One thing that often goes by the wayside when you're talking about self-management is the structure and the system that supports it, which is actually very robust, right? It's not that you've just like let go of the reins and everybody goes off in their own corner and does their own thing. And then two weeks later you all come back and they have like built this beautiful castle.
— Julia Markish, Advisor and Coach to people-first leaders and Co-founder of the Teal Team
In this episode of Said with Candor Candor’s founder, Kelsey Bishop, and Julia Markish, Advisor and Coach for People-First Executives & Teams, chat about Teal — a revolutionary framework that promotes self-management, collaboration, and purpose while breaking free from outdated workplace hierarchies. Kelsey and Julia explore Teal’s unique perspective on leadership and ownership, feedback, people strategy and team culture, and how adopting this framework can lead to organizational success.
Julia Markish is an experienced advisor and coach to people-first leaders, dedicated to fostering clarity for both individuals and their teams. With over 20 years of business experience and more than a decade focused on people programs and strategy, Julia co-founded the Teal Team, a think tank committed to Reinventing Organizations. Based in San Francisco, she prefers the pronouns She/Her.
Get to know Julia on Candor 🐘✨ https://www.joincandor.com/users/julia-markish
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Candor podcast, where we get candid about culture. Candor helps leaders create strong culture with our first product, Candor profiles, which is the best way to share how you work. You can sign up for Candor for free at joincandor.com. I'm Kelsey, the founder of Candor, and I'm so excited to be joined today by Julia Markish. She's a seasoned advisor and coach to people first leaders who seek to create clarity for themselves and their people. She has 20 years of experience in business and over a decade in people programs and people strategy. She's the co-founder of Teal Team, a small think tank on Reinventing Organizations. Her pronouns are she her, and she's based in S.F. So welcome, Julia.
Thanks so much, Kelsey. Great to be here.
And today we're going to chat about how forward thinking organizations should think about Teal and this whole new framework to management. So maybe to kick us off, Julia, what should forward thinking organizations know if they're interested in Teal? Like what? What's kind of like the blurb that you would give people to describe it?
So Teal is this philosophy. It's an organizational philosophy as well as an individual one, but we're just tackling organizational today. It's philosophy that's got three main pillars, and the pillars are involving purpose. So thinking about your purpose, not as one fixed point, but where does it need to be given new circumstances that come up pretty regularly? And Holism, which is thinking about people as whole people, but also your ecosystems, your environment as part of that whole. And the third is self-management. And self-management is probably one of the more contentious and misunderstood of the three, although probably lots of misunderstandings across the board. But self-management is certainly a really big part of it. And yeah, we can delve into that a little bit more. But I think one of the most important aspects of your that I've come to understand over time is that an organizer doesn't need to be Teal in order for leaders and people within that organization to take these pillars, these aspects of Teal, and try to apply them in baby steps and try to move towards Teal versus just being wholesale Teal.
Yeah, I love that. Are there specific ways that, like tactically people could think about bringing Teal into their organizations? Like are there things that you see or things that the individual leader or the individual manager could say, Hey, I want to bring this in, I resonate with wholeness, I resonate with evolutionary purpose, How can I start doing this in microwaves even if my leaders aren't on board?
Yeah, I guess one thing that's important to think about is like, where are you in your organization? Because if you're not new to the organization, you're likely in a hierarchical one. And there's only so many degrees of freedom that you have in order to bring something like this on board. But I think holism is a really good way to start. Actually, any of them would be, But holism, I feel like, is getting a pretty good spotlight right now, what with EIB work and the B and EIB belonging is is sort of like the flipside of holism. I would even argue that it's the flipside of EIB as well, because if you think about diversity, equity and inclusion, those are all things that a company needs to be acting on in order to get to belonging, right? The B is is a feeling, whereas diversity, equity, inclusion. Those are all actions. And so if you're if you're doing the work to create that belonging, who are you trying to help belong? You've got to be really thoughtful about that. And that's where holism can come in, in that you're trying to ensure that that every individual in their wholeness is feeling like they can create and do and and be themselves. But I think there's there's there are baby steps that you can take in any of these directions, in any of these pillars. And self-management, I think is such an interesting one because as a manager, self management sounds like the opposite of what you need to be doing, right? Like, are you going to be out of a job if it's self management becomes the norm. And I guess in a way it you could be. But I think it's a really interesting thought experiment and possibly real experiment to do where you have to ask yourself, what is it that a manager does that the team might actually be able to take on? Right. And like, where are the the lines of responsibility between manager and team? And if you think about a manager's job, it's setting goals, assigning responsibilities, and creating a team that uses their skills effectively. It's providing feedback coming up with remuneration guidelines, it's settling disputes, etc.. And with Teal organizations, all of those things are done by the team. There are guidelines that the team comes up with. There are processes that then stem from those guidelines to do all of those things. And so if you are interested in that as a manager, you could actually set up some of those processes yourself or rather with your team, right? You could actually start dipping your toe into rather than coming up with your goals yourself, having a team discussion about those and identifying the people on your team that have the skills or the context or the perspective that can that can really help with that goal setting. Anyway, just another example.
