager?" So at the time, it was myself and one other person who had managerial authority, so there's obviously hiring and firing and performance reviews and compensation-setting, budgeting, strategy... So we just identified a few things that we wanted to start with, then the things that we wanted to tackle next and reorient, and then the things that we would punt until some time in the future, and it was (as you can imagine), compensation that we punted for the future.
And then we just started working through all of these practices and the redesign of these practices; we spent a lot of time looking at how other organisations had done it, and sort of went on our way. And obviously, we were a startup growing fast, so we had a lot of work to do at the same time. So we took a very measured approach through that transformation. And then really was only recently I'd say, in the last six months or so that we started to notice that individuals, as they enter into a Teal, self-managing environment, go through this transformation which we have found have three stages, and this is something that we've noticed, it's not scientifically, or psychometrically true, but it is in line with a number of frameworks for adult development theory.
The first stage we call the 'Head' stage - that's the intellectual understanding of the Teal paradigm, and how it is different from Orange and Green. And, this is what you say, "is like drinking the Kool Aid". So someone learns about it, understands it, can reference how things would be different in Orange and Green versus Teal, and then they want it - they say, "Yes, I want to be there" and we can't really hire someone unless they're past that first stage of an intellectual understanding, knowing what they get into.
Then you have the messy middle, the 'Heart' stage - the emotional stage of the Teal transformation, and this has been quite challenging because people believe typically that they're ready for it and that they want it. But what it often requires is a very hard look at yourself, and your own fears and biases. We found the Enneagram to be particularly helpful as a personality typing tool. Typically, someone gets some kind of really difficult feedback or is in some conflict with someone and then their deepest fear around how they operate in the world is triggered. And then we like to say leadership development is a team sport, so the whole team gathers around that person and says, "We got you, you don't need to be afraid of this thing". And so they ultimately have an emotional awakening around their deepest fear and realising that they don't need to operate out of that fear. And someone we know is out of stage two, (the Heart stage) when they are now able to put the needs of the team ahead of themselves because they're no longer afraid that they need to take care of themselves, that the team will take care of them. And I think Simon Sinek's book: 'Leaders Eat Last' is a great example and description of what that kind of leadership looks like.
And then the final stage is the 'Habit' stage - the behavioral stage, and you never get out of this stage, it's a constant thing - in fact I was triggered just on Friday. You have a whole bunch of Orange and Green habits that you need to unlearn and then if and when you get triggered, you can then operate from that place of fear and you can regress into older bad habits. And so that's a constant behavioral change, where you're constantly trying to improve what we call 'Teal Leadership Behaviors'.
Lisa Gill: That's super interesting. What you were saying about how you know people are out of stage two is when they're able to start thinking about the team and kind of balancing the needs of the individual and the collective, and it makes me think about, (I don't know if you've read this book), 'Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect' by Matthew Lieberman?
Edwin Jansen: No, but I want to.
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Lisa Gill: Yeah, it's really cool and he talks about Maslow's hierarchy of needs and that actually, it's wrong and that before any other needs, we have social needs as human beings. If you think about when we're babies, we would die without some kind of parental figure that's going to feed us and shelter us and protect us and teach us things. And so it kind of carries on in life - we're a social species, that's how we've survived and that's why we perceive social threats the same way as we receive physical threats - the brain doesn't really distinguish the difference. So it makes sense to me that people, in going through this transition: to becoming a Teal or self-managed organisation, that's scary and calls into question a lot of the things that I value and my self-worth, and all of this stuff. So it makes sense that I have to go through that work before I can feel safe enough - until my basic hierarchy of needs are met, for me to then we start thinking about my teammates and the bigger picture.
