Autonomy And Todd Nilson

Most people recruit someone to join groups for one of three reasons.

1) You want the group to be bigger. The problem with growing for growth sake is it doesn’t place emphasis on each member’s unique motivations. It’s a selfish way of growing the group – usually done for the benefit of you, not the members. Members are indifferent to a group’s size. They only want the group to be better. Sometimes adding new people helps. It brings in new expertise, energy, and perspectives. This leads to the next two.

2) You have a clearly defined role to fill. In organisations, especially, we recruit people to fill clearly defined roles. But roles are limiting and repetitive. A role is autonomy-thwarting. A role condemns people to act in line with what the role entails regardless of their own beliefs. A role doesn’t easily allow someone to express their creativity and ability.

3) You have a clearly defined challenge to tackle. A challenge is invigorating. A challenge attracts smart people looking for something special. A challenge lets someone increase their skill level and wake up motivated every morning.

The best way to engage anyone in any group is to highlight how they can use their existing skills and experience to tackle a challenge that impacts the group. That challenge should be slightly beyond anything they’ve done in the past.

Among my (many) mistakes in growing FeverBee is to hire people for clearly defined roles instead of clearly defined challenges. These days we’re much better. We define the challenges and new staff decide their own job titles.

We’ve spent the past 9 months finding someone to tackle the many exciting challenges when growing a consultancy practice. A few weeks ago, we found Todd Nilson. Todd has spent years growing consultancy practices and building internal/external communities at organisations like 7Summits, SPR, and a variety of recruitment companies.

We’re ecstatic he decided to join us and feel confident many of you will be blown away by what he brings to the table. Feel free to say hello to [email protected].

There’s an (admittedly unsourced) Steve Jobs quote: “It makes no sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do“. It’s as true in communities and social groups as it is in business.


  1. Alessio Fattorini says:

    That’s cool! I definitely love such approach and it’s the theory behind your recent amazing topic on skill/knowledge inequality

    This is my next step, I need it, gathering data about my member’s expertise and aims. With them, my work of coordination, mentioning and engaging is far better.

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