Nearly 3 decades ago I lived in a Buddhist monastery in Spain. Although I'm clearly not Buddhist today and have left that train of thought completely, there was one lesson that that really made an impression on me. I learned that you should never kill a spider because it could have been your mother in a past life.
Ok, so I don't necessarily buy that philosophy anymore, but I still resist killing those little creatures unless they're threatening me or my family. If no one's in harm's way, I capture and release Mr. Spider back into the wild. I believe it's the right thing to do.
But there's another reason why I don't kill spiders, the real reason in fact.
What happens when you cut off the head of a spider? (This isn't a trick question...)
Now here's the wild part. I'm not much of a deep sea diver, but there's one creature that I would have no moral issue cutting off one of its limbs, even though it poses no harm to my family. The starfish.
Something absolutely crazy happens when you cut off one of its legs. Not only does it continue to live, but it actually growsanother starfish from that cut off leg! It regenerates. It's nearly impossible to kill it.
Listen up, because this "animal observation" is one of the secrets to getting the freedom you crave.
See, this phenomenon was noticed by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, the 2 authors of "The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations." They realized that the behaviors of these two creatures aren't just interesting science discoveries. They're real-world metaphors for two types of organizations.
First, there's the "spider" organization. We're all familiar with this type of organization. There's one leader on top who's the brainchild behind all decisions. He gives orders and he has the control. If you lose him, the organization falls apart. You cut off its head and end up with a dead spider.
But there's another type of organization, the "starfish" organization. This organization runs on a different set of rules. There's no central leadership. There's no boss on top issuing orders. All are leaders and all have power. If you cut off one, the organization continues. It's timeless.
Take Wikipedia, the largest, most comprehensive encyclopedia that's ever existed. It's actually mind boggling how enormous it is. It hosts close to 40 million articles and has about 10 edits made per second!*
How did that happen?
It's a starfish organization. It has no leaders, only moderators. Each individual who contributes has the power. It's decentralized so it's unstoppable. It will only keep growing.
Don't think it's possible in a "regular company"?
Check out what happened yesterday:
Darrel Bishop, President of Metaltech, a metal fabrication company used to be the classic leader. He told people what to do and solutions were generated from him alone. His company was a "spider", a leader-follower environment. Darrel wanted more freedom and more sales, and that's where Brand Launcher came into the picture. Together we shifted the leadership. We empowered his employees and gave them responsibility. It was a gradual process and Darrel became freer and freer.
But the real test came this past month. A few big orders fell through and they were close to 20% short on making their numbers for the month. But they didn't end in the red and here's why.
Darrel made the courageous decision to hold weekly meetings where he opened up his books to his employees, because part of creating a leader-leader environment is transparency and vulnerability. When his employees saw that they weren't going to make their numbers, they started problem solving together. They remembered a customer of theirs who had an order scheduled for some time in the future. The Metaltech team realized that they would be more than happy to receive their order early and Metaltech would be able to make it for the month.
They rallied the team, sped up production, actually assisted in the manufacturing, and got this company their order by the end of the month.
Wow! But here's the really important part. Darrel admitted that this never would have happened before he changed his business to a leader-leader model. Before he would have run around trying to solve the problem himself and tell people what to do. And he would have failed miserably. "They came up with a solution that I never would have on my own." Darrel has a "Team on Fire." They're a group of leaders. They're a starfish. They're empowered and unstoppable.
What's more is that Darrel is freer. "Having a team like this takes the stress off of me. I'm not the only one making decisions."
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Here's the 3 word solution to building an unstoppable, self-sustaining organization that will finally give you the freedom you crave:
Create more leaders.
It goes against everything you know, but you're job as a leader is not to take control. It's to give control. It's to empower your team. It's to put the decision making where the information lies. It's to train your team by building a Path of Ascension for them.
*Find out how Toyota surpassed GM and became the #1 car maker using this one counter-intuitive principle HERE.*
I'm not telling you to quit your job and everything will magically run on its own. Nor am I suggesting that your company should become leaderless. I'm advocating building a self-sustaining, empowered team.
The next time an employee asks you what to do, before you answer him ask him this simple question, "what do you think you should do?" Don't offer any suggestions until he has thought about the answer. Take a genuine interest in his solutions.
Ok, so many leaders do this and they still have a leader-follower company. Here's why:
They don't follow up. They dump and run. This is about delegation, not abdication. Create a closed feedback loop where you're constantly training them and providing them with helpful feedback. That's how you'll end up with a group of leaders. One big company meeting won't do it, it's the small, consistent changes in behavior and thought that will make the difference.
He may be shocked and press you for the solution. Hold off and genuinely take interest in his thoughts. His suggestions may surprise you.
Don't buy it?
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Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,