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, it really is inner work and we like to say at our company: "We get people done through work, not work done through people". So in many ways, the working together is the fodder for your own leadership development and your own inner work. And we have found that when people don't get through stage two, or if it's a particularly rocky path through the Heart stage is because they don't feel safe or they don't trust the intentions of the feedback that are given to them. And we've spent a lot of time working on a very clear expectation for how feedback is given and how feedback is received. And it's super important that we provide feedback as a gift and from a place of love, not from a place of fear. When feedback is delivered from a place of fear, fear begets fear, and then it becomes kind of a spiral. And so we've really put a lot of attention into how do we help facilitate experiences for people to do that inner work and get through that emotional stage?
Lisa Gill: Yeah that's very connected to I'm always asking people on this podcast about the 'Human Skills', because I don't like this phrase, 'Soft Skills' - I think it belittles what I think are very crucial skills, especially in a self-managing organisation. At Fitzii, how have you guys (as you said) created spaces for people to develop some of these skills, like giving feedback in a way where it's not coming from fear?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, and I love that point. I've always thought 'Soft Skills' - that doesn't feel right. I believe these skills are the most important skills to learn and it's a real shame, a tragedy almost, that we're not spending any time in schools teaching leadership skills and personal development. But it's a good question. I would say that our feedback practice has been the biggest accelerator to building these connections and these teachable moments for people. So we got a little book that's called 'Feedback That Works' and they have a model called 'SBI', so if something's not sitting well with you around something that someone did, 'S' is 'Situation': "Here's what happened". 'B' is the 'Behavior': "You did or said this", and 'I' is the 'Impact' on me: so not "what I heard" or "what I'm speculating" - not a judgment or an opinion, but "I felt this". And the feedback is given from a place of "I don't think you wanted me to feel hurt or disappointed or anxious or whatever that impact was, and so I'm giving you this gift of feedback so that you can understand the impact of your behavior".
And then the other thing that we've realised is, may be even more important than good SBI delivery, is how to receive feedback. And we call that 'TIR'. So you've just given me feedback, Lisa - 'T' stands for 'Thank you': "Thank you for that gift, it took some courage and love and care for you to give me this feedback" and the more difficult or the more constructive or critical the feedback, the bigger the gift is, and the harder it is to give to someone. The 'I' is for 'Inquire': "So now Lisa, let me understand what did you mean exactly by this? And what were the other bad things? And have you ever seen me do this before? And do you think other people might feel the same way?" And the 'R' stands for 'Record': so we've actually gamified feedback. So you've got to go into our Microsoft Teams, or if you had a Slack channel, then you've got to do a "#TIR" and you have to thank the person who gave you the feedback. And at Fitzii we have a 'Feedbacker of the Month' award, so whoever gave the most gifts, gets recognised with a fun award every month. And that's been an amazing way to not only increase, but also shine a light on the people who are doing the most to help others learn and grow in their positions.
Lisa Gill: That's a really beautiful way to destigmatise feedback and turn it into something that we celebrate.
Edwin Jansen: Yes, and for me personally I realised fairly early on that it was important for me as the former manager to be the best TIR in the company because by the nature of my former position, and also I'm 'an Enneagramate', I'm a challenger, I'm an opinionated, scary kind of person to other people. So I needed to do an over-the-top job of making the person feel safe and welcome and rewarded for giving me the tough feedback and to do that in a public way, so every time someone would give me feedback, I would write a long post about how valuable this is and how much more of that I wanted to get.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, you've hit the nail on the head there about another point that I'm so often talking to former managers about, or also founders or owners or CEOs of businesses that become self-managing is, as you said, the extra work you have to do to create that psychological safety for people to not just be like, "yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am" or obey or feel like they can't speak up or to really feel like the invitation is there to give feedback in all directions. So that's really interesting that you touch on that. I'm curious then how else have you transitioned the leadership culture in Fitzii for you and for others who were formerly managers? How has that process been?
