Empowering employees has been a palpable success method.
After seven years working for Zappos, Hollie Delaney found herself without the job title or responsibilities that characterized her, forcing her to recreate her daily routine and role across the company.
As holocracy, an innovative work method that has extended to workplaces in France, New Zeland, U.K. and the U.S., took over Zappos, a 1.2-billion-dollar online company, Hollie soon found that leadership was not really about the title, but about how you are able to inspire trust and peak performance in your peers, resulting in a much more rewarding line-of-work.
Zappos was founded as a fun, sort-of-weird and stress-free company that helps you find online all the clothes and shoes you are not able to see or buy at your local mall. After a while, the business founded by Nick Swinmurn in 1999, found itself hitting the jackpot on a 40-billion-dollar market. However, with the passing of years, Zappo´s CEO Tony Hsieh feared the company would fall into a bureaucratic, less-fun and weird place to work at, so he figured holocracy was the way to go.
In an interview, Hollie, who has re-invented herself and the way she handles her work, explained why this method has been –and will continue to be– successful and healthy for almost any work environment.
HD: I believe people in general build expectations around what you provide for them, that’s in business and in life, if you expect them to be their own boss, they are going to rise and be their own boss, if you expect them to do what the supervisor says. then they will do what the supervisor says. I love to challenge and explode that aspect, I do realize adopting holocracy as a way of work or any big change can be scary, but at the same time we´ve heard that about the countries that have implemented this concept a long ago without knowing what the outcome will be and the outcome has not been half-bad. It is very common to see a situation where there are no bosses, so, natural leaders emerge, so leadership does exist in a work group and it does not always have to come from the company leader.
CEO: What can be seen as the direct benefit of the holocracy way of work?
HD: There is having a boss and somebody at your back telling you what you have to prove and that works, there are still many places seeing results that way, but, in the other hand, if I get to choose to how I organize my work and time, then people can become more engaged and in-tune with the process. Specifically at Zappos, it helps employees go a lot more further, because, in a way, in generates personal goals and growth, understanding that if you grow, the company grows with you.
CEO: With that holocracy strategy in mind, have you found men or woman responding better to it?
HD: It has been the same, I haven’t seen one overshadow the other one, the real importance relies in a balanced team, because although men and woman have their particular virtues, they both have their weaknesses, so, having a balanced team is the best way to move forward in a quicker and better way. Having balance in your team can help change the company´s mindshift, and that is the best way to evolve.
CEO: Would you say Zappos is an extension of its employee’s personality and that’s why success has not strayed far behind?
HD: The day I came in for my interview I was received by the CEO in his cubicle, at first I did not know he was the company leader, I thought he was another employee and that’s how it was across the organization, and that really spoke to me, because it meant I was coming into a company where my dress code did not define who I was, it showed me they were interested in me for being me, regardless of those typical things a workplace asks from its workers, making me notice that my opinion was valuable for the company. By entering Zappos, I freed myself from resistance and I found it easier to identify my weaknesses, therefore, I became a better version of myself, and that goes for everyone, and we believe that shows off in the company´s final results.
CEO: What has been the biggest satisfaction you have received from being in Zappos? What are you most proud of?
HD: It’s the fact of having an environment that allows me to try new things and get it wrong, make mistakes as long as it helps you grow and do better the next time, because the truth is we fail as much as we succeed, and Zappos is pretty successful.
The fact of having a CEO that encourages and motivates but also gives you the tools to do so is key for enhancing operations. Our leaders know what they want from us and what directions we need to take to achieve and make differences. I really wake up every day and say: “I’m really one step closer to making a difference in the world”, that is what really keeps me going. It´s just about me: my work, my triumphs, my failures, and I’m happy to have this chance to make a difference in the world.
CEO: What is the best advice you have received and what would you say to young entrepreneurs?
HD: The best advice I’ve had is “just try it”, while to young entrepreneurs I would say never forget who you are and what you love, don’t let your own company or society change you, make them take you the way you are, we are all different, and all of us have a unique something we can deliver to the world.