Treat middle management like strawberries – Immersion

Part 1 of this series of posts on leadership development illustrated how more and more of today's leaders are neglecting to develop their next tier of managers and thus failing in one of their primary duties to their organization. Part 2 touched on how we can avoid this problem altogether: in short, treat that next tier of managers like strawberries, not mushrooms.

Now we look at the third and last example for how we can treat middle management like strawberries.


The ultimate example of treating management like strawberries may come from Brazil.

At just 21 years old, Ricardo Semler took over Semco, his family's business, with a determination to change its traditional and autocratic management structure. The below excerpt from an article/interview in CIO Insight illustrates how he did that, by instilling a system of complete immersion, in which management responsibilities were disbursed to all employees. It picks up right as Semler was struggling with the business and had suffered a severe fainting spell.


Semler determined to balance his work and personal life more carefully, and to do the same for his employees — all while improving Semco's fortunes. To his great relief, he discovered he didn't have to reconcile these two goals: The more freedom he gave his staff to set their own schedules, the more versatile, productive and loyal they became, and the better Semco performed.

Nor did he stop with flex time. He did away with dedicated receptionists, org charts, even the central office — it now resembles an airlines' VIP lounge, with people working in different areas each day. He encouraged employees to suggest what they should be paid, to evaluate their bosses, to learn each other's jobs, and to tolerate dissent — even when divisive. He set up a profit-sharing system and insisted that the company's financials be published internally, so that everyone could see how the company was doing.

Semco hit some bumps and yet, despite a recession and staggering inflation in Brazil, the company grew, and, by 1993, Semler had a spirited turnaround story to tell.

This story has it all! Empowerment, transparency, ownership, you name it. Semler put it all together by allowing his employees to fully immerse themselves in the business, with a faith that they had (or could capably develop) management skills, and the company has grown beyond anyone's wildest expectations.

Posted: 12/8/2009 9:35:25 AM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Filed under: immersion, leadership, management, managers
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