Teal is a bluish-green color that is found in nature and has come to symbolize certain ideas and movements. In recent years, the concept of “teal” has been used to describe a new stage of organizational development that balances professionalism and humanity. The term originated from the book “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederic Laloux and represents a shift towards more conscious, soulful, and self-managing organizations.
In this article, we will explore what teal means in real life by looking at teal organizations, leaders, culture, and principles. Teal represents a paradigm shift in how we structure and run organizations and relates closely to ideas of wholeness, evolution, and decentralization. As more leaders and organizations explore teal concepts, understanding this color and stage of development can provide insight into the future of work.
What are Teal Organizations?
Teal organizations are organizations that have transitioned from earlier stages like amber, orange, and green, to a more integrated, evolutionary, and purpose-driven model. According to Laloux, there are several key characteristics of teal organizations:
|Teal organizations operate through peer-based structures rather than top-down hierarchies. Teams and individuals have autonomy to make decisions.
|People can bring their whole selves to work and don’t feel they have to put on a “work mask”. Vulnerability and authenticity are encouraged.
|The organization has a deeper purpose beyond just profit. It is seen as having a life and evolution of its own.
Other common elements of teal organizations include:
– Decentralized structure – Power distributed to teams/individuals rather than concentrated at the top.
– Flexible networks – Fluid, adaptable interactions between people and teams. Collaboration encouraged.
– Listening culture – Value placed on building awareness and listening to all voices.
– Intuition valued – Just as much weight given to rationality as inner wisdom, gut feel, and intuition.
– Healthy workforce relations – Focus on developing human potential and building trusted relationships.
Examples of companies considered pioneering teal organizations include Buurtzorg, Patagonia, Morning Star, and Sun Hydraulics. They represent a more conscious, humane, and dynamic approach to management and structure.
Teal leaders have a different mindset and approach than traditional hierarchical leaders. According to Laloux, teal leaders tend to have the following qualities:
|They distribute authority and encourage autonomy across the organization.
|They care about employees as human beings and want them to integrate their personal and professional lives.
|They focus on connecting the organization to its evolutionary purpose rather than just profits.
|They dismantle unnecessary hierarchies and governance structures that concentrate decision-making.
Other characteristics of teal leaders include:
– Coach/facilitate rather than command and control.
– Comfortable with uncertainty and change.
– Create containers for self-organization.
– Lead from their inner truth rather than ego.
– Value intuition, trust, and transparency.
Examples of recognized teal leaders include Brian Robertson (Holacracy), Jean-François Zobrist (FAVI), and Ricardo Semler (Semco). They represent a shift from heroic/hierarchical leadership to a more integrated, intuitive, and empowering form of leadership.
Teal Organizational Culture
Teal organizations create cultures that reflect teal values of wholeness, self-management, and evolutionary purpose. This includes:
|Workers feel safe to take risks, be vulnerable, and speak openly without fear of punishment.
|People can be their real selves without wearing professional masks or adhering to rigid cultural norms.
|The organization cares about employees’ health and wellbeing, not just productivity.
|Time and space for reflection, mindfulness, and tuning inward is built into work routines.
|People are encouraged to integrate their personal lives and interests into work rather than segmenting them.
This creates a more humanistic and empowering culture oriented around purposeful evolution rather than control, hierarchy, and shareholder profit. Workers are given freedom and trust to self-organize and tap into their inner wisdom and motivation.
Principles of Teal
Some key principles and values underlying teal organizations include:
|Seeing organizations as living entities that grow and evolve toward their own wholeness.
|Believing in distributed authority and trusting people to self-organize rather than be controlled.
|Welcoming the whole person and integrating mind, body, heart, and spirit.
|Connecting the organization to a deeper shared purpose beyond profits.
|Raising the organization’s consciousness to engage deeper human needs and potential.
This reflects a shift away from reductionist, mechanistic, and fear-based management to a more interconnected, decentralized, and evolutionary perspective.
Teal in Practice
While teal organizations represent an ideal to strive for, putting teal principles wholly into practice can be challenging. Some ways organizations can practically move towards teal include:
– Flattening hierarchies and decentralizing decision making wherever possible.
– Building in more space for reflection, connection, and personal check-ins.
– Providing coaching/training for managers to develop more empowering leadership skills.
– Creating employee-driven working groups or councils to guide policies.
– Inviting more open dialog about the organization’s purpose and evolution.
– Rewarding behaviors like collaboration, initiative, and knowledge sharing.
– Offering healing/wellness programs and spaces for employees.
– Piloting self-managing teams before spreading to the whole organization.
Moving towards teal is often an iterative process of raising consciousness and then embedding new practices and structures to reflect that shift. It requires ongoing learning, reflection, and evolution at individual and collective levels.
While teal offers an inspiring organizational model, real-world challenges can arise:
|Longtime bosses may resist losing control or influence.
|Lack of skills
|Workers may lack skills for self-management or emotional intelligence for open relationships.
|Independent teams may lack accountability without top-down oversight.
|Mistakes and conflicts can happen when communications decentralize.
|Moving from blue/orange/green mindsets to teal consciousness can take time.
Conscious teal change management can help mitigate these challenges over time as new skills and practices develop. Creating a psychologically safe and caring container for this transformation is key.
Benefits of Teal
When implemented successfully, teal organizations report many benefits:
|Stronger ethics and social responsibility with a purpose-driven focus.
|Higher employee satisfaction, engagement, and sense of self-actualization.
|Increased innovation as employees have freedom to create and contribute.
|More fluid, adaptive organizations that can rapidly respond to change.
|Gains in productivity as trust replaces control as an organizing principle.
Teal creates space for human potential, creativity, and evolutionary purpose to blossom by balancing organizational needs with human needs for connection, autonomy, and wholeness.
Teal represents a pioneering stage in the evolution of organizations and culture. It points to the possibility of workplaces and institutions built on principles of wholeness, self-organization, and conscious evolution, creating an environment where both human potential and organizational purpose can shine more brightly.
As teal becomes more mainstream, it will be important to maintain principles of self-management, decentralization, and care for human growth while translating concepts into real-world practice. With conscious effort and learning over time, teal offers hope for creating organizations that are more soulful, purposeful, and humane for the future of work.