What's the Difference between a Team and a Staff?

Usually a business begins with an entrepreneur and an idea.  This driven individual cannot rest until she has created a business to fulfill her vision.  Sound familiar?

The problem she faces at some point is that to continue to build this fledgling enterprise the entrepreneur must bring others into the business to assist and to foster its growth.  Why is this a problem?

It’s a problem because the kind of people who are willing to take the risks to start their own business are often the sort who have trouble letting go of things and giving the authority along with the responsibility to someone else for some part of the business’ operations.  They may eventually “hire” someone but many times this newly hired “employee” is fairly tightly managed.  And often this employee is not satisfactory.  I suggest that frequently the entrepreneur’s dissatisfaction is because of the nature of the relationship itself.

“Hiring” “employees” by its nature suggests a power relationship rather than a cooperative one.  What if the entrepreneur took a different approach based on a different philosophical idea?  What if the business owner realized that to win in the game of business he needed a team of talented players who worked together to win?

This approach is radically different because it requires the owner to recognize that their skills are not the only ones needed and that, even though they may have been doing it, others can do certain things better than they can.  This requires the owner to recognize the need for a “team” to work in the business.

Creative business team putting hands together at the officeThe use of the word “team” is very popular now.  But I think it often just describes, in popular language, the same old top down structure that is traditionally used.  It doesn’t really mean anything.  On a real team everyone plays the role they do the best and cooperates with others.  This isn’t semantics.  This is really different.

When an entrepreneur is looking for people to join a “team” instead of a “staff” she is not “hiring” “employees”.  Instead she is “recruiting”.  And she is recruiting people who contribute in ways that no one else on the team can match.  She isn’t filling roles, or job descriptions she is building a roster.  And on that roster are unique individuals, with unique abilities and talents that mix and meld with others to create synergy.  This synergy is what lets some businesses explode while others merely plod.

The truly gifted and successful entrepreneur starts with a vision and builds a team of people to accomplish it.  This person isn’t the “boss” she is the “coach”.  The people on the team fill roles not “job descriptions”.  Not every entrepreneur will be a coach instead of a boss, and not everyone who works in a business will be a team member instead of an employee.  More on the difference next time.

2 minute read

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