“To lead people, walk behind them.” The wisdom of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, rings particularly true in the contemporary workplace. Gone are the days of ruling the office with a draconian iron fist. Instead, organizations are decentralizing power and dismantling traditionally flat hierarchical structures to promote freedom and autonomy within their ranks. As we discussed in a previous article, this approach helps the Cubert workplace maintain its innovative mindset.
Just as importantly, this attitude has helped us nurture an environment that fosters psychological safety as well. By encouraging feedback and practicing active listening, individuals in positions that, traditionally, would have delegated and overseen task assignments, can create much more organic, productive, and dynamic relationships across the organization. Employing this style of leadership, in which projects are thought of as an open, ongoing dialogue from ideation to fruition, creates an environment that encourages questions to be asked and mistakes to be made while, together, team members work towards a solution. Keeping employee wellness top of mind has helped spark many of the initiatives that continue to make Cubert a success.
That said, we’ve all heard what happens to kitchens with too many cooks. To create a culture where team members not only feel safe and included but empowered to act autonomously, to encourage team members to assume leadership positions on projects they’re passionate about, to create more opportunities for collaboration and more opportunities for innovation, and to do all of that without burning the soufflé? Cubert had to shift perceptions.
OUR ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
“The way we’re structured is, we have a core community of team members based out of our office in Toronto,” explains Co-Founder Marius Ronnov, “and a network of professionals we collaborate with that are all over the planet. So project management can be somewhat daunting, at times.”
To circumvent this, Cubert puts a lot of faith into its people on an individual level. “The people we prefer to work with, in-house or otherwise, have an entrepreneurial mindset that we strive to maintain. Most of them already are entrepreneurs or have been at some point, so it isn’t very difficult.” Accountability, passion, and the ability to work independently are musts at Cubert, and individuals with an entrepreneurial slant tend to have those traits in spades. To keep those skills sharp, Cubert distributes leadership responsibility evenly among team members.
On the “ground floor” entrepreneurial team members are routinely given the freedom to take leadership positions on projects they pitch to the rest of the organization, since they are, usually, subject matter experts in the project’s field and the best-suited to take the reins. Weekly progress reports, accountability check-ins, and an all-hands virtual meeting keep projects on track and ensure that deliverables are being met. And to keep it all running smoothly, Cubert utilizes a variety of cutting-edge communications and project management tools.
COACHING OVER BOSSING
Managers at Cubert evolve beyond “helicopter bosses” and become purveyors of resources and feedback for individual projects. We accomplish this by empowering them with the confidence and the ability to identify projects that they believe will have the most long-term benefits. Whether that involves increasing profitability, brand authority, customer value, or one of our other core tenets, our managerial staff supports, encourages, and directs other team members’ efforts to ensure Cubert’s long-term goals are being served.
By standing behind the people they lead, and not in front, our team leaders can more effectively envision the collective efforts of other team members. This vantage point provides two distinct opportunities:
“First of all, our managerial team prevents any duplication of labor, since they can catch on early if two or more projects are starting to look similar. Secondly, they can also connect team members. If a strategist in France is having success with a new channel that’s struggling in Germany, for example, we’ve designed the organization so that it’s easy to bring them together.”
Organizational managers at Cubert are more like coaches in this respect. They place faith in the individual’s ability to make snap decisions at the moment but are responsible for ensuring those decisions add up to a win in the long-term.
Senior leaders, however, make sweeping decisions that affect the team in larger ways. Adding, removing, or shuffling resources between departments, for example. By keeping a close eye on the internal operations at Cubert, senior managers work to ensure the trust and freedom they’ve left to team members can be continuously sustained. Ultimately, they’re responsible for ensuring that the collective vision remains profitable and that it serves the organization’s mission to create innovative, consumer-centric brands that disrupt the markets they’re introduced to.
At every level of leadership inside Cubert, one critical ingredient is confidence. While our culture is designed in a way that’s meant to eliminate as much anxiety as possible, confidence is a much more difficult flower to grow. But what goes into watering the garden, clearing it of weeds, and tracking its growth is, ultimately, patience. At Cubert we’re confident in our people, which affords them the ability to feel confident in their pursuits and their abilities as leaders.
So, are you a leader? View our current openings here, and let us know.