I love that. I mean, I think the thing that attracted me to Teal to start was that as a solo founder and as a manager, I was like, you know, I feel so much weight on my shoulders having to do all of these things myself, having to be responsive, all for the goals, for all the feedback, for everyone's development. And it was one of those things where I didn't want that. I was like, I want to share this responsibility with people. And Teal was one of the first frameworks that I saw where I felt like that was a possibility. It didn't all needed to be on a manager's shoulders. It could really be Everybody gives each other feedback. You know, we all have coaches to help development. There's other options instead of just kind of this traditional management structure. That is so crucial. And that's why Teal is so cool.
Totally. Yeah, I think a big misconception, especially with that verbiage of self management, is that leaders don't have a role to play, whereas actually they have a really important role to play. But it's much more it's not like telling people what to do. It's more about a like motivation and and leadership, truly leadership being being at the forefront of problem solving and like putting those practices into use when they need to be more so than just being like, you go to this place and do that thing because people generally have a sense of where their skills are going to be most useful. And yes, you don't need that kind of like we're not in kindergarten anymore. Yeah.
This was kind of one of my gripes with working in startups out in San Francisco, which was it was either you have to be all hustle all the time, everything's tied to a goal. It's totally commission based, kind of this like achievement oriented workplace. Or it's We all have to agree on the goal and then we're all going to be like ultra nice and not very candid with each other and you don't really get anything done. And it almost was like, how can we still have the meritocracy, hard work, autonomy, and a system, an organization that respects people, right? Like not one that's going to work, people to the bone, but one that really rewards hard work and people's gifts. And I feel like Teal was finally the first version of an organization where I was like, Wow, you can really have both. Or you can you can have a version that is not achievement oriented or values oriented, but really like a combination of, of the best parts of each.
Yeah. Yeah, I totally agree with you. And then the philosophy, I guess, or the construct that Teal is based on is this idea of spiral dynamics that was invented many decades ago. But Trial Dynamics is basically like that, that individual philosophy where as a person, you you elevate your level of consciousness according to your environment and what's possible for you. And so the the ways in which you behave build on themselves and in spiral dynamics as well as in like this type of philosophy, there's no good level. Which is kind of ironic because I think everybody just like aspires, everyone who loves to aspire to be like, not orange, but be that as it may be, the idea that you just put forth, which is that like you can you can have something better than these two. Not very effective ways of management is exactly what what teal is right and it's like you've you've experienced these two and now you can go on to the next, which is Yeah. Coming from this sense of abundance and really thinking of an organization as an organism or as an ecosystem versus a machine where every person is a cog and that's like, that's not, that just doesn't feel good anymore. Whereas, you know, in Ford's days, that felt maybe great. I don't know.
I'd be curious if there are any parts of the framework that you feel like either maybe don't don't get all the credit they deserve or like you mentioned, self-management gets a lot of flak. Like let's talk about self management because I agree. I, I remember writing an investor update where I said something about self management and how we were thinking about different ways of organizing Candor. And I remember one of my investors writing back being like, just focus on the business. Like don't reinvent the wheel. Self-Management sounds a little out there. So yeah, let's, let's dive into it. Like I think that there's a lot, a lot in the self management camp.
