Doers, Decision-makers, & Entrepreneurs

puzzlesWhy are some people content to do their tasks quietly and never aspire for more?
Why do some people want all of the trappings of success but don’t want to earn them?
Why do some people accomplish great things by guiding the efforts of others?
How do some people build success from scratch?

It’s all about work styles. Let’s look at a few:

Some people are content to find their success in a job well done, be it painting houses, writing code, or putting food on the table. They may have simple needs, finding satisfaction in the completion of one task and moving on to the next one, or they may reserve all of their creative energy for other endeavors or personal projects.  In other words, they are content to be where they are, doing their thing, getting paid, and going home.

I know an exceptionally gifted programmer who was promoted to management years ago.  After a while, he discovered that he didn’t like management at all.  He missed the solitude, structure, and creativity of writing elegant and efficient code.  He also hated managing people, with all of the drama that goes along with it, and making strategic decisions.  In the end, he returned to his former position and is happy to be where he feels he belongs.

One of my good friends recently entered what I consider the “executive” level of leadership within an organization. As a senior VP, he has associates, directors, and managers all reporting to him, with other employees reporting to them in turn. While he is an extremely capable professional with years of hard-earned experience, he now does almost nothing that would be considered “task-oriented.” He spends his time as a primary decision-maker. He “puts out fires,” manages personnel issues, and makes key decisions which affect the entire organization. He has the experience and the personality to create success as a decision-maker and an executive.

Decision-makers make things happen.  They make decisions and scores of people mobilize to implement them, but decision-makers can’t come from nowhere. No matter how smart you think you are, or how talented you think you are, you cannot become a successful decision-maker without a proven track record of success and a deep understanding of the field in which you work. Those skills are earned and learned over a long period of time, with no shortcuts.

I once had a business partner that wanted to be a decision-maker without putting in the effort to become one. He was more interested in being able to say “I own this business” than saying “I built this business.” He enjoyed the trappings of success without doing any of the dirty work. Late in our deteriorating partnership, he declared in frustration that “I’m a businessman. I make decisions. That’s what I do.” Unfortunately, we had no other employees to implement those decisions, so decisions alone were less than useless. At the time, we needed serious work and commitment to get out of a bad situation. You can’t decide your way out of a crisis. Making decisions requires that you have the experience, ability, and resources to implement those decisions.

Everyone can get stuff done. A few people can make things happen. Fewer still can make things happen all by themselves. The entrepreneur is the ultimate mashup of doers and decision-makers. Most entrepreneurs start off as doers, making their widgets, performing their tasks, marketing, and delivering results all by themselves. Entrepreneurs not only need to get things done, but they are also responsible for making crucial strategic decisions which will have an effect on the future of their organization or business. If their organization remains small, they can remain an entrepreneur indefinitely.

As organizations grow, entrepreneurs often cease to be doers and become primarily decision-makers. For people who are wired to be entrepreneurs, this can be painful. They no longer have a hand in doing the exciting work that was their passion but are instead mired in the endless meetings and paperwork of running a larger organization.  On the other hand, some people make the transition quite well, seeing the changes in their lives as a reward for years of hard work and experience.  They may welcome the freedom from being task-oriented and their newfound ability to focus on the “big picture.”

Other dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneurs find wisdom in knowing themselves and managing their organizations accordingly. They cannot bear to part with the process of doing things, tinkering, or creating something new. As they reach higher levels of success and responsibility, they hand off administrative decisions to trusted and capable lieutenants, keeping responsibility for only the most strategic decisions. This leaves them free to focus on new entrepreneurial projects and new areas of interest.

The world needs doers, decision-makers, and entrepreneurs, and no single work style is a predictor of material success. There are wealthy doers, experts at performing highly specialized tasks, as well as cash-strapped decision-makers working in nonprofits or volunteer organizations.  The success stories of entrepreneurs are almost cliché. Everyone is familiar with stories of some garage inventors living in poverty and others becoming overnight billionaires. The key to understanding work styles is to understand which one is the best fit for you. As always, only by having a better understanding of who you are can you find personal fulfillment.

So, are you a doer, a decision-maker, or an entrepreneur? Is it time to make a change?








4 thoughts on “Doers, Decision-makers, & Entrepreneurs

    • jay

      Personally, I consider the entrepreneur label to be a broad enough umbrella to include the other two. However, I acknowledged that we move through distinct roles at certain times or seasons in life. It’s a side-effect of a Renaissance Soul.

  • One of your better posts. And I agree with Dr. G. We can be all three at different things. At my day job I am a doer and sometimes decision maker as I get promoted in committees and such.

    But In my side work, outside of the day job, I’m all entrepreneur.

    And you sir, need to write more here. Just sayin’

  • jay

    Thanks, Martin! Funny how different posts resonate with different people. Duly noted – I’ll get another post up soon (I was actually spending a little creative energy on a short story).

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