The classic org chart we all recall from our Organizational Behavior class is not just outdated; it’s dead wrong.
While it intends to organize the complexities of business, it ignores the fact that people make up an organization, not boxes of matter. It has led to a caste system mindset in business, which no doubt has capped business potential.
The very intention of business is to be expansive in thought and action, for the purposes of growth. So I propose a new construct: the inverted org chart, with the CEO at the bottom.
The powerful visual conveys the single-minded intention that the CEO reports to everyone.
In fact, a more apt title might be “Chief Everyone Officer.” More than a clever reframe, it’s a mindset. It’s actions that empower and create an energy force multiplier that can only inspire creativity.
Here are some examples of this mindset in action:
Power is abundant: Healthy leaders don’t hoard power, because they know it is not a scarce resource; it’s abundant. There is room for anyone to take part, and even add to it. Make room in your relationships for more of your people and watch them rise to the opportunity. Eventually, they’ll be doing things you don’t do, and maybe can’t do for your clients. That’s not something to be feared; it’s something to harness and scale across your organization.
Fear and creativity can’t co-exist: Recognize there are two forms of fear: the fear you may intentionally create through orders, feedback, tone, body language coupled with excessively high expectations, and the innate desire to want to perform at a high level in your presence. The truth is that fear has no place in creativity. Creativity is a high frequency source of energy, channeling passion and vision into something great. Fear is a low frequency energy consumer. Fear will eventually eat creativity for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Your job is to know this, and continually snuff out fear whenever you see it, feel it or smell it. Period.
Trust on day one: A culture that requires trust to be earned is a culture that is running scared. Creative license demands many things, but the baseline is trust. Creating a safe place to explore, be curious and invest in new ways of thinking isn’t an option; it’s a mandate. Lack of trust may be a key driver in the dreaded “house style” that many try so hard to avoid. Trusting on day one has risk, for sure, but it’s a bet you should make every time. Who’s going to create the most interesting work: the team that trusts its leaders, or the team that knows its leaders will question their ideas to death?
Excess capacity is excess opportunity: “Excess capacity” is the time honored enemy of agency profitability. Or is it? This is all about your vision for the future, belief in your team and willingness to realize it. When presented with a report that shows 65% staff billability, most agency leaders begin the old exercise of cutting. Alternatively, you can look at this as an opportunity to take on that community initiative you’ve been wanting to do, or bring some proactive thinking to Jane Client, or develop the new service line we discussed in our last offsite. You get the idea. An excess of creative talent is not a liability; it's a tremendous asset to grow your awesome talent, and your business.
How does the idea of becoming the Chief Everyone Officer feel to you? Is it scary? Stupid? Could it make people wonder what you’re doing all day long? In your mind, yes.
In reality, it sets the stage for talented creatives to flourish and continually elevate the work. It creates a level of service so high that no single person or team could replicate it. It makes your company a friend worth having, instead of a vendor that is barely worth enduring.
I’d love to hear what you think and promise to respond to every question, comment or snide remark.
Bob Bailey is CEO at Truth Collective.