I think self management is a system by which people actually feel the I don't know if weight is necessarily the word we want to use here, but but yeah, the weight of responsibility for the outcomes and for the other people on the team. And I think ironically we're in this time right now, or maybe it's not ironic, but either way, we're in this time right now where managers are are really struggling because the pandemic has created this additional burden of of of being responsible for their team members sanity, quite frankly. And that's a lot to put on one person. That is so much to put on one person where where suddenly managers aren't just, you know, making decisions based on the context of work, but making decisions based on the context of health and and living circumstances. It's so much and if you're able to spread that responsibility out, not only are you relieving that that like fulcrum point of intense stress, but you're also creating an environment where everybody feels is really bought in and like an owner, you know, like so many management philosophies are like act like an owner. Well, you can't act like an owner if you don't have ownership. The responsibility and I suppose but. But why would. You It's doesn't make any sense. To ask for.
Yes. Yes. And I, I feel like some of the most common culture issues that I hear about are. Well. How do I make my team give a shit? And I'm like, it's it's a really it's a I think about it as a question of extrinsic motivations and intrinsic motivations. And I think self management really leans in into the territory of how do you entrench quickly, motivate your employees, how do you make them give a shit about what you're building, about your company, about the product? And I think when you move into a zone of implicit trust in the employee versus. I think a lot of the ways of thinking are I have to tell the employees what to do or they won't do it. And I have to like give them a task list because they couldn't possibly figure out what to do on their own. But if you move from that mindset too. Actually people. Are really capable and if you push them into the zone and you give them the ability to be truly autonomous and truly self managing, they will surprise you, right? Like they will actually come up with things to do. Surprisingly, people won't just sit around all day. Left to their own devices. So I think it's it is a little bit of a mindset. Mindset shift, but it does help with that problem of like how do you get people to give a shit about what you're building and your culture?
Yeah, I think one thing that often goes by the wayside when you're talking about self management is is there like structure in the system that supports it, which is actually very robust, right? It's not that you've just like let go of the reins and everybody goes off in their own corner and like, does their own thing. And then two weeks later you all come back and they have like built this beautiful castle. No, there's actually probably more communication that needs to happen. And there are the rules of the road of how decisions get made, how people get paid, how how disputes get resolved. There are there are rules that everybody first helps create and then really sticks to. And oftentimes it actually does take longer because you need to do all of this communicating and, you know, you need to like, resolve the dispute. But what you end up with is a much more resilient workforce and one where the people that are best suited for the work are the ones that are doing it. And and the people that are best suited to make the decisions, which very rarely is the actual manager right there. Like, there are so many other people that have perspective or have deep expertise that are individual contributors, that those are the people that are making decisions with input from others. So yeah, I think when I first heard the term self management, I was like, it's bedlam. It's like people just doing whatever they want to. That's lovely. Came down is that although.
I know in some ways the way that you were describing it, it feels like more of a meritocracy than any other org structure because it's truly the people best suited to do the role to make the decision to be in the room are in the room. And this is something that I felt. I feel like I've always been one of the youngest people in the room, and so it's always been, well, oh, she doesn't have that much experience or, you know, she needs to work her way up. And Teal, in a way, is is really democratizing any perceived gaps or any perceived differences and really just bringing in the people who should be there and like helping people get almost the the weight that they deserve in the room which I really which I really Yeah.
I think that's right.
One other thing I wanted to ask you about is feedback and kind of the importance of use and like the role feedback plays in a Teal org.
Feedback is, I think, probably one of the sneaky ways in which Teal can get into an otherwise orange organization, which is to say hierarchical, meritocratic. Yeah. Feedback can be such a powerful tool if you create a understood and accepted system around it where there is an expectation of reciprocation, of regularity, of quality, that is that is really spread out across everybody. And by quality I mean evidence based and kind, which is to say you don't just like not give somebody feedback because it's uncomfortable. And the more you work that muscle, the more you're able to really reap the benefits of of growth and understanding how you land on other people. I mean, feedback can be a really big aspect of belonging to where people care enough about you to, to to show you that there are other ways of doing things to show you how you might have impacted them positively or negatively. And so yet they're there in a Teal organization. There's no way that feedback doesn't exist. And it is practically always on right? There is. There's a full expectation that everybody's going to be contributing to each other's experiences in that way in a a till adjacent organization or an organization that's like working towards maybe till it's a really beautiful way to honor a lot of those aspects and still just recognize and have everyone understand that like, this is how we get better, this is how we're going to create a better product. This is how we're going to go faster. So all of the things that are important to orange organizations, which is I know we didn't really cover it, but Orange is like the capital test model, right? Like this is where there is a very clear hierarchy and you've you've got meritocratic ideals, but often politics in the background. Yep. And, and in that environment, feedback can still really thrive because ultimately you're getting to a better place as an as a team or as an organization.