Edwin Jansen: Well, I like to say that going Teal is like leadership development on steroids. And I, my former life, was a manager for many years who was lucky enough to go through all of these different leadership development programmes and courses and reading business books and whatnot, and I learned more in the first couple of years not being the boss than I did in 15 years of being the boss. And the biggest opportunity there is, when you have positional authority, people don't tell you what they really think, they don't give you their real feedback, they don't bring their whole selves to work because they're afraid, and I like to say, even if the CEO is the Dalai Lama, people are still going to be afraid to give that person feedback, to tell them what they really think, to ask the big, hairy questions.
And so for me, and I think for anyone that's a manager and transitioning into being a Teal leader, or self-managing contributor, you have to be proactive in addressing your perceived power and authority: you got to make fun of yourself, you have to admit every mistake that you do, you have to be the most vulnerable person in the room, you have to speak last, if at all, not first, you have to undo this tendency that the dynamic people have with you, for you to have power over. And it's very difficult to change your dynamic with people, so I found it helpful to just talk about it, and to put it out there. But it's been a lot of personal development for me, and some of it very difficult. But it's definitely a transformation that needs to happen or you could have all of the practices, but if your former managers haven't gone through that emotional, Heart stage and seen what triggers them, and what they're really afraid of, and why they want to wield power, you're gonna have some problems.
Lisa Gill: I want to go back to those three stages of self-management adoption that you mentioned, so Head, Heart, Habits. And I know that many organisations that are developing themselves in terms of Teal or self-management or decentralisation, really struggle with recruiting and onboarding people, like how do you help people understand what this means? I think people get very excited when they hear about it, like, "oh, that sounds fun, everyone gets to do whatever they want!" And of course, you know, in reality, it's very different. So how do you do that at Fitzii? How do you find the right people and how do you onboard them in a way that sets them up for success in a self-managing environment?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, it's definitely been interesting because you're absolutely right, people read about self-management and there's all of these misconceptions, and the things that they think are going to be difficult aren't difficult, but the things that they didn't realise would be hard are hard. And recently, in the last six months or so we've updated our hiring process and that now includes a bunch of core reading and understanding of the Teal paradigm. And then we do what we call 'A Teal Fit Interview' where we have multiple people and we spend a couple of hours with this individual, and we need to make sure first of all, that they truly understand the Teal paradigm and that they want it. And then we start getting into the stage two - the Heart stage: are they ready for this kind of emotional turmoil that Teal inevitably brings up our driving value or principle we call 'Radical Responsibility', which is every person is 100% responsible for their own engagement in their work and they're responsible for their own impact on the business and on the team. And that essentially means that if you see any problem or opportunity, you need to do something about it, or let it rest and literally let it rest. So you can't complain because you could do anything.
And so we need to make sure that people are at least self-aware enough to realise how difficult that's going to be when they run into some situation where their tendency will be to point fingers, but you actually can't point fingers at anyone here. So I think that's largely gone quite well. I know there's a lot of debate: people don't think that most people could handle an environment like this. I tend to believe that the vast majority of people will thrive in a Teal environment more so then they will in an Orange or Green environment, and that's actually proven to be true. We have had a couple of people who didn't make it through the first three months of what we call 'The Onboarding Process' where they have a Teal sponsor and a person to help them through and we have had a couple of people who didn't get through that phase but the vast majority have gotten through it and are thriving and absolutely love this paradigm.
Lisa Gill: I'm curious about moving onto more of the realm of habits and processes and practices because I know at Fitzii you have your role advice process. So you mentioned there about 'Radical Responsibility' and if someone sees something rather than complaining or pointing a finger or whatever, they're encouraged to do something about that. So what is the 'Role Advice Process' and how does that work?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, the 'Role Advice Process' I'm particularly proud of. I like to say it's the closest thing to a panacea that I've ever seen in business: you got a people problem? Do a 'Role Advice Process'. And we had read this book a few years ago called 'Prime to Perform' and it was like Dan Pink's 'Drive', but a much more data driven way, and they essentially looked at all of these high performing cultures and said, "What did they have in common?" And what they found was that amongst all of these various HR practices, whether it's having a compensation system performance management, that the biggest difference or the biggest driver of a high-performing culture, was how effectively that culture did what they called 'Role Design'. And I remember reading this and thinking: "What's 'Role Design'? I don't remember taking any courses in business class about 'Role Design', what is that?" Well, what it is is what it sounds like. In an Orange or Green environment, it's the manager's job to design the roles: who does what, and then put people into those roles. And so we realise, obviously, it doesn't work that way in a self-managing environment.
