Three Tools to Unlock Wholeness at Work


The concept of self-management is in the news a lot these days – mostly thanks to Tony Hsieh’s Holacracy implementation at Zappos.

Like Fitzii did in February, Zappos and now many other organizations around the world are experimenting with structures that don’t involve traditional managers.

This movement was inspired by the breakthrough book, Reinventing Organizations, which coined the term Teal to describe these new organizations.

Self-management is just one of the three breakthroughs of Teal organizations. The other two are evolutionary purpose and the practice of wholeness.

In an upcoming article, we’ll describe evolutionary purpose and how it’s in play at Fitzii. Today we’ll focus on how we’ve unlocked wholeness at Fitzii.


Apple and Orange differenceWholeness

As radical as organizing ourselves without traditional managers sounds, building an organization where every individual can bring his or her whole self to work, every day, is as radical, probably more.

In traditional organizations a certain degree of personal conformity is expected. The more rigid the hierarchy, the more personal conformity seems to go on. Look up the leadership of a big bank or large public corporation if you’re not sure what I mean.

For many people, working in those organizations means leaving part of themselves at the door – fundamental personal attributes like spirituality, sexual orientation, family status, health, or even dress preferences, personal interests, and sense of humour.

Every time we leave some fundamental personal attribute at the door, we send a subtle message to ourselves that we are valued for our ability to conform. Later, we scratch our heads at the lack of diversity and creativity in our organizations, or worse, feel parts of ourselves have to die off in exchange for a paycheck.

“You can measure an organization by the number of lies you need to tell to be part of it.”

Parker Palmer

Teal organizations strive to open the door to every coworker’s wholeness – inviting people to walk through the door with everything that makes them who they are – mind, body, and spirit.

It’s not a utopia – radical wholeness takes effort, design, time; it results in conflict. In Teal organizations, though, healthy conflict is a precondition to creativity and progress.



Three Tools We Use to Unlock Wholeness at Work

At Fitzii, we’ve been inspired by other Teal organizations’ wholeness practices, especially those related to meetings. We’ve tried a lot of those practices and will discuss them in a future post.

We’ve also tried out a few tools to better understand ourselves and each other, and have found three to be especially valuable for encouraging wholeness:


the enneagram of personality

The Enneagramthe Enneagram is personality typology with nine types. In my experience, the Enneagram is much different than other personality typologies – like, for example, the very popular Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Unlike the MBTI, the Enneagram gives you a predictable direction for personal growth. So many people at Fitzii have found the Enneagram useful for self-development and resolving conflict that we often refer to each other by our type numbers – a practice that has confused more than one curious eavesdropper. If you’re curious to use this tool for your own growth, start with The Wisdom of the Enneagram book by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. 


The Five Love Languages – someone recommended this book to me before I got married. Truthfully, it’s both a little bit of pop-psych fluff and one of the most helpful interpersonal tools I’ve ever used. The theory is we give and receive love in five different “languages” – words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch. We often give in the way we hope to receive and get frustrated when we’re not loved back in the way we want. My language of choice, for example, is physical touch. A simple pat on the back or a high five can lead me to feel valued and accepted. Touch is not the common language of affirmation in North American business culture, but for me, the principle of wholeness at work and the insight of the Five Love Languages has allowed me to ask coworkers for some life-and-work-affirming high fives and shoulder hugs. Honestly, they’re cheaper than bonuses, plaques, and pens and make me feel twice as good.


psychometric or personality testingPersonality or Psychometric Testing – this is both our product (Fitzii software integrates psychometric testing into the early stages of the hiring process) and our practice (we use multiple, personality tests when considering a new hire). Like Enneagram and Five Love Languages – the operative principle is that identifying and understanding our own and others’ individual differences lays the foundation for healthy conflict and productive division of labour. Psychometric testing – for traits like assertiveness and work pace – is predictive of performance in a huge variety of tasks and situations. We’re on a mission not only to use these tests for our own benefit but to make them widely available and affordable for hiring organizations everywhere.


The Reinventing Organizations Wiki describes “The ideal of self-organization would be that each person can find their niche such that their way of thinking and being has the opportunity to express itself and that their capacities can be used to the full with the possibility of further development.“

At Fitzii, evaluating and harnessing what makes each of us different – and inviting all of those aspects to be present at work – has led to an experience of work that goes far beyond any of our previous work experiences or expectations.

