I sat down with a friend that I have issues with yesterday afternoon. Yeah, issues. Got anyone like that in your life? Someone you love and care for deep down inside, but can’t seem to get along with because of personality differences, orientations of the heart, or simply a difference in opinion over the best shade of blue? Yeah, I’ve got those kind of people in my life, too. The kind you want to fight for, but in the process of fighting for, often feel like you’re fighting against. It’s hard to deal with conflict in these relationships, or even to maintain them, but in facing the conflict, I’ve found both perspective and common ground almost every time.

We got to talking about responsibility, empowerment, and authority. As we were doing so, I remembered something I heard a ways back somewhere about turning the organizational chart upside down. In most organizations, be it a business, committee, church, or even a family, power and authority start at the top and drift downward, like this:


Traditional Org Chart

Everything “hangs” from the CEO, parent, chairman, or pastor. They have power and authority, and their decisions take precedence over just about everything else… and everyone KNOWS it. The “deliverer” at the bottom of the chart knows it. He knows his paycheck is earned partly because it’s creating value for someone higher up the food chain. In many cases, he also feels like his decisions carry little weight, and that he has to “check in” with those above him to avoid stepping on toes, hurting feelings, or even losing his job. He feels belittled, stifled, and undervalued.

What would happen if we turned the org chart upside down, like this?


Flipped Org Chart

Does flipping the chart from top to bottom make any real difference? Obviously not, if that’s all you do. (especially if you don’t reorientate your fonts :)) But what if, in doing so, the point is truly communicated to all of those “deliverers” and “managers” that what they do matters. Not only are they valued and listed as important to the organization, but they are empowered. Leadership suddently becomes a source of foundational support instead of a wanna-be Pied Piper that no one really wants to follow but has no choice. Suddenly what each person does DOES affect the bottom line (or the mission, or the goal), and the bottom line affects them. While they are freed to make decisions that affect the outcome of events, they’re also made very aware that the consequenses of their actions are also “on them.” The difference, though, is that there is support from below, instead of a seeming noose hanging around the neck from above.

This is a concept foreign to many organizations. Those “in charge” often got there because of great ideas, great work, or pure luck. But it’s easy to let that go to the head and think that now that I am at the top, I am in charge and in control, when, in fact, that sense of control over the little things (the things the actually make the “big things” possible) has been delegated to those below me.

Why don’t we do what’s best for everyone and flip the chart, empower our people, and let them know that they are trusted, valued, and important?