So we needed a way for people who weren't quite maximising their impact and engagement in their roles to evaluate doing different roles. So we created this practice and it has just worked so beautifully. Essentially, the individual says: "I think I could be maximising things if I was in a slightly different role or maybe an entirely different role", they announce that they're doing this 'Role Advice Process' publicly, they ask some specific people to be advisors, but anyone can be an advisor, we use Loomio so that everyone can see all of the feedback and see the role as it's moving through, and the individual is essentially asked to understand themselves introspectively, but then also to get feedback from outside around three things (if you imagine a Venn diagram) - what does the business need? What do I love? What's very purposeful, meaningful work for me? And what am I good at? What are my strengths? So they do a self-assessment first amongst those three things and then they just get a whole bunch of advice. And so often, it's just amazing to watch in Loomio as they're having conversation after conversation everyone's putting their notes and their feedback in there, you see this person's getting bounced around like a pinball. And it can be very difficult, but it can be amazing, or it's almost always amazing because the person ends up in this much better place at the center of the Venn and so we've had people that have done multiple Role Advice Processes, like almost every year. Basically, each person may not know where to be, but the group knows exactly where they should be. So the 'Role Advice Process' is just answering that question: "What should I be doing? Where should I be?" And it works beautifully.
Lisa Gill: And how do you make decisions generally in Fitzii? What practices do you have for that?
Edwin Jansen: Well, after reading Laloux's book we obviously started experimenting with the advice process and yeah, that obviously works quite well. One challenge there is people not intuitively knowing in each case how much advice to get and what vehicles, like: "Should I post this and seek feedback? Should I book individual meetings, group meetings?" Then as we started to help our parent company move towards self-management, we saw a need and opportunity to more formalise our decision-making process. We had also found a tool from my friend Samantha Slade, who just recently wrote a great book, (and she's been on your podcast, Lisa, so I'm a big fan of Sam's), and she had written an article about generative decision-making, which I think she lifted from holacracy or someone did, but, wherever it came from, it's really great: it's a way for a group to make a consent-based decision and to really co-create a decision.
So we ended up creating almost like a flowchart that we call 'The Sensing and Responding Flowchart', and it starts off with notice of a problem or an opportunity. If you're not sure that you want to kick something off, you would post what we call an 'Inkling' (#inkling): "I wonder, this is a thing? Does anyone else care about this? Does anyone else want to do something about this?" If you already know you want to do something about it, the core question is, if it impacts a lot of people, then you launch what we call a 'Sensing Process', which would end up with getting a whole bunch of advice and stakeholder alignment and then it would end up with a generative decision-making session with those people who really care about it. If it doesn't impact a ton of people, then you go through a typical advice process. And so that flowchart helps people to navigate their options and ultimately make a decision that leverages collective intelligence efficiently.
Lisa Gill: So you mentioned that you're starting to help your parent company now transition to becoming a self-managing organisation. So say something about that: what does the landscape look like? What's the project and how are you starting that?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, that's been really interesting. So our parent company, they're called the Ian Martin group; about 150 employees in this division that we're working with. So the other manager who was at Fitzii, when we went into self-management about a year and a half ago or so, she moved over into the parent company and has been a fantastic leader there to help them to organise and to start moving in this direction. And it's been such a fantastic success at Fitzii, that they decided a few months ago to actually do GDM: they did a Generative Decision Making the leadership team, and they decided to move towards adopting what they call a 'Teal Operating System', so they found that to be a useful analogy. And then we've just been working through it.
