Manage Promises, Not People: Nurturing a Self-Managing Team

In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace, the traditional approach to management is undergoing a paradigm shift. Embracing the concept of managing promises rather than people has gained traction as organisations recognise the power of fostering self-managing teams. In this article, I explore the principles behind this transformative approach and provide actionable insights on creating a self-managing team.

Understanding the Shift:

1. From Micromanagement to Empowerment:

  • Traditional management often involves close oversight and detailed control. In contrast, managing promises empowers team members to take ownership of their tasks and deliverables.

2. Trust as the Cornerstone:

  • Building trust is essential in a self-managing team. By focusing on promises and commitments, trust becomes the foundation of the team’s dynamics.

3. Individual Accountability:

  • In a self-managing team, each member is accountable for their promises. This accountability fosters a sense of responsibility and ownership.

Implementing the “Manage Promises, Not People” Philosophy:

4. Clearly Defined Expectations:

  • Begin by setting clear expectations for individual roles and team goals. Ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities and commitments.

5. Promote Open Communication:

  • Encourage transparent and open communication within the team. Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable discussing challenges, seeking help, and making commitments.

6. Establish a Framework for Promises:

  • Create a framework that outlines how promises will be made, tracked, and fulfilled. This could include regular check-ins, progress reports, and collaborative tools.

7. Provide Autonomy and Decision-Making Authority:

  • Empower team members by granting them the autonomy to make decisions within their areas of responsibility. This not only boosts confidence but also encourages innovation.

8. Continuous Learning and Adaptability:

  • Foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. Encourage team members to reflect on their commitments, learn from experiences, and adapt their approaches for ongoing improvement.

Benefits of a Self-Managing Team:

9. Increased Productivity:

  • Self-managing teams often exhibit higher productivity levels as members are motivated by a sense of autonomy and accountability.

10. Enhanced Creativity and Innovation:

  • Empowered teams are more likely to think creatively and contribute innovative ideas. The freedom to experiment fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

11. Higher Job Satisfaction:

  • Team members who feel trusted and valued are likely to experience higher job satisfaction. This positive work environment contributes to employee retention.

12. Adaptability to Change:

  • Self-managing teams are inherently more adaptable to change. The focus on promises allows for quick adjustments and proactive responses to evolving circumstances.

Overcoming Challenges:

13. Addressing Resistance to Change:

  • Recognise that transitioning to a self-managing team may encounter resistance. Communicate the benefits clearly and provide the necessary support for the change.

14. Ensuring Consistent Communication:

  • Regular and open communication is vital. Establish channels for effective communication and ensure that team members feel comfortable expressing concerns or seeking clarification.


Shifting from managing people to managing promises is a transformative journey that aligns with the evolving nature of the workplace. By empowering individuals, building trust, and fostering a culture of accountability, organisations can cultivate self-managing teams that thrive in a dynamic and ever-changing business landscape. Embrace the philosophy of managing promises, and witness the positive impact on team dynamics, productivity, and overall organisational success.

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