Does Your Organization Have a Mentoring System?
I no longer buy from Zappos. The reasons:
CLICK HERE to see how Zappos chased me all over the Internet.
And CLICK HERE to see how Son of Zappos chased me all over Europe.
A bizarre Wall Street Journal story of May 20, 2015 described how Zappos’ 41-year-old CEO Tony Hsieh ordered a cockamamie new management structure — Holacracy.
“Created by a former software executive, the philosophy is spelled out in a 30-page ‘Constitution’ where doing a job is called ‘energizing a role,’ workplace concerns are ‘tensions’ and updates are made at ‘tactical meetings.’ ” —Rachel Emma Silverman, The Wall Street Journal
Simply put: Holacracy means no hierarchy, no bosses and no job titles.
Employees manage themselves.
Anyone at Zappos not liking the idea would be given at least 3 months’ severance to go away. 210 of Hsieh’s 1,500 employees opted to take the buyout.
Many of those that remain are apparently unhappy.
“Employees say the new system has been confusing and time-consuming, especially at first, sometimes requiring five extra hours of meetings a week as workers unshackled from their former bosses organize themselves into “circles” and learn the vocabulary of Holacracy.”
A Quick Personal Digression
- In 1951 I apprenticed under Evelyn Lawson, publicity director of the Ivoryton (Connecticut) Playhouse summer theater. In two weeks Evelyn mentored me through the process of how to write, mimeograph and mail a press release announcing a new play. My release was printed verbatim in the Middletown Record. At age 15 seeing my words in print was the biggest thrill I ever experienced before or since. Icing on the cake: all 8 performances were SRO. Evelyn’s mentoring changed my life.
- Check out The Corporation as an Incubator about the four guys who mentored me at Grolier Enterprises. In the most intense two months of my life, I got the equivalent of a Ph.D. in direct marketing. (NOTE: If you bother to read the story, don’t miss the comments from readers. Fascinating!)
The Obvious Flaw of Zappos Bosslessness: Who and Where Are the Mentors?
Imagine the frustration of, say, 12 people — all at the same corporate level — spending hours in a “circle” trying to solve a problem or implement a new system. A 20-year veteran with the company has the same input and authority as a new hire.
A Majority of Workers Want a Boss
What triggered this column — apart from Zappos nitwittery — was reading David Greene’s riveting Midnight In Siberia: A Train Journey Into the Heart of Russia.
Greene was National Public Radio (NPR) Moscow Bureau Chief. The centerpiece is five weeks spent on a 4,000-mile pilgrimage from Moscow to Vladivostok. On the way he amassed a no-holds-barred look at how individual Russians deal with the violent past and present of this sprawling country from the tsars to Putin.
Green’s handler, translator, guide and go-to guy on the trip was his “dearest friend in the country” — fellow NPR staffer Sergei Sotnikov.
David Greene is like Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Green also believes everybody in an organization should be equal. From Midnight in Siberia:
I would often say, “Sergei, we are colleagues — we both work for the NPR foreign editor back in Washington.” Sergei would smile and say, “But you are the boss.” Russians can’t imagine life without a boss, without hierarchy. In the workplace they crave structure, predictability, and a pecking order. These touchstones offer comfort in a world that is otherwise chaotic and unpredictable.
Takeaways to Consider:
- The only way a person can grow — in life and in business — is to have mentors: parents, teachers and bosses.
- Too often a new hire arrives on the job, is shown an office, computer, telephone, the whereabouts of the lavatories and told to “do his or her thing.”
- Needed: On-the-job mentoring by knowledgeable superiors in two critical areas: (1) the work and (2) the corporate culture.
- Imagine a department of, say, 12 people — all at the same corporate level — spending hours in a “circle” trying to solve a problem or implement a new system. A 20-year veteran with the company has the same input and authority as a new hire.
- No boss/no mentor is a recipe for failure.
- Two highly successful organizations built on intense mentoring are: the United States Military (all branches) and Procter & Gamble
- I have no experience with P&G, but I spent two years in the Army, learned a hell of a lot and was honorably discharged as a Sp/4 (Specialist Four).
- I loved it!
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