Our culture revolution – Part 17: Rebuilding the framework to create a managerless culture

Posted by Luke Kyte
Last updated 7th February 2019

We’re just a normal agency. You may own one. You may work for one. We’re ticking along nicely, picking up new business and growing at a good pace. The team size has upped from 1 to 20 in five years, with plans of reaching 50 by 2021. Everyone seems happy.

But we want more.

Day Zero was the launch of our manifesto. Its aim? To revolutionise our culture, attract amazing talent, and be recognised nationally as a great place to work.

Over the course of the next few months we’ll be taking you to the heart of Reddico, sharing our highs, our lows, and our eureka moments. We’ll be honest and open about everything. What works. What doesn’t. Whether you’re here for inspiration, to watch us fail, or out of sheer curiosity, welcome along.

No hours. No managers. Rules set by the team. Let’s see what happens next.

We’ve changed a lot over the last six months.

But one of the trickiest parts of the manifesto to navigate was the management section. We wanted to create a better structure where middle management is eradicated and the team were responsible for choosing their own leaders.

Sounds like a pipe dream, right?

Are you a bad manager?

49% of people would take a paycut to have a different manager.

We’re forcing bad management onto almost half of the nation – and to what benefit? Are businesses prospering with the wrong people in the wrong positions, creating a culture where the best team members find alternative employment?

But why are companies plagued with poor managers? Who’s to blame?

Let’s have a look at something that’d happen in a traditional workplace.

—–

You’re the best salesperson in your team by a country mile. Every month you not only meet targets, but smash them through the roof. You’re a born seller, an absolute natural at the role.

The sales manager leaves and your company opens up the role internally. You apply instantly. You want that shiny company car and extra £10k a year pay packet that comes part and parcel. Why wouldn’t you? And surely you HAVE to land the position – you’re the best, after all.

The hiring manager agrees. You clearly excel at sales and have the industry experience they’re looking for.

Starting Monday, you’re running the show – new contracts, building external relationships and partnerships, planning the future of the sales department. You’re doing it all.

But there are also 10 other salespeople to manage.

You’ve never managed people before. You’ve landed the role because of your sales skills, not your personal ones.

But that’s fine. You can wing the people management side, right? Run appraisals, tell your team what’s going well, conduct performance reviews, increase salaries. It sounds easy enough.

—–

This is one of the big problems.

People are promoted into managerial positions based on their career. It’s just expected that they can learn people management skills on the job. Suddenly, a whole team of salespeople have a manager with no skills, history, or interest in managing them.

They just wanted the prestige of a promotion.

Splitting a manager’s role

We know a manager’s role is more than strategy. That’s why we split it in two:

Role A is what the salesperson wants to be doing. This is someone who’s clearly the most competent in their field and best placed to lead a team from a strategic point of view. The role is solely based on job skills.

Role B is completely separate. This is someone with exceptional people skills, and has the capability to (and actually wants to) coach, support, empower, mentor, and train other people in the sales team.

It all makes a lot more sense when you put it into that perspective.

Rather than conditioning people to do both (of course, a lot of people will have the skills and desire to do both), splitting the job creates two separate roles.

And better still, if you let your team choose Role B (ie the person who will get the most out of them), you’ll have a happier group of people. Everyone’s doing what they want, and getting support from those they enjoy working with.

This was our challenge at Reddico.

We wanted to split the manager’s role in half and have the team focused on what they were good at (and wanted to do).

Scrapping managers

We also wanted to go one step further and completely remove managers, similarly to the managerless framework.

This is under the premise that:

“Managers manager people. We don’t want people to be managed, but be able to manage themselves, with the support and guidance of those around them.”

This led us down the path of setting out two different roles at Reddico:

  • Department leads
  • Coaches

Department leads would (as the name suggests) lead the department, setting strategy and direction.

Coaches would be individually chosen, with the responsibility to mentor, support and empower people.

The blurred lines

But it’s not always that simple. There are a lot of grey areas to consider.

  • Who would be responsible for probations?
  • Who would run appraisals?
  • Who would decide if someone should have a salary increase?
  • Who would be your coach if you’ve just joined the company?
  • Are there any monetary benefits to being a coach?

These are just some of the questions we had to anwer, if we wanted to achieve our goal of having a managerless culture – where everyone chooses the person that would get the best out of them.

What’s next?

Next time we’ll be going into depth on the policies we’ve created for department leads and coaches, answering all the above questions with the solutions we’ve found.

We’ll be sharing the full PowerPoint presentation delivered to the team on how this will work, and be discussing the training every coach has to take – because we’re not just assuming someone has the skills to support others.

Posted by Luke Kyte