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What is the job of the president in a self-organized company?

Picture by wolfpixSince being appointed president of Pyxis Technologies a few weeks ago, I have been wondering what it means to be “the president” of an organization with a non-traditional governance model. Wanting to be successful in my new role, it is important for me to figure out what is expected of me – hence the questions about the meaning and purpose of my job – and as if the universe wanted to ensure I would answer these questions, Raphaël prompted me to describe what the new role meant for me, during a recent visit to our Paris office.
Since our organization heavily relies on autonomy and self-organization, the new role made me feel like a manager within an Agile organization. So here’s what I came up with (so far):
  • Leading the growth of the organization: working with team members and the leaders of the various communities in establishing their vision and their objectives and supporting them in achieving the targeted growth by providing an external perspective and/or some experience and skills.
  • Raising the performance bar: most people agree with setting goals and my role is to ensure that people set challenging goals for themselves and their community. Achieving a simple goal might be easy but it doesn’t make people grow, it doesn’t take them outside their comfort zone. My role is to get people to step outside their comfort zone.
  • Providing the means for people and communities to grow: wanting people to step outside their comfort zone without providing support for them to succeed would not only be unfair and unreasonable, it simply makes no sense.
  • Ensuring people operate with integrity and holding them accountable: integrity is a simple concept for me, it means to “say what you do and do what you say”. Consequently, I am taking responsibility (until the community members do so themselves) to hold people accountable for their commitments in order to make sure they operate with integrity. Imagine how powerful an organization can be if people operate with high integrity!
  • Making sure each group has defined clear protocols and plays by their rules: I personally don’t feel the need to control what people and communities are doing but I need to make sure each group has defined clear rules so the team members understand what is allowed and what isn’t. There is nothing worst than erratic rules and behaviors for people to be un-successful at what they do.
  • Committing to making people successful: it is much easier to get rid of people when they don’t meet certain expectations than it is to work with them at closing the gap. I am not saying that nobody will ever be asked to leave the organization (there are legal reasons why we might want to do so) but in the case of lower-than-expected performance level, I am committing to truly work with people so they can succeed.
  • Coaching people: it is the team members and the community leaders who are part of the day-to-day action. As a coach, my role is to maintain enough distance to properly observe the team’s performance in order to ask powerful questions that will enable the team to find alternate ways to reach their objectives faster and more efficiently.
  • Adapting my leadership style: people and communities are at different level of maturity and based on the maturity of the group, I will adapt my leadership style to provide the best level of support for their performance.

As I was defining for myself what role I should be playing, I started reading over the week-end Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance.

Leaders exercise a kind of gravitational pull on their team. Their behavior sets the performance “should be” for others – Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance.

The books describes the following behaviors which are important for me:

I am pretty sure I will be adding to this list as weeks go by but it seems to be a good start. Needless to say, I am not kidding myself thinking that I will have a perfect score on all these fronts but making my job description public and asking my colleagues to hold me accountable is a challenge I am ready for.

Would you add anything to this list?

  1. Thank you Martin,

    I really appreciate your openness.
    I would be pleased to help you evolve in your new role. Count me in for feedback.
    I’m looking forward to find these ‘skills’ or ‘categories’ in your next 360° eval.


    October 19, 2010
    • Wonderful! I truly appreciate your feedback so I will make sure to seek your input.

      Thanks for your comment.

      October 19, 2010
  2. Congratulations, good luck and great success in your new position. We’d love to have you come on the Weekly Leader podcast and share some of your thoughts on leadership with our listeners. From the above post, it’s clear you have charted yourself a proper course. We look forward to following your journey.

    October 22, 2010
    • That might be interesting! Send me more info – martin [at] analytical-mind [dot] com

      October 24, 2010
  3. Martin,

    I appreciate you for articulating your role and telling us so. I feel trusted and included.

    I have two suggestions for you.
    1. You might want to find someone you trust to apply to you what you intend to apply to others. Especially, someone who’ll ensure you’ve set challenging goals for yourself and your community.
    2. You might want to consider that integrity is not only aligning acts with words, but also aligning acts and words with thoughts.

    November 14, 2010
    • Thank you for your comment and suggestions Emmanuel.

      For #1, I’m actually counting on everyone I work with to apply the same approach as I intend to apply to others. I believe in true partnership and as such, I expect to be treated as I am treating others.

      As for someone setting goals for me, that is a little more challenging as I have never met anyone who could set higher goals than the ones I set for myself. I am highly demanding of others, but even more demanding of myself.

      For #2, I fully agree with you. I might even add intentions. Aligning words, actions, thoughts, and intentions would be considered true integrity.

      November 14, 2010
  4. Great list. To this I would ask if you would consider adding an emphasis on learning to the list. So often, I find that organizations emphasize performance so that people view mistakes as a death knell rather than an opportunity for new learning.

    January 26, 2011

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