So we have a number of committees or working groups that are working on what we call the 'Common Practices'. So so far, there are six 'Common Practices' that the company has ratified and to put into place, and then we have a number of other potential common practices that are being worked through, like this decision-making workflow, the feedback practice as a common practice, the role of vice processes as a common practice. So they're just working through the application of all of these practices. But I would say the most interesting thing is that these three stages that we were talking about earlier still come into play, but we have various people at different different stages in the organisation. So that's what has proven to be challenging: some people are in stage one - the intellectual stage - some people haven't even totally bought into it, some people are in the messy middle, in that emotional stage. And so yeah, it's been really fascinating, really great work, but a lot of positivity, a lot of energy around this. And it's difficult, but it's going really well, and I'm sure it's going to turn out for the best.
Lisa Gill: What would you say - for the benefit of listeners, over the last four years and now with this transitioning project for the larger parent company - have been the most challenging aspects of becoming a Teal or self-managing organisation? And what are the things that perhaps people don't realise are gonna be challenges?
Edwin Jansen: Well, the first thing I would say is all or at least many of the challenges that people think that they're going to have don't materialise, like, if people can set their own salaries, they're all going to pay themselves all this money. And it's actually the opposite is true: people pay themselves less than they would have asked for from their manager. And so the difficult thing is really this emotional heart transformation. Creating these new practices is fun and the first time that you launch a new practice, it's not optimised, it's not optimal; you make mistakes. But it's an iterative process where these practices just get more nuanced and powerful over time.
So the challenge has not been in the development or implementation of these practices. The challenge is always in how the individual receives the feedback that they're getting or as they're bumping up against the business challenges or fears that business just brings up in people in hitting performance targets or whatever that is. And then power over people or we approach a situation from fear that creates negative feedback, and then if they're afraid to give that feedback or have that conversation with people, it's all in the interpersonal work and the personal transformations: that's where the challenge is but that's also where the fun is: that's where the development and growth and meaningful work is. So, yeah, it's nothing to be afraid of because we like to say when you have an issue, you shine a light on it. And sunlight is the best disinfectant. So we just constantly are talking through things and working through things. And so, yes, it's a challenge but I don't know if that's the right word to use. It's the fodder that we have to learn and grow and develop as people.
Lisa Gill: And you mentioned self set salaries there - what is the compensation model at Fitzii? And how did you develop that?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, well like I said earlier, we punted on it for a year or so. In retrospect, actually, someone asked me this the other day, as a parent company is considering which things to do when, I guess the common knowledge is, well, we shouldn't do compensation now. And I just found myself saying actually, it wasn't that hard, I wouldn't even say you need to punt on it because of all of the things we changed, it was actually quite easy. So what we did was we first had what we called the 'Open the Kimono' meeting: so it was only 10 of us at the time but we had this meeting where everyone had to say, "here's how much I'm getting paid, here's how that came to be and this is how I feel about that". And what was interesting is, there was a lot of trepidation anxiety coming into that meeting. And then when you find out it's like, oh, okay, now everyone knows how much Edwin gets paid. It really was this anticlimactic kind of experience where, "Okay, now, I know, that's not a big deal at all".
And and then we started doing what we ended up calling the 'Compensation Advice Process' - so anyone who wants to address their compensation would announce. We have the option of doing it each quarter, and they essentially answer a number of questions around how they feel about their comp, how they got paid, do some market research, and then they go and get advice, and just like with the Role Advice Process, you can see all of the feedback and advice that people are getting in Loomio as they're going through, and there is a bit of pinball happening there as well and ultimately, a lot of fodder for personal development when if there's a situation where you think you are worth more or making a bigger impact than you are, and you've got people saying "I'm not so sure about that", as you can imagine, that's definitely an opportunity for reflection. And it's quite an easy practice to administer, but it ends up being extremely difficult on the individual because so many of us, myself included, we tell ourselves these stories about what we're worth and the impact that we're making, and then when we're confronted with the reality of how other people feel about it, that can be very tough to take. So it's actually not a thing that people want to do and I think in the future, we need to figure out what our compensation principles are and guidelines so that we can make it a little bit easier on people.
