Employees versus Teams

06/19/2015 11:19 am ET | Updated Jun 19, 2016

In the world of business, there is no clearer divide than that between an employee and a team member.


Employees punch in, set about their assigned work, punch out and go home, only to do it all over again the next day.

Team Members show up ready to go, focused, driven and energetic, eager to move the ball forward and be in the game.

This is not to say that Employees aren't a valuable part of any company. It's their work that enables the place to function - today. Team Members, however, make the place function at ever-higher levels today, tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. They're the thinkers, who aim to foresee the impact of their ideas and activities long after tomorrow comes and goes. Not only do they do an outstanding job with today's work, but they're always thinking of the future.

Skilled or unskilled, executive or management, Team Members have one very important trait that makes them so vital to an organization. They get it. They see and understand the vision, the purpose and the goal. They have the 10,000 ft. view. It's not about putting peg A in hole B, it's about how to do it better and more productively. Maybe it's about how to make the pegs more attractive to customers, or maybe about finding material that would be more cost effective when making the pegs. Their thinking takes them out of the box: "What if we manufactured and sold the boards? What would that mean"? It's about always evolving and always improving, innovating and executing. Individuals that make up the best teams get that.

Team Members are not only focused on solutions. Every team has a unique culture. Whether it's collaborating on a complex presentation, a major proposal or analysis of operational processes, Team Members tend to be close knit and bonded -- at least that's true of effective teams. Each member of a highly dynamic team strives for cohesiveness, responsible for their contribution and instrumental in achieving the end result. In an exemplary team, more than one member takes ownership of the task without being ego-invested. The more such members on a team, the better the result.

Employees come and go for a myriad of reasons. They're easily replaced, and the company continues. Team members worth their salt are more difficult to find. Luckily they tend to stay longer because their contributions to the overall effort are recognized. They become vested in outcomes, and if treated correctly, seek to participate at ever- higher levels. They appreciate the value of being part of something bigger than themselves.

Without good teams, companies can only manage to get themselves from day to day. Even with people who have superior work ethics, good companies without the focus on change and tomorrow eventually falter. Without good teams, the next level of achievement is unattainable.

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This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.