One of my favorite metaphors for thinking about the roles we play in our work is the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician. An Entrepreneur changes the business. A manager runs the business. A technician masters their craft.
This metaphor helps explain the how the different roles change our focus, and how the different roles can get in the way of each other. For example, when you play the role of a manager, you are figuring out ways to optimize policies, processes, and procedures and build a stable operating environment for your business. When you are playing the role of an Entrepreneur, you are finding new ways to do things, or dreaming up new ideas to make happen. When you are playing the role of a technician, you are focused on your techniques and technical implementation – the “how.”
This is a powerful metaphor for small business owners, especially, because you have to wear multiple hats and play multiple roles. The irony is that you started the business so that you could spend more time doing what you love, such as being the technician, only to find that you have to spend way more time playing these other roles.
In The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, Michael E. Gerber, writes about how The Entrepreneur, The Manager and The Technician are competing personalities inside us all.
Key Take Aways
What a great way to explain the tension, whether inside us or where we work! Here’s my key take aways:
Know the competing personalities. Sometimes knowing is half the battle. In this case, I think being able to recognize the different personalities is a big first step.
Balance is the key. I like how Gerber illustrates the importance of balance among the personalities. He shows how each personality fulfills an important part of the bigger picture. Leverage comes from the synergy, not the dominance. It raises the important question: are you balancing The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician inside you?
The Entrepreneur, The Manager and The Technician Inside Us All
Gerber writes about how we have all three inside us:
"The fact of the matter is that we all have an Entrepreneur, Manager and Technician inside us. And if they were equally balanced, we’d be describing an incredibly competent individual. The Entrepreneur would be free to forge ahead into new areas of interest; The Manager would be solidifying the base of operations; and The Technician would be doing the technical work. Each would derive satisfaction from the work he does best, serving the whole in the most productive way."
The Entrepreneur is our inner-visionary. Gerber writes:
"The entrepreneur personality turns the most trivial condition into an exceptional opportunity. The Entrepreneur is the visionary in us. The dreamer. The energy behind every human activity. The imagination that sparks the fire of the future. The catalyst for change. The way he usually chooses is to bully harass, excoriate, flatter, cajole, scream, and finally, when all else fails, promise whatever he must to keep the project moving."
The Manager creates order and routines out of chaos. Gerber writes:
"The managerial personality is pragmatic. Without The Manager there would be no planning, no order, no predictability. If the Entrepreneur lives in the future, The Manager lives in the past. Where The Entrepreneur craves control, The Manager craves order. Where The Entrepreneur thrives on change, The Manager compulsively clings to the status quo. … The Manager is the one who runs after the Entrepreneur to clean up the mess. Without The Entrepreneur there would be no mess to clean up. Without The Manager, there could be no business, no society. ."
Gerber writes about The Technician:
"The Technician is the doer. ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself’ is The Technician’s credo. The Technician loves to tinker. Things are to be taken apart and put back together again. Things aren’t supposed to be dreamed about, they’re supposed to be done. If the Entrepreneur lives in the future and The Manager lives in the past, The Technician lives in the present. He loves the feel of things and the fact that things can get done. As long as the Technician is working, he is happy, but only on one thing at a time. Put it another way, while the Entrepreneur dreams, The Manager frets, and the Technician ruminates."
Everybody Gets in the Technician’s Way
The Technician has to deal with both the Entrepreneur and the Manager. They both get in the Technician’s way. Gerber writes:
"Everyone gets in The Technician’s way. The Entrepreneur is always throwing a monkey wrench into his day with the creation of yet another "great new idea. On the other hand, The Entrepreneur is always creating new and interesting work for The Technician to do, thus establishing a potentially symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way. Since most entrepreneurial ideas don’t work in the real world, The Technician’s usual experience is one of frustration and annoyance at being interrupted in the course of doing what needs to be done to try something new that probably doesn’t need to be done at all."
The Tension Between the Person and the System
Because of competing concerns, drivers, and perspectives, there is tension in the system. There is tension between "the person" and "the system": Gerber writes:
"The Manager is also a problem to The Technician because he is determined to impose order on The Technician’s work, to reduce him to a part of ‘the system.’ But being a rugged individualist, The Technician can’t stand being treated that way. To The Technician, ‘the system’ is dehumanizing, cold, antiseptic, and impersonal. It violates his individuality. Work is what a person does. And to the degree that it’s not, work becomes something foreign. To The Manager, then, The Technician becomes a problem to be managed. To The Technician, The Manager comes a muddler to be avoided. To both of them, The Entrepreneur is the one who got them into trouble in the first place."