The thing I enjoy about feedback in this realm is it feels less political because if if the person giving you feedback isn't giving you feedback in the context of a super intense performance review that could get you fired, then actually the feedback is best used to actually get you to improve. And it's almost like it takes the the power dynamic out of the feedback process, which I think is one of the most broken parts of the feedback process today is the fact that, like feedback can feel very villainized, it can feel very charged because it does have so much weight on, on the output of your career, on, you know, whether or not you stay at a company. So when when it is spread out and all of your peers are responsible for your feedback and not just this one, all powerful manager, it actually can feel like you're getting feedback on a more regular basis. It can feel more approachable. You know, you're not scared to sit down for a feedback conversation because the stakes are lower.
Yeah, yeah, that's such a great point that I that the power of the feedback is less about the person and now more about the content as and one of the best ways to do that is to create another expectation. Like you'll hear me talk about expectations all the time expectations or just like the guidelines that create norms, but you create the expectation and the norm of people asking for feedback and and in fact asking for feedback in such a specific way as to help them get better at the things they want to get better at. So you don't have to say, I don't know how is this presentation in general and just like wait for the bombs to come, but rather say, I have been working on clarity. Can you give me examples of where I was or wasn't clear in this presentation? And that's so valid and it's so much easier actually for your feedback giver to then home home in on what's important for you and, and whether they have opinions on the rest they can offer them or not.
I love that. And I love, I love the concept of expectations or kind of like setting norms, setting kind of like this is how I see the world as and I think, you know, this is a Candor podcast. Well, one amazing way to do that is to make a Candor profile. And I know, Julia, you have a beautiful Candor profile. And so if you're open to it, I'd love you to share with the world what you decided to kind of set as your expectations and your norms through your Candor profile.
Yeah, I can go through a couple of things I feel like especially so I'm on my way to building this profile for my Teal team group, but I guess also for the world, for me, especially as someone who really believes in holism, it's almost more important to show aspects of my self outside of the workplace and to build up to that aspect of myself inside of the workplace as they become relevant in the context of doing work. But being really clear about the things I do outside of work that make me happy, that I can then share with my colleagues or, you know, my partner and how that all is going. Obviously, I don't need to give anybody like insights to my intimate relationship, but that I have one and who it's worth and what we are up to these days, which by the way, is getting married in less than three weeks. So it's like you should have. Thank you. That has such a huge impact on anybody's work life, right? Like, yeah, knowing that your colleague is completely overwhelmed by its decisions having to do with like how people are getting to your wedding. Yeah, it's it's really important. It's important to have, have, have like good work output. Okay, so you want to see my profile? Yeah. Let's see. All right, here we go. Where can we start? I guess we can start with. I was just talking about my partner. My happy place is Golden Gate Park. Where we had our first date. And where she also proposed to me is really sleep bookends. Um, but yeah, I think one of the most important aspects of my life. Why and how would I ever not bring it up? It's one of the first things about me is I'd love to learn this. I really like, um, I thought about this quite a bit. Like there's so many things I want to learn, but ultimately things that I want to learn personally can bleed into the professional and vice versa. So languages is a huge personal point of fanaticism for me and but also that absolutely bleeds into my professional interests because really, ultimately it's about communication, It's about exchanging information and knowledge. And business development is also something like really professionally that I want to, but I want to get better at or that I want to try my hand at directly. And Bus Dev is nothing but communication and exchange of ideas and information. So that felt like a like an important crossover.
I love that.
What else? I really like that you all have the ability to put like means and and pictures and jokes and just like it's not it's not just about dry information. It's about like showing your full self to to folks, to your team or to possibly like you know, the people that you might end up working with. Um, and ask them to tell you about your proposal.
