Working with someone versus for someone

Michael Gerber, author of the bestselling E-Myth series of books for entrepreneurs, advises people to spend more time working ON their business, instead of IN their business.

What’s the difference?

Working in your business makes you a taskmaster. That’s the person who doles out assignments and expects them to be followed. This falls into the “because I said so” pattern of management, which creates a workforce of people who wait for direction and do enough to get by. They’re not inspired to go beyond the norm. As a result, the talented people leave, pursuing jobs that offer more growth, and you end up with mindless followers who don’t challenge the status quo, but rather depend on it.

Can you see why this approach is obsolete in today’s corporate culture?

When you shift your thinking to working on your business, you embrace a visionary approach. You work on building and refining your processes and the teams who contribute their talents, knowledge, skills, and energy to making your vision a reality.

This same distinction applies to working with teams. A strong team-building approach requires that individuals see themselves as members with a contributory role. They shouldn’t view the job as working “for” the boss or leader, but alongside. After all, the group is working toward the same outcome. Yes, there are personal goals as well, but your big picture thinking requires a cohesive team that is focused on the same endgame as you.

A person who sees himself as working “for” someone doesn’t take initiative, only direction. For your business to succeed, every team member must be a self-starter. They should be inspired to think creatively and encouraged to share ideas. Team-building activities will build their confidence, both as a player with unique skills and a team member who can rely on others for support.

Work with someone, not for someone - building successful teams at work

As an employee, how can you put this concept into action? What techniques will help you contribute to successful team building?

  • Look for ways to improve a current process or service. Downtime, for example, is a symptom of an underlying problem. Where are the bottlenecks that need to be uncorked to reduce that waste? Suggest a solution.
  • If you notice another member of your team is struggling, offer your help. And be sure you don’t ask for credit when you do.
  • Never be afraid to ask, “What if…?” Complacency is toxic to success. Be a thinking member of your team. Question directives that seem counter-intuitive.
  • Respect goes both ways. Treat every member of your team with the respect you want in return.
  • View your team receiving an Olympic medal. Stop looking at the team leader or “boss” as someone who is above you. When any Olympic team wins a medal, they don’t put the captain on a higher platform. They stand together.

A team leader creates the culture for the group, but it’s your choice to be a follower or a team member. What can you contribute? And what will you AND your team gain as a result? Successful team building means motivating your team to work together and with one another.