What it ends up being is you get all of these different, what I would call, 'inputs'; what I'm worth in the market, what my replacement costs would be, what people perceive to be my business value impact on the team in the business, how much money I need. There's all these things and then at the end of the day, you need to prioritise one or two of them over the others and pick a number and tell everyone why you chose that number. And so I think we're just making it a little bit unnecessarily hard on people by not saying we prioritise generally replacement cost over market value, for instance, or to have bands or guidelines for people to work within.
I mean, I got some feedback from my colleague and she said, "Do you ever wonder whether people like you are just overpaid in the market? And that maybe we shouldn't align ourselves with this crazy market that overpays VPs of marketing?" and I'm like, "Oh, God, no, I don't want to think about that." But yes, I do think that we are overpaid in the market and now I have to navigate that and I have to justify and think about and everyone's gonna see you know, so It's very emotionally taxing on the individual, but it's quite easy to administer.
Lisa Gill: Do you think it will be more challenging in the parent company with 150 people and in an organisation? I mean, I don't know what point you had the 'Opening the Kimono' ritual in your journey, but I'm guessing that you had gone through some phases of the transition first before doing that.
Edwin Jansen: Yeah it was about a year or so into the Teal transformation.
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Lisa Gill: Yeah, because I'm wondering if people are still in the Head only stage, for example, or they haven't yet navigated through the Heart stage, would those conversations be more tricky, more thorny?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, you're absolutely right. I think that the biggest opportunity for the parent company and the big thing that I think will make the transition as smooth as possible, is to get more people through that emotional Heart stage. Because essentially, if any one particular group has at least one person that is past that stage, then at least there's going to be that voice represented in the advice process around compensation or role. And that's what we've noticed. Like Laloux says: "The level of consciousness of the group can only go as high as the level of consciousness of the senior leader of the group". And so we just we need more Heart-based leaders out there, and we need them spread out amongst all of the smaller teams and once that's the case, then all the rest of it will take care of itself.
Lisa Gill: On that note, what advice would you give people listening around how to navigate that messy middle, as you call it, the Heart stage? What can we do for each other in order to create the conditions for people to go through that stage?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, I wish that you would ask all of your guests that and then send me the answers, because that's the thing that I myself am sort of obsessed with right now: is how do we identify where people are at, and then help facilitate experiences with them that increase the chances that they will respond from a healthy place, a place of love and not from a fearful place? So we're actually playing around and testing a number of different assessments right now: leadership framework assessments, integral assessments, emotional intelligence assessments.
Then this idea of leadership development being a team sport, it's so fascinating because someone, let's say, goes through a comp advice process and they are proposing a $10,000 increase, and then they get a bunch of feedback saying, "I'm not so sure that you should take any increase right now", and it's interesting because almost always, the initial response is a pointing fingers blaming response. And then the team, the people that this individual trusts, they come around and they say: "Okay, maybe some of this is true. Other people could have done things better, yes, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about you. So we love you, let's really unpack this feedback that you've gotten around your impact not being as great as you think it is." And when we do that and we keep with almost the tough love, like gently saying, "Okay, yes, some of that feedback, and that's for them but there was a gift that you've received, you haven't totally received it yet and let's help you through it." So that's really what we do and it works if and when the person is eady for it, and sometimes they're not. That is the messy middle, but wow is it amazing when people come out the other side and they realise that this thing that they were afraid of, they are no longer afraid of, or they don't need to be afraid of anymore.
