2. It’s Always Up to Me to Get the Clarity I Need

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

Practicing Holacracy is a group effort. I help you — you help me.

So, what happens when the former manager starts mandating things?

They just expect things to happen. Well, the truth is, they’re 100% allowed to do that. It’s not great, but hey, we’re all imperfect.

Since you know you don’t have to comply — there’s no issue.

So, if you’re going along with their demands, without asking “Is that an official Circle Lead prioritization, or are you just making a pitch for me to consider?” then the only person you should be worried about is you. It isn’t pushing back — it’s getting clarity. And it’s an extraordinarily supportive thing to do.

Now, of course, it’s great if former power-holders practice good habits like saying, “I don’t have the authority to decide that for you,” or, “I’d like to pitch you on revising the report…” Yes, that is a great habit. Yes, it helps. But we can’t expect everyone to be perfect all the time. Therefore, the only strategy that makes sense is, “It’s always up to me to get the clarity I need.”

Meaning, when I am communicating something, I should provide whatever clarity I think relevant — after all, I want to make it easy for others to respond to my messages (like mailing a letter to the right address). But I can’t possibly expect to always get it right. So, help me by asking clarifying questions. I want the right to be an imperfect human. If you don’t know what role I’m speaking from, or which role of yours I’m engaging, then for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy-and-pure-in-the-world, please ask me. So...

“Julie is still bossing people around,” becomes, “Julie, are you giving me a prioritization as Circle Lead, or just sharing your opinion?” “Bill needs to step-up more,” becomes, “Bill, I have no authority to make that decision for you — do you just want my opinion?” “I’ve been waiting on Max for days now — it’s so frustrating,” becomes, “Max, what’s your next-action on the project? I really need it, so… is there anything I can do to help, or take something else off your plate to free up some of your time?” “Hey Tom, I was thinking we should probably start indexing product files,” becomes, “Hey Tom, as Product Steward, I'd like to pitch you on indexing the product files.”

Now, there's no such thing as perfect clarity. We only need enough so you and I can understand each other. Using role names allows you to get clear when you need it (and you won't need it all the time). And when I can trust you to ask questions about the roles when you need it, I can speak more fluidly and naturally without having to always clarify the roles up front.

An inner process stands in need of outward criteria. —Ludwig Wittgenstein