24. Habit #7: Ask “Does My Role Care?”

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

Today you are getting a new habit: “Does my role care?”

Emails. Texts. Voicemails. We are drowning in messages. All of them competing for our attention. No messages? Don’t worry. Your mind will come up with lots of stuff to distract you.

Now, in our personal lives, we are pretty good at filtering and processing this onslaught of information. I know I don't have to act on everything I come across. A car commercial may not interest me since I’m not looking to buy a new car, but I may pass along the information to a friend who is. But when it comes to work, it’s usually more difficult. It’s easy to assume that if something has your attention it should have your attention. After all, the email was sent to you. The bright idea you had is yours. And generally it’s true. Most work stuff you come across applies to one of your roles, but in today's connected world you have visibility far beyond the limits of your roles.

The most valuable skill of the 21st century will be knowing what NOT to do. However, the phrase “It's not my role” doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. No one wants to be seen as the employee who doesn’t care. But that isn’t the kind of care we’re talking about here.

If a goalie cares about his team, he needs to not care about scoring. If he leaves the net and tries to score, he’s not doing his job well. He makes his team vulnerable and gets in the way of others. He’s not a good team player.

On a good team, every piece plays a part on behalf of the whole.

In order to focus on one thing, we have to not focus on others. In order to take responsibility for something, you have to not take responsibility for others. It’s a law of the universe.

That’s what this habit is all about.

So, when something lands at your feet in Holacracy, you ask, “Does my role care?” but it may not be the only question. Here is what it actually looks like…


So, just because you answer “no” to “Does my role care?” it doesn’t mean you drop it. It’s not about avoiding responsibility. It’s about figuring out where that work lives. It’s genuinely asking "Who cares about this?" so you can get it to the right place.

So, here’s a quiz:

As Sales, if I notice that prices are wrong on the company’s website, does my role care about that issue? Probably yes. What do I do about it? Well, as the diagram shows, I “take care of it,” but that could still mean requesting a project from Website Manager to update the published prices.

“Taking care of it” doesn’t necessarily mean “spend time on it”. It just means it’s something you want solved, or will keep track of until it’s solved. That’s all.

Conversely, as Sales, the mislabeled prices on the web may not impact my role at all. Maybe I do in-person sales exclusively and haven’t had any problems. In that case, you may simply notify Website Manager of the error. No project request. It's just a head’s up. Trust that Website Manager will figure out what to do with it.

So, this diagram can be used in a few ways. For now, notice how it all starts with the question “Does my role care?” In Holacracy-powered organizations, clarifying when something doesn't fit your role (i.e. “My role doesn't care”) is a sign of mature practice.

It shows people aren't running around dealing with whatever shows up. They are taking the time to do the hard work of figuring out what work needs to be done in the first place.