Where does the power belong in an organisation?

I was invited to share my experience at a lively debate over power and ownership at Menaing 2015. Here’s the summary.

The Panel

“I thought about this question at length and after reflecting on my own experience, I’m not sure ownership and power go hand in hand.

I see it like this…

A company isn’t a building. It isn’t a product, service, spreadsheet or brand name. A company is a group of people bound together by ideas and energy.

Founders, employees, customers. Their families and friends. An ecosphere of human lives bound together by ideas and energy.

If the main idea is money, then the energy is bad. Greedy founders, mercenary employees and hard nosed customers, eternal conflict. Bound by Fear. Destructive and Unsustainable.

If the idea is about positive change, then the energy is good. We get beyond hierarchy and politics, we are all driven by the same outcome. Inspiration flows along with a spirit of collaboration. Bound by Love. Creative and Unstoppable.

Employees and the people they care about, their families, their friends. Real people with real lives. If the core idea is to make life better for these people. To bring them happiness and help them move in the direction of their dreams then more power to the organization and everyone within its ecosystem.

I am very much in favour of employee ownership and against publicly traded company stocks. But I think there is more to it than employee ownership.

At Propellernet our values are wellbeing, fun, adventure, creativity and innovation. Our purpose is to make life better for our people.

My role as a CEO is to pay attention to the dreams of my employees and constantly seek opportunities to make life better for them in ways that reflect our values. I don’t pitch clients or manage finances. I leave product and service development to others more capable than myself so I can focus 100% of my time dreaming up ways to move my people in the direction of their dreams.

It’s a free world. Everyone has a choice. Customers and employees have the power to leave and go elsewhere if they are not feeling the love and they will do so regardless of whether they own shares or not.

Real power lies in how much love everyone is feeling for the company. The challenge is therefore, how can you design your company so that it feels as much love as possible for its people.

Enabling dreams in my experience is way more powerful than employee ownership as an idea to bring positive energy into a company.

I can imagine how attractive an employee owned cooperative must look like to employees who work in toxic cultures but it is less important if the majority shareholders are more Willy Wonka than Alan Sugar.

People are not machines to be motivated by blanket policy incentives, we are unique human beings. We each have a unique set of beliefs, experiences, hopes and dreams. Pay attention to the unique creative potential in every person and bring as much of that into the business as possible. This will give them a true sense of ownership.”

Big ups to the team at meaning for flying the flag for positive change in business long before anyone else, for bringing these ideas into our world and inspiring a generation of business Jedi across Brighton and beyond.