Using Niccolò Machiavelli as a training tool :)

My focus this month is empowering other volunteers at The Art House to take on more tasks.  As part of this process, it’s important not so much to tell people how to do each little task (I figured it out myself, they probably can too!) but to convey a sense of HOW we like to do things as a community and enabling them to learn what they need to.

Last night, we had ‘Shift Co-ordinator’ training for some of the crew, to help them be able to look after the cafe peeps and make sure all runs smoothly.  “Look after” is the operative phrase – so many management positions are seen as somehow higher up than everyone else, when in fact a good manager (or in this case, Co-ordinator) works FOR and WITH the crew, not above them.

To make it more fun and get the discussion going, we looked at Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, which were inspired by the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli and Sun Tzu.  Now, it may seem very bizarre to use this list to train a group in non-hierarchical working, but quite a few of them illustrate the ways in which individuals try to grab and hold onto power in a group.  When you’re trying to work ‘on the level’ it helps to play the opposite game, recognise the behaviours of those who are trying to gain power in a group and do something which counteracts it.

Non-hierarchical working is a constant challenge within an organisation and, I reckon, you never get it 100% right.  We’ve been participating in a study into non-hierarchical working, acting as a case study, and it’s been a really interesting process.

Our legal structure doesn’t really help us, as there are four directors, around 8 members, and everyone else.  We talked early on about being a Co-operative, but in my experience these rarely are as democratic as they are meant to be, there is still usually one individual, or small group, who run pretty much everything.

We thought it made sense to have a structure where extra responsibility was held, but when somebody was viewed as ‘the boss’ or tried to take a higher position

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