Context, Not Control
Independent Decision Makers
We want our employees to be great independent decision makers; to only consult their manager when they are unsure of the right decision. The leader’s job at every level is to set clear context so that others have the right information to make generally great decisions. That said, we strive to develop good decision-making muscles throughout our company. We pride ourselves on how few, not how many, decisions senior management makes. This doesn’t mean we want hands-off management, but it does mean each leader’s role is to teach, to set context, and to be highly informed of what is happening instead of simply micro-managing.
The best way to figure out how the context setting needs to improve is to explore a sample of the details. But unlike the micro-manager, the goal of knowing those details is not to change specific small decisions, but to learn how to adjust the context of the scenario so more decisions are made well.
There are some exceptions to the context, not control mindset, such as an urgent situation in which there is not time to think about proper context, or when a new team member has not yet absorbed enough context to be confident, or when it’s recognised that the wrong person is in a decision-making role. These things happen and when they do strong leaders are essential.
We tell people not to seek to please their boss. Instead, seek to serve the business. It’s OK to disagree with your manager. It is never ok to hide anything. It’s OK to say to your manager, “I know you disagree, but I’m going to do X because I think it is a better solution. Let me know if you want to specifically override my decision.” What we don’t want is people guessing what their manager would do or want, and then executing on that guess.
If you disagree on a material issue, we believe it is your responsibility to explain why you disagree, ideally in both discussion and in writing. The back and forth of discussion can clarify the different views, and concise writing of the core issues helps people reflect on the wisest course of action, as well as making it easy to share your views widely.
We do not seek to preserve our culture, instead, we seek to improve it. Every person who joins us helps to shape and evolve the culture further. We find new ways to accomplish more together. We hope every few years we will feel a real difference in how much more effectively we are operating than in the past. We are learning faster than ever before because we have an increasing number of dedicated people with diverse perspectives trying to find better ways for our talented team to work together more cohesively, nimbly, and effectively.