We hope tools like these will help you discover the same.



We Eliminated Management!… see what happens

About seven months ago – on Valentine’s Day to be exact – the team here at Fitzii had a fun ceremony to celebrate that we had officially eliminated any “management” responsibilities within the team.

We saluted each other and said… 

“We don’t have managers anymore!”

Why We Got Rid of Management

It all started when we came across an amazing book called Reinventing Organizations, by Frederic Laloux, which details the practices of 12 thriving organizations who replaced traditional hierarchical management with “self-management” practices.

These organizations made a radical shift towards employee empowerment and as a result created workplaces with amazingly high engagement and incredible performance.

The more we learned about this new organizational paradigm, which Laloux labelled “Teal”, the more we believed that it could not only benefit Fitzii – the self-management approach could solve many of the chronic issues plaguing business today.

So we bit hard – hook, line, and all.

Lucky for us, Fitzii’s parent company, the Ian Martin Group, is a B-Corp, part of a growing movement to improve the ability of business to positively impact the world. Many B Corps are attracted to self-management practices, and so with strong encouragement, we started down the road.

How ‘Self-Management’ Works

These days at Fitzii, no one has any special manager authority. Instead, we adopted a set of expectations for how decisions are made, using what is commonly known as the “advice process”.

Following the advice process means that anyone can make any decision, provided they first seek the advice of people affected by the decision, as well as any subject matter experts.

This is not a democratic or committee approach – the individual decision maker is left to make and be accountable for their decision – but they must seek and thoroughly consider all the advice they gather.

This requirement to work through decisions with all the right people not only drives both careful and creative thinking, it also uses the power of peer bonds to ensure that unpopular decisions are carefully weighed, reasoned, and explained.

Managing decisions through some version of the advice process is the keystone habit of self-managing organizations, but there are many other key activities that managers formerly took care of. Things like strategic planning, employee performance reviews, compensation setting, onboarding, hiring and (gulp) firing.

On the day we agreed to be rid of management roles we also decided to gradually implement self-management changes to all these processes as a team, with one person typically leading interested team-mates to come up with our own new way of handling each thing.

Learning From Our Journey

Now that we’re more than six months into our self-management journey we’ve had many conversations with people curious to see how it’s going. This is a major change, there’s lots to experiment with, and the payoff could be game-changing.

We were originally inspired by the 12 organizations Laloux investigated, but also have benefited from reading about other companies transforming into self-management, like the social media startup Buffer, and Zappos, the online shoe retailer who are implementing Holacracy (a more structured form of self-management).

The Zappos transformation has made self-management the biggest buzz in HR right now, and even mainstream publications like the New York Times and Atlantic are asking: “Are bosses necessary?

With all this interest, we think it’s our turn to give back and share our experiences with self-management. Hopefully we can inspire and help other organizations learn from this paradigm shift.

So from here on in, on this blog, Fitzii team members will share our progress, wins, mistakes and learnings for all to see.

Here’s a brainstormed list of potential titles for upcoming posts, which you can expect to come out every few weeks:

Why Comp Transparency Wasn’t as Scary as We Thought

How our 360 Peer Reviews Made the Best Annual Reviews Ever

Finding the Right Balance of Internal Transparency & Oversharing

The Incredible “AHAs” of We Found in Polarity Management

What We’ve Learned About Roles & Hierarchy

Lessons Learned Implementing the Advice Process

Using ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMAs) to Bond a Team

Our Process for Intuiting Fitzii’s Evolutionary Purpose

What We Learned in the First Six Months of Self-Management

[Update May, 2016: we’ve written quite a few of these posts, which you can find by clicking the ‘Self-Management & Teal’ category. The most comprehensive articles are the Six Month and One Year reviews that we did. Enjoy!]

If you’d like to be notified when the next post drops, just sign up for updates on the very bottom of this page.

In the meantime, check out the fiery five minute speech I gave at DisruptHR a couple months ago, called ‘Let’s Get Rid of Managers’.

Are you with us? Let us know what you think in the comments…

Unfortunately you can’t see my super-slick slides in the video, so I posted them here on Slideshare. People make fun of me for my addiction to PowerPoint, but this talk actually required 20 slides which automatically moved along every 15 seconds. ‘Twas a slice of heaven for moi. Here’s all the talks if you’d like to see some more of them.