Who Do You Really Work For?

Shannon Waller
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In an interesting conversation with Dan and Babs a couple of weeks ago while we were both up at our cottages (which is a cabin on a lake for those who aren’t from Ontario), a friend made the following comment: “I guess you can’t call in sick and take more time off since your bosses are here!” I replied, “Well, actually, I don’t really work for Dan and Babs; I work for the clients, and they’d miss me if I didn’t show up next week!”

Later on, Babs said to me, “That was a really good answer!” and I realized that that’s how I look at things. Yes, I’m in a company structure where technically Dan and Babs are at the top of the hierarchy (or, our “relatively flat hierarchy”), but that’s not who’s really on top. For me (and for Dan and Babs), it’s our clients.

I think one of the key differentiators between entrepreneurial and bureaucratic organizations is their basic focus. Successful entrepreneurial teams aren’t focused solely on satisfying their manager or boss; they’re focused on the result they’re responsible for. The best managers are the ones who keep the team focused on the most crucial relationships and results.

People are variable and unpredictable, have moods, and change their minds. Instead of trying to make a particular personality happy, it makes far more sense to work for something larger than ourselves. It could be clients, it could be creating a fantastic product, or it could be designing an organization that recognizes and leverages everyone’s strengths.

Whatever your bigger mission is, focusing on it will bring out the best in yourself and in others. It gives you courage to draw attention to situations or decisions that aren’t working and to take risks to try something new.

So, who do you really work for?

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