Employees or Teammates

When you look at the people you lead, how do you see them? Are they employees who come to work to earn a paycheck, or are they teammates passionately working toward the same goals? This question is essential to consider when determining how successful you want your company, business, or organization to become. People who find little to no value in what they do, and are seen as employees rather than teammates, will invest very little into the company for which they work. How we see and perceive the people we lead has a direct effect on the success and overall well-being of the company.

For centuries, an individual who worked for a company was and still is considered an “employee”. They were employed by the company to do a specific task or job with the chance of advancement dependent upon quality of work. Unless the “employee” had personal drive and passion to advance, there was little to no encouragement to work hard. Employees were and are expendable. They come and go without a hiccup to the company’s business. Employees are just people who need a job, right? I believe that depends on you, as leadership, and how you view the people that work for you.

Yes, people work to earn money to pay bills and earn a living. However, how they do that is dependent on how they are viewed and perceived by leadership and how they themselves perceive leadership. As someone who has had multiple jobs growing up, the ones where leadership took interest in me, worked alongside me, and made me believe I was part of something bigger than myself are the jobs I remember most. And truthfully, very few jobs made me feel this way. What was it that leadership did that made me feel like I was part of something big? They considered me a valuable asset to their company. I was a teammate. 

As a teenager, I worked as a busser in a restaurant. It was one of my first “real” jobs where I worked more than 20 hours a week. There was a manager at that restaurant that I was a bit intimidated by. However, one day the feeling of intimidation changed to respect and admiration. One afternoon, I was doing my job, walking around the restaurant, cleaning off tables, and preparing tables for new guests. As I was working, I was being watched. My manager was watching my work, how I was working, and noting the care I was or wasn’t giving to my job. When I got to a table near her, she said, “Take a moment and watch me.” She took my towel and my buss tub and went down an entire section and started bussing tables. She was in the mess of dirty plates, half drank glasses, and ketchup stains on the seat and table. Her hands were getting dirty. As I watched, she coached me in what I should be doing. She showed me what my work meant, why it was important to put effort and energy into my job, and how my place in the company impacted the rest of the restaurant. 

You see, I could have been taken aside, talked to, told I need to do better or else, but that’s not what happened. I watched as my boss, my leadership, did my job. I was coached rather than told what to do. My leadership invested their time and energy into me. My manager made me feel important. I was more than just an employee;  I was a teammate. I was a crucial piece to the success of the company. From that day on, I no longer saw my work as a job, but as an important role within the company. 

Teammates push each other, encourage each other, and work alongside each other. A boss leads from a desk and sees his people as expendable. A coach leads from within the team and gets their hands dirty alongside his team. Leadership who sweats alongside the people they lead will leave a lasting impact. Leadership who is willing to step down from the ivory tower, be part of the team, and work alongside their people will create a culture of value, meaning, passion, and purpose. Show your team that they are valuable, and that each person is a key component to the success of the team.  

So what’s the moral of the story? How you treat and view the people you lead will determine the overall success of your company, business, or organization. As Dave Ramsey states in his book EntreLeadership, “If you want employees, then boss them around; if you want team members, explain why you do what you do.”  If you want to see your company be successful, create a team centered culture.

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