One other thing that I would add is we've been using the Enneagram for a few years and it has been, in my opinion, on a completely different level than any other personality typology. It's a shortcut within for each individual because their Heart stage, it's ultimately triggering this deepest fear of their personality type. So my deepest fear, ironically, is to be controlled or to not be in control. And so my interest in moving into self-management was actually addressing the scariest thing for me, which is to give up my control on my power to the collective. But then whenever I see someone even theoretically subverting or challenging these Teal practices, I get triggered, and I get afraid, and I act out of that fear and I get back into dominant control push mode. So it's just amazing how these things are interrelated and we just find that the Enneagram is just this great shortcut to understand what triggers that person, what they're really afraid of, and then how to help them; what they need to hear and feel in order to move out of that fear.
Lisa Gill: That's interesting. You mentioned to me before that part of the parent organisation is based in India. Is that a different landscape culturally in terms of helping people transition to self-management?
Edwin Jansen: Yes, it absolutely is. I mean, India has been working in a hierarchical, caste type system for many generations. So the deference that generally the people in India have for their parents and for controlling power structures is very different than we have here in North America. So yeah, it's very different and I think India's version of Teal will be a different shade than where we are in Canada and in the United States and we're taking a different trajectory working through that. That being said, every year, we participate in an employee engagement survey called 'The Great Place to Work Survey', and actually, last year, we were really proud - we were the number two, mid-sized workplace, our parent company and Fitzii, in all of Canada. And it was so heartwarming when you read the comments and one of the questions is: "Why is this a great place to work?" And you could tell by the English writing style, which of these comments were coming from people in India, and the comments were just so inspiring, and so heartwarming, because we realise that maybe in Canada, here, we can have a 97% employee engagement, this is a great place to work. And maybe another good company might be 87%. But in India, we're a 97% and maybe the average is a 47%. So the difference that we're making there, the impact that we're making, is literally many people in their comments said, is life-changing and shining and creating and raising the standard for what a workplace can be like in that country is just really meaningful work for us.
Lisa Gill: It's interesting. I was having a conversation on Twitter about - because I hear this a lot where people say, "Well, self-managing - can that really work in Asia or in Africa or places where the culture is very hierarchical?" And and I've just been in India myself doing a workshop with a self-managing company there. And my sense is that, yeah, it's a funny paradox, because on the one hand yeah, this there is this very hierarchical, family tradition and caste system, and on the other hand, I see things like Jugaad Innovation and things like that and I guess, Eastern philosophy as well if I look to like China and places like that, in some ways, feels like there's a lot of ripe potential there for self-management and perhaps it's the influences of the West that have ironically, slowed those things down or gotten in the way somehow. So it's really interesting to me that the different dynamics and the different trajectories, as you say, I think there's no one size fits all. So it would make sense that you would have a different path for not just different organisations, but different cultures or countries.
Edwin Jansen: Yeah, what I love is that it really is about the collective intelligence, the ecosystem flourishing and being what it wants to be. And so it's going to be different just because it's a different place and it'll be really interesting to see how all that difference unfolds. What I always go back to is, (and this is this is helpful because it's the saviour for working against my deepest fear), is that as long as we're harnessing the collective intelligence, and as long as those really strong voices realise like me: "Okay, I've got to tone it down. I've got to subvert my power. I've got to be careful about people who give me too much authority." As long as that collective intelligence comes to the surface, we can't make any bad decisions; we made the best decision that we could at the time. There's no regrets and that's something we can do: we can teach people equal talking time we can, we can create an environment of psychological safety, we can encourage people who have power over to tone it down, and we can encourage people who experienced power under to step up and to create safety for them when they do that an expectation for them to do that - that we can do. And then what happens in these cultures is going to be magical as a result.
Lisa Gill: You mentioned at the start of the conversation that when you read 'Reinventing Organisations' you realised some of the limitations or the tensions you were experiencing as a company were kind of Green or Orange limitations that were dependent on that paradigm. What have been the biggest benefits for Fitzii in becoming a Teal organisation?
