Mind Reset: You’re an Entrepreneur. Stop Thinking Like A Manager.

Do you really want to take that job? I know. It seems like a complete validation of your work, your effort and your genius. I know. Your monthly take home and benefits after tax exceed $5000. That’s $60,000 per annum. I know. I know. I know.

Taking that job is going to be the difference between you being a manager and an entrepreneur. Its the difference between being an owner and an employee. Its the difference between freedom and security. Its the difference between building and operating.

Do you get it now? No? Okay. Let me explain then. If you’re a risk taker, an empire builder and a dreamer always constructing prototypes and models you will not be happy as a manager. And if you are risk averse, pay attention to detail and avoid mistakes you’ll have a heart attack as an entrepreneur. Got that?

Working in the non profit sector for 12 years, 7 of them as an employee manager you will end up feeling you are implementing someone else’s dreams and aligning my actions to someone else’s mission. While I enjoyed and learnt from my experience I also found it more than a little frustrating most of the time.

It was frustrating always working with scarce resources. And it was annoying constantly being told what a virtue working with scarce resources is. Its a skill set your encouraged to acquire by the rich people who lead and fund the sector because they feel guilt about their personal privilege.

Poor people conserve scarce resources by default. They don’t wait to be told or educated by rich know-it-all town folk with funny accents and shiny well fed faces who generally assume that poor working class people need their messianic help.

The more collaborative decision making was also frustrating. Things took longer to happen. Consensus was always right round the corner. Despite that the folks with the resources still dominate the decision making process anyway.

Yeah. When someone ‘gives’ a donation or a grant they can attach all sorts of conditions to how you spend it. Shareholders/investors simply look at the ROI. They’re risk takers like the promoting entrepreneur. Even the more socially aware investor of the 21st century knows the importance of letting people get on with the work.

At Ashoka I was hired for my entrepreneurial skills but the work demands and structure really required management skills. They tried to harness the energy of entrepreneurs to manage programs. It afforded me an opportunity to enhance that skill set but led to conflicts between me and my the folks that pulled the strings at head office.

Lesson one; don’t take praise from your boss for ‘taking ownership’ to literally or too seriously. Its still someone else’s organisation and someone else’s dream. You will only be allowed to do so much.

Oxfam GB on the other hand is a traditional organisation with a conservative hierarchy of power and responsibility. I was hired for my management skills. I was expected to deliver the ‘innovations’ designed and approved by the decision makers.

Lesson two; organisational politics is very important in a bureaucracy. Management is rewarded for carrying out instructions, playing by the rules and steady measurable progress. You won’t score brownie points for trial and error.

Entrepreneurs need to have management skills but being generalists they don’t usually have business degrees or even want to have that level of expertise. Especially since management skills are so different from entrepreneurial skills.
Entrepreneurs don’t play by the rules, they take risks, make mistakes, learn from mistakes, and keep trying. Managers are motivated by security. Entrepreneurs are motivated by freedom. You won’t find freedom in that management job. And you’ll find security elusive unless you do exactly as you’re told. How good are you at doing exactly what you’re told?

Lesson 3; know when its time to quit. Watch out for signs that you’re not enjoying what you’re doing. The boredom that sets in when things become routine. The self censorship that makes you refrain from saying something you believe because its contrary to what the company paying your salary believes.

I’m an entrepreneur. A builder. A risk taker. A wealth creator. Five years as a non profit country program director may have developed my management skills but it also has imposed a mental paradigm of scarcity, caution and pessimism. Not necessarily wrong or bad unless I let myself get stuck there.

Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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