How to talk to people who are skeptical about sociocracy

Let’s imagine you’re excited about sociocracy and you can’t wait to jump right in. But there are other people in the organization who aren’t so sure. They might have concerns, or they just shoot down everything that’s new.

The problem is, you can’t get what you want until they get on board. After all, it’s a collaborative thing and you can’t do sociocracy on your own. So now what? Here are a few thoughts.

In a way, the resisters and skeptics give you a wonderful opportunity to practice sociocracy! What they’re saying is like an objection, and you get to integrate it. The very first step for that is to listen and really understand what they’re worried about.
One thing I’ve noticed is that some people get pulled into all-or-nothing thinking. For example, a resistor doesn’t like the sociocratic selection process, and boom sociocracy as a whole gets shot down. So instead of talking about sociocracy as one thing, talk about individual pieces. Try to understand what your colleagues are worried about. Most of those things, in my experience, can be accommodated. Just like objections to a policy, an objection understood is an objection half integrated!

Offer a first-hand experience
It’s really hard to wrap your head around sociocracy when it’s just theory. People trying to grasp it with intellect will find all kinds of “gaps” that never happen in practical experience. And I’ve seen more than once that people are skeptical until the very moment they’ve experienced a selection process, consent process, or performance review in practice. Many people then fall in love with the vibe of sociocracy and all abstract hesitations fade into the background.
What can you do to offer a first-hand experience? Well, you can run a process, of course. Or you can visit and observe a meeting. Or sign up for beginner training (open workshop or video-led class).

If you run a process, here’s something that’s important to us: keep things flexible. New learners often want to do everything right and end up being more rigid and stiff than more experienced practitioners. Another aspect of that is that it makes sense to tell the skeptics why the tools are used the way they are. Never use “because that’s how sociocracy works” as a reason. People are just going to feel inadequate and put off. Instead, say what you want. For example:

  • :neutral_face: We do rounds because that’s how sociocracy works.
  • :heart_eyes: We do rounds so everyone can be heard and contribute.

This topic relates very much to the previous one but it deserves its own point. The whole point about sociocracy is agency - the belief that we can make decisions for ourselves and the ability to make them.
For some, it also helps to give access to case studies to get more context.

Don’t make yourself the bottleneck for information. Help people find their own information about sociocracy. Share what excites you (like our free ebook) and let others have their own discovery process. It feels much better to be in the driver’s seat yourself.

And don’t assume that everything has to happen at once. For example, I’ve seen people’s love for rounds wake up years after using them!

What are the reasons why you or people are you are skeptical about sociocracy? Reply and list them below and we will help you strategize how you can the information or find the magic words that are needed!

Statement: So many meetings! Everything will take a long time
Possible response: Maybe that can be true at first. Ultimately, however, we want to align circles around the work, like a glove that fits perfectly. The fine-grained circle structure supports that. So this is clearly something we have to pay attention to but sociocracy gives us the tools to do just that. Please help watch out so we don’t have agenda topics or extra circles that we don’t actually need, ok?

Statement “I don’t trust that people will make good decisions without me.”
Possible response: “That makes a lot of sense! It’s not easy to let go. We could try it out in an area and then go forward incrementally and only “giving away” the domains that we’re comfortable giving away and distribute decision-making power over time. On what domain would you be willing to try it out?”

Statement “Rounds stifle creativity.”
Possible response: “Yes, it’s hard to wait your turn when you have a good idea. We can decide when we use rounds. I think rounds are awesome for decision-making where we really need to make sure everyone is heard. And when we just brainstorm, maybe we can decide to not use rounds for a while. What do you think are good or not so good places for rounds? How could we try it out and see what fits for us?”

What are more topics that people worry about? Add them below and we’ll discuss them together.