Dangers of Teaming: A Managers Guide To Managing vs Contributing

In the world of small businesses, your role as a leader or manager can make or break your company's future. Here, we explore the strategic reasoning behind choosing between being a hands-on teammate and a leader.


Teaming is when you jump in to work with the team as a purposeful act of camaraderie, respect building, and team development.

This tends to be a dangerous practice. Among other things it

  • blends areas of responsibility and creates mis-aligned expectations of who should do what.

  • reinforces that there is backup if one chooses to not want to take on responsibility or accountability for a job or task.

  • alters expectations on both sides.

The reality is, once you move from individual contributor to manager, your instrument of work is no longer your personal effort.

Leadership vs. Teammate Mentality

Your role in the company determines whether you execute work through systems as a teammate or through people as a manager.

  • Teammates execute work through systems, acting as individual contributors. This means they focus on tasks and processes. As a teammate, you might be actively involved in the day-to-day operations, ensuring that things run smoothly.

  • Managers execute work through people. This means you're responsible for scaling output through multiple team members. Managers coordinate, guide, and optimize the efforts of their team members, driving efficiency and productivity.


Management is about driving 10x output through 10 people, not 1x through yourself. Management is about scaling capability.


Why Choose Leadership Over Teaming?

While we think that “jumping in” helps earn their respect, the reality is that is makes us feel better.

The truth is, that a team will respect a leader who is more than a teammate when that leader is effective. When you lead effectively, your team is more likely to follow and respect your guidance.

So if you want respect, lead.

If you want to scale output, lead.

If you want to be the best version of yourself, help them be the best versions of themselves, and lead.

👉️ Actionable Tip:To earn respect, step into the role of a leader.

The Power of Management

Management revolves around building systems, reducing friction, and ensuring high-quality output.

Managers build systems to empower the team. Think of these systems as the scaffolding that supports your team's efforts. These structures streamline workflows, minimize errors, and ensure consistency in operations.

They work to eliminate obstacles and enhance output quality. This involves identifying bottlenecks, breakdowns, and areas for improvement. Imagine being an architect who designs a building; you want it to stand tall and strong, free from weaknesses.

When managers feel overwhelmed by their work, they tend to “jump into the work” as an individual contributor. This helps them regain perceived control about their job, and their outputs.

This means that the team is no longer being managed, and they are no longer working at their highest capacity, therefore wasting company time and resources.


Why Choose Management Over Teaming?

Effective management leads to higher productivity and quality.

By managing well, you can ensure that your team works efficiently and delivers top-notch results.

👉️ Actionable Tip: To boost output, embrace the role of a manager as system builder, friction reducer, and bar raiser.

Delegation, Training, and Accountability

Delegation, training, and accountability are key to becoming the best version of yourself and helping your team succeed.

  • Delegate tasks among your team members. By distributing tasks wisely, you challenge your team and enable them to grow. It's like planting seeds in a well-tended garden; each task you delegate is an opportunity for your team members to flourish.

  • Invest in continuous learning and development. Training is an investment that pays off in the form of a skilled and capable team. It's akin to sharpening the tools in your toolbox; a well-trained team is a powerful asset.

  • Hold your team accountable for processes and goals. Accountability ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards common objectives. It's like setting a GPS destination; everyone knows the route and can track progress together.

Why Choose Delegation and Accountability?

These practices build trust, openness, and cohesion within your team. Trust is the foundation of a strong and effective team. It's like the glue that holds all the pieces together, creating a unified and resilient unit.

👉️ Actionable Tip: To be the best version of yourself, work through your team rather than with them.

The Temptation of Being One of Them

Some managers choose to "dig in with the guys" to show camaraderie, but it's not always what your team needs.

You want the truth though? Deep inside, people don’t want another person to be like them, they are dying for a leader to show them a better way that reveals the capacity they know is in there, but have not yet realized.

Tactical Steps for Effective Leadership and Management

  • Learn systems thinking to understand your company's processes. Consider aspects like bottlenecks, breakdowns, and areas for improvement. Build feedback loops and balancing mechanisms to control flow of information, money, material, and people.

  • Push tasks to the lowest denominator, challenging your team members. This keeps them engaged and maximizes their fulfillment. Think of it as encouraging your team to climb higher mountains; the challenge brings out their full potential.

  • Prioritize tasks and projects aligned with generating cash flow. Not all tasks are equally important; focus on those that contribute to your company's financial health. It's like investing your resources where they matter most, ensuring a healthy cash flow stream.

👉️ Actionable Tip: Remember, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Prioritize wisely.

In the world of small businesses, your choice between being a teammate or a leader is crucial. By understanding the nuances of each role and strategically embracing leadership and management, you can steer your company toward success. Stay true to the principles of effective leadership and management, and witness your team thrive.

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