Activity Management



I’ve been studying holarchy, the new approach companies like Zappos and Medium are taking to get the most of their companies. The “holarchy” approach is based on the idea that there are two kinds of hierarchies, one good, and one bad.

The first is called a dominator hierarchy, where the people at the top dominant the people below. You’ve likely had the great displeasure of working in a dominator hierarchy.

The second hierarchy, the kind you find in nature, is called an actualization hierarchy, where instead of ranking, there are nested hierarchies. Atoms make up molecules, molecules make up cells, cells make up organisms, and so on. Organisms don’t dominate cells, and molecules don’t abuse atoms.

When Zappos decided to eliminate management as a way to eliminate the hierarchy, about 20% of their workforce quit. These employees didn’t want to work in an environment without clear lines, and they may have struggled with the concept of leading themselves.

What About You?

There are some managers who believe that directing the people that work for them is inherently dominating, that it is micro-managing them. These managers (or leaders) believe that they hired the person, and as long as that person is doing their job, they need not worry about “managing” them. This idea would be nice if it were true. But it isn’t true. It comes with two challenges.

First, many people need accountability. You might be able to direct yourself when it comes to your work. I get that. I have never had to have anyone tell me what I needed to do since I was 13 years old and started washing dishes at the Italian banquet center. But there are more people who will do less, allow themselves to be distracted, and turn in mediocre results without someone holding them accountable. Unaddressed, these people can lower the standards for the whole organization.

Second, even people who can direct their work benefit from someone working with them to help them turn in their best-ever performance. Great leaders and managers help people grow. They provide you with coaching. They help you see your blind spots. And they help you produce your best results.

Usually, not addressing the people who need accountability ends with them lowering their standards far enough that they eventually get fired. Or they quit.

Not addressing the needs of independent performers means that you don’t care enough to help them do even better.

Nothing about addressing the needs of these groups requires that you dominate them, bully them, treat them poorly, or abuse them.

Activity Problems

Most managers or leaders would prefer not to badger people for more activity. But activity solves activity problems every time it is tried (even when the people being asked for more activity aren’t as competent as you would like them to be).

Asking for the necessary activity doesn’t make you a dominator. In fact, you can push for more activity and be actualizing, i. e. helping the employee grow. It is all in your intentions and your approach. You can’t, however, allow people who need more activity not to do what they need to do to produce results without putting them at risk.

Are you generating the activity that will produce the results you need now? If not, why aren’t you?

If you lead a team, can you hold people accountable without dominating them? Can you actualize their growth and development?

Comment to send me your thoughts, your stories, and your ideas. If you know someone who might benefit from these ideas, hit forward and send this to them. If you want to invite them to join us here each Sunday, send them to this link:

This Thursday, July 23rd at 2:00 PM ET, I am leading a webinar for my friends at Witty Parrot. It’s called 6 Ways to Help Your Salespeople Add Value Every Time. Here is what I am going to cover:

  • Which buying process allows for better value creation and capture
  • Steps to overhaul your sales process – so it enables value creation
  • Resourcing up for value-based interactions
  • Why to avoid ‘needing the deal’
  • How to root out any transactional, non-value-add activities Join us here!

Do good work this week, and I’ll see you here next week!

Anthony Iannarino



Contributor Anthony Lannarino is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and consultant. He writes daily at and you can subscribe to his newsletter at