Camels vs. Stallions

Knowing the Difference Can Eliminate the Friction on Your Team

Every team experiences friction. But there is one source of friction I’ve observed in almost every organization I’ve ever been involved with. It comes down to a simple distinction, and I bet you’ve noticed it too.

Depending on what side of the distinction you come down on, it’s easy to get frustrated with people on the other. It’s easy to see them as an obstacle to your success. I know because I’ve done that myself.

What is it?

Some teammates are more managerial, and others are more entrepreneurial. On any given team there are usually more of the first than the second. But each type has unique ways of getting under the skin of the other.

Competing Priorities

When I was at Thomas Nelson, this distinction played out between the finance people (managers) and the acquisitions people (entrepreneurs). Both worked toward the same budget goals each year, but they were responsible for different aspects.

Finance people were tasked with keeping expenses in line. Acquisitions people were tasked with hunting down new business. These priorities would sometimes compete, and each group sometimes imagined the other was hindering their success.

It doesn’t matter what they environment is. Entrepreneurs hunt down new opportunities and see rules as slowing them down. Managers oversee existing business and use rules to keep things in order. It’s inevitable that they’ll butt heads.

The tendency is to side with one group over the other. The managers want the entrepreneurs to be less entrepreneurial. And the entrepreneurs want the managers to be less managerial.

But that is a mistake. The hard thing to appreciate is that most teams need both entrepreneurs and managers to succeed.

Camels and Stallions

I serve on a board where this kind of friction came up recently. One of the members, David V. Hicks, used an analogy that put things in perspective. He compared the organization to a caravan—it needed both camels and stallions.

Camels are needed to carry the goods. And stallions are needed to scout ahead and be ready for quick action. The trick is making sure they’re both going the same direction. Success requires integrating their unique contributions.

How can we do that? Here are three steps that enable the manager-enterpreneur distinction to drive success instead of frustration:

  1. Recognize. It doesn’t take a zoologist to tell that camels and stallions are different. But organizations sometimes try to see managers and entrepreneurs through the same lens. The truth is they’re different—usually all the way down to basic temperament. Because they’re different, they both make contributions unique to them.

  2. Appreciate. Next, we need to value these unique contributions. Appreciation is a critical factor for team success. Without managers, entrepreneurs don’t have anyone to hold down the shop. Without entrepreneurs, managers don’t have business for the shop. Until each can appreciate the other’s contribution, they’ll work at cross purposes.

  3. Mobilize. Recognition and appreciation should lead to empowerment. It makes no sense to force stallions to carry freight or camels to race ahead on scouting missions. Success is only possible when teams mobilize members to do what they do best at least the majority of the time.

Escaping the Friction

Managers and entrepreneurs are both prone to different mistakes. Managers may be tempted to see business as serving their rules. Entrepreneurs may be tempted to pursue business that ultimately hurts the organization.

Both temptations will take the team off track and lead one to resent the other. But the strengths of one can compensate for the weakness of the other. We can escape resentment and friction if we recognize, appreciate, and mobilize both the managers and entrepreneurs on our teams.

Love that distinction, and you can make it work wonders for your team instead of driving frustration.

You’ll never turn a stallion into a camel, and you’ll never turn a camel into a stallion. And that’s good because it takes both to reach our goals.

Are you more managerial or entrepreneurial? What additional tips would you recommend for working with those on the other side of the distinction?

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