I know this is amazing. I love just seeing what people choose to share. I think you learn so much about what's important to someone to your point. I mean, there are so many parts of us that don't show up on a Zoom call, right? Like our partner are like our curiosity is are like hope to learn different languages, like all of these things that make you, you and you such an awesome you. I just I love I love seeing and learning all these things. So thank you for sharing.
Of course. I think one thing that's really interesting about putting together your profile is is looking at the takes that are really easy to fill out. You're like, Oh yeah, I got that one, no problem. And then cycling through the takes that you're like, I just don't have the energy to fill that out right now or even think about it. And then coming back to me like, no, that's actually important for people to know about me, especially because it took that extra to, to think about it, to think through it and think about how to communicate it.
Yes, Yes. Because honestly, if you if you have trouble answering the take, it's probably not something that you've chosen to share with your teammates already. Right. So if you're having trouble sharing, you know what what it looks like when you're stressed, you know, it's probably likely that you haven't shared that with a teammate. And it's also probably likely you've been stressed and they've seen it and been like, what the heck is going on? What should I do? So yeah, totally. Thanks for sharing that. I think it's it's cool to know where someone's coming from right. The expectation thing that we were talking about. So yeah, especially in a talk where you really are working much more cross-functionally in my experience, it's nice to be able to just plug and play with with people no matter where they sit in the org.
One other thing I'll add about, about Candor profiles, which I think is so important, is coming back to the, the DIY work that so many of us are trying to do and one thing just like human nature about one thing about human nature is that we will always gravitate towards people who are like us. And that creates so many problems for people of color, for people in the LGBTQ, I plus communities or etc., where it's like are often so clear that you are not like some of your other teammates, but a Candor profile can actually break down some of those barriers really fast because there are so many aspects that are hidden about ourselves that can be unhidden, and then you can find points of connection so much more easily and start to the belonging build that you're looking for.
Oh, I love that. I love that. Yeah. I mean, one of the biggest things I think is humans are so multifaceted. We're not just the person that shows up on the Zoom call. We're not just the person in the Slack room. It's it's really like there's just so many different parts of us that are just usually not made present, right? Like, there's not really an opportunity to share all of these different things. Yet when we do, there's an opportunity for that connection for us to get closer, for us just gain understanding. And even if we're were different, in some ways, I find that knowing where someone's coming from, knowing where someone's at, knowing where their interests lie, is just like it's fun to write. Like it doesn't have to be that we're similar in some way, but it could just be that like, Hey, we're super different and you're really interesting. And like, I love that. Yeah. So, yeah, I, I appreciate that. You appreciate that too.
But also makes me think of, you know, when you're like, driving and well, I'm from Massachusetts, so I hope it's okay. I can say I hope it's okay for me to say that I am a Masshole. I don't know if y'all saw, but I. I can get a little road rage, you know, It's just like it's now in my blood. And when I'm driving and I see someone doing something dumb, like, you know, going 40 and a 55, I can get really upset and then, you know, drive past them. And it's just like 87 year old lady or something like that. She's just like, just holding on to the steering wheel. And I'm like, okay, that's new information. I don't have to be a dick about it anymore. And that's also part of like understanding where people are coming from, recognizing that they have circumstances that you have no way of being aware of, and then like feeling yourself really settle into, okay, this person is justified in behaving the way they are because everybody is justified in behaving the way they are. We just don't have the information.
Totally. Yeah. Yeah. And I think feeling understood in a way that is like one layer deeper, like that's the real of belonging, right? When someone can say, Oh, wow, like you're just a little old grandma and you can't even see over the steering wheel. Like, I understand that about you. And obviously like more in a word sense. But yeah, I think being able to peel back the layers slowly and really truly reach a level of understanding that's how you get to the level of belonging that a lot of us are searching for at work.
I love this conversation today. Julia, I really appreciate you joining and for all of our our listeners, thanks for joining for our discussion of TR orgs and how forward thinking organizations can think about Teal and maybe just just be open minded towards the concept of self management, even if it seems a little scary. If you're interested in creating a better culture at your company, you can sign up for Candor at joincandor.com and we look forward to chatting next time. Thanks, everyone.