Edwin Jansen: Yeah well, it's interesting. So before I came and helped to start Fitzii for our parent company, I was the Director of Marketing at quite a large technology company in Canada and people used to joke with me that, "instead of being a marketing, you should really be in HR - you spend all your time on all this HR stuff." And so I had read Jim Collins' 'Good to Great' and his books and I was all about trying to understand: what's the purpose of our organisation? What are our values? And how do we create a feedback of culture and learning and development? And so I spent a lot of time doing all of these things.
And then when later on, and we were at Fitzii and I read 'Reinventing Organisations', I realised you can't push values onto people, you can't force values onto people, you can't just because you put your purpose on the wall, and try to hire people who say they care about that, that doesn't mean that that's actually the purpose of your organisation. And after moving into Teal, I had extremely high expectations for what this could mean to our little organisation, because I had been so beaten up by the limitations of Orange and Green and almost I had become quite cynical of the ability of Orange and Green to really be effective at things like employee engagement. And so my expectations were high. And I have to say in the last 18 months, I'm regularly like jaw on the floor, can't believe how amazing this is, in so many and almost in literally every different way. But the highlight for me is the connection that people have with each other, the level of trust and vulnerability, genuine care, people bringing their whole selves to work.
I remember we had a feedback session at our last retreat and I remember looking out at this field of people connecting one on one, almost like a speed-dating, were giving each other feedback, and just the feeling of connection and care of all of these very diverse people was just amazing. Then the leadership development, the personal growth that I have seen people go through is nothing short of amazing. And then the boring business stuff: the business strategy, the results that we've been able to get, the fun that we have, the quality decision-making that happens when you can harness collective intelligence. I really feel like the company is thriving in a way that it could never thrive in an Orange or Green paradigm - there would be too many limitations. So yeah, I started by drinking the Kool-Aid and now I want to serve it to as many companies as I can. But we really feel like our next step is to help make this work really well for the 150 people in this parents company's main division, and then there's another company that they had acquired last year, which we'll probably get to after that. And I think after we've proven how amazing this is a few times, then we can start thinking about how to take over the world: paint the world Teal, which is something that you're engaged in doing.
Lisa Gill: Well, on that note, do you have any final words of wisdom or advice that you'd like to offer listeners that are in this journey themselves: either they want to become a self-managing organisation, or they're in the weeds of it and navigating all of these opportunities and challenges. What words would you like to give them?
Edwin Jansen: Well, it's like preaching to the converted, right? I'm sure if someone's listening to your podcast, they probably know more than I do about what their situation is and what they're trying to accomplish. The one thing I would say is that I was two years into not being the boss before I realised: I got some feedback from my colleague. She said, "I noticed in these last three or four group meetings that you got into push mode." And this is my personality type; to really get persuasive and pushy with my thoughts and opinions. And she said, "now, here's what that did to me: it shut me down and made me feel like my opinion wasn't valued and made me question whether I should even bother engaging because you were going to do it anyway" and all of these things. And she said "I know you don't want me to feel that way. So I'm telling you". This was shocking to me because I'd always thought that that was a good leadership trait that I had, which was (in my mind) I was being persuasive and compelling, not controlling and domineering. And she said "Yeah and I think if you were to ask some other people, they might have something similar to say." So I went around, I talked to seven different people and I just stopped after seven, because they all said the same thing. I did what we call a 'Stop - Start - Continue' exercise, which was stop doing, start doing and continue doing.
And then I published my takeaways and how I was going to change and what I was looking for, to the whole group. And what I realised was I didn't need more work on practices, I didn't need to know more about Teal, I needed to get more feedback and I needed to do some more inner work and realise why was I behaving like that in those situations, but not others? And it was when my fear was was being triggered. And then how do I need to change as a result?
So my only advice to everyone would, seems like, less people are getting into self-management thinking about it; they're quite focused on how everyone else will handle this and what everyone else needs to do. But ultimately, it took me a couple of years to realise - no, you've got to start with yourself, you have to take 100% responsibility for your own personal development and impact and only in doing that can you actually create the kind of change that that you're looking for.