Putting the ‘Self’ into Self-management 

Written by 
Lizzie Benton

When we think about self-management or new ways of working, the very first place we look, is at the organisation. Conversations immediately turn to hierarchy, systems, and how the work is going to get done. But I believe there’s a step before that, and it’s one that doesn’t get enough attention.

Before we can begin to operate in a new environment, we need to support people to adapt and thrive in a workplace that is now different from the world of work they’re used to. Which is why in June we piloted a new Semco Style programme to explore the skills and mindset needed to transition into a self-managed organisation. Not only do we want to help people to adapt to this alternative way of working, and help them to understand what self-management is; but to support them to discover whether it’s a system they actually want to operate within in the first place.

Here’s the journey of our pilot to programme. A true Semco Style experiment.

Being a self-confessed personal development junkie, for a long time I’ve seen a clear link between the areas we develop in our personal growth journeys such as self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and growth mindset; and the mindset and essential skills required to function in a self-managing team.

Self-management doesn’t just require us to suddenly change the ‘org chart’ into a flat structure. Teams must develop a growth mindset and be open to change. Individuals also need to separate their identity from their title, something which can hurt our ego if we’ve been attached to our titles for too long. And above all, we have to learn that behaviours are a symptom, not the full picture.  We have to be able to hold adult-to-adult conversations where we can hold space for one another, and recognise each others full potential.

That all takes some deep personal work and time.

So, it got me thinking. Shouldn’t we be helping people to learn these essential skills, because then they’ll perhaps become more effective and fulfilled in self-managing teams.

The idea of developing our ‘self’ to be in or ready for self-management was ignited.

Luckily for me, I had an advocate who also felt that this was a missing piece of the puzzle, my Semco Style coach and trainer Eveline Hadewegg Scheffer.

During my graduation as a Certified Semco Style Expert, I presented the idea that I would like to develop a course to help people develop their personal skills ready to work in self-managed organisations. Eveline encouraged me to pursue it, and so for a few months we got together over Zoom and ideated about what it might look like and what should be included. It’s safe to say that there are so many links between personal development and self-management, that our biggest challenge was finding what to not include.

When we got it to a place where it felt like a full programme, I shared the idea with my Semco colleagues Barry and Mark, and we decided that a pilot would give it the road test it required.  In June 2023 we kicked off our pilot with nine pioneers ready and willing to dive into a personal development exploration which we hope would give them the awareness, essential skills and knowledge to prepare them for life in a self-managing organisation, and  help them to discover if self-management was for them at all.

Self-management is just as much an unlearning than a relearning.

Something you’ll often hear self-management explorers say, is that self-management has given them more things to unlearn, than to relearn. This is because we have to release ourselves from the mindset and habits of industrial ways of working, and because this old way of working is so entrenched in our previous careers and education system, the unlearning can be the toughest part of self-management.

Like a bad smell that sticks around long after you’ve opened the windows, outdated and bureaucratic ways of working are present in much of our modern culture, which means there can be a period of adjustment.

And the truth is, this unlearning never really stops. New challenges and experiments will reveal more layers of workplace conditioning that you might never even known existed until you went digging around.

This is yet another reason why there’s such a need for us to create safe spaces where we can uncover these mindsets and habits and relearn new ways of working, thinking and behaving.

It’s truly amazing rediscovering yourself when after years of working in such rigid ways you feel unleashed to contribute in a more meaningful way.

A glimpse into a pilot in action.

Across 4 weeks we guided our pioneers through a personal development journey of mindset shifting, connecting deeply with values, and of course, getting an insight into what life is like in a different world of work. You could say, it was a bit like a self-management safari. Not only were our pioneers learning ever more about themselves, but thanks to our incredible Campfire storytellers, they got to hear first-hand what a personal shift self-management has been for those who have taken the leap to work in more progressive organisations.

Of course, the true test of any pilot is getting the feedback on whether it’s been a success, or whether it’s back to the drawing board. Here our pioneers share their experience of being part of the programme;

“Putting Self into Self-management really brought things back to basics for me. I've developed an understanding of what being on a highly effective, self managed team should look like. But I had limited underpinning theory, and the idea that on a team, each person is a unique individual who plays a role to make self management a success really brought things back to basics for me. The course helped me understand more about my personal values, and the way a diversity of values on a team can help individuals to develop and grow. We've shared inspiring stories; we've heard the personal journeys of self management experts; and we've learned about personal skills and techniques that will help us not only with self- reflection and improvement, but to evolve our self managed teams ( anyone who is part of a self managed team will tell you - is never a destination, but a constant journey!)” - Katy Stanley – PTHR

“If you're curious about self-management and want to know what it would take to feel comfortable entering this world, or you already have a strong passion for it and want to build a strong foundational understanding of what will help you succeed, then this is the course for you.  

I came away having built better self-awareness, more understanding, new insight, new experiences of trying and applying different tools, and above all having travelled through this with fascinating people who were open-hearted in sharing their rich experiences.”- Clare Shaw  

“I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I liked the fact that there was a varied range of people from different sectors and with difference experiences. Everyone was very friendly and supportive which helped a lot with sharing experiences. I loved the fact that someone said I was a good listener, I do not think my family would agree!” - Kathy Wormald

“This course made me open my eyes to what I hold professionally important, and to be able to recognise in both myself and my organisation, what effective, meaningful and people oriented self-improvement and self-management really looks like.”- Simon Curtis

From pilot to official Semco Style programme.

Developing this course has been a true example of us living our Semco Style Principles, and showing the power of bringing creative innovation to life when self-management is in play.

We’re delighted that the pioneers of our pilot gave the programme an incredible 9/10 rating, which means Putting Self into Self-management is officially part of our Semco Style Academy.

As a live virtual course, we’ll be looking forward to welcoming new explorers from across the UK to support them in taking their first steps to develop their self-management muscles.

If you would like to join the next co-hort, contact us to join the waiting list.

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