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a blog by Chris Barrow

The new employment reality - ‘You work for them’ - a guest post by Mark Topley

I spent 13 years working in an organisation that depended on goodwill to function.

Bridge2Aid trained East African rural health workers in emergency dentistry utilising volunteer dentists and DCPs. We were also largely staffed by talented people who could have commanded a much higher salary elsewhere. I learned some useful lessons from this and have brought these to the leadership philosophy I now use in teaching and coaching.

It’s interesting that these long-standing principles for attracting and getting buy-in from volunteers are now becoming crucial in 2023 leadership. One of the most common questions I hear is “How do I get my team to care about the business like I do?”

The answer is simple - “You don’t…”

As the owner of your business, or someone in a leadership position, you have bought into the enterprise to a far greater degree than those you lead, especially if they are under 40. There is quite rightly a disparity between your financial reward and your team’s.

Add to this the flexibility of the Gig economy, the post-pandemic call for greater work/life balance and the desire of many people to achieve, develop and grow through work, and you begin to understand the truth - that you work for your team, not the other way around.

To explain this in his own indomitable style is Gary Vaynerchuk. Don’t watch it if you find foul language offensive…

As Gary says:

“When you go from being someone who “executes” to someone who’s managing a team, you go from trading on IQ to trading on EQ. You go from doing the actual work to listening to employees, catering to what they want, taking blame, and being the bigger person.”

Make peace with the new reality.

Like it or not, this is the employment landscape we now inhabit. Accepting it will allow you to make the most of it.

Understand that this doesn’t mean you become a doormat and give into everything. As always in leadership, you must be cognisant of what you stand for, what your aim is with your team, and have a proactive strategy for their engagement - after all, prevention is better than cure, and essential if you want to minimise your team attrition. Spending time on your purpose and values is critical. Your values should be a lens that helps you to make decisions and decide how you’re going to respond to the challenge.

1:1s are critical.

Now more than ever, you must understand what it is that your team wants. It may not be money. If it is money, then show them how an incentive or increase is possible when it is based on additional responsibility or productivity. If it’s not money, then what can you do to facilitate what they want?

Look for ways to serve.

Yes, serve your team. Use ‘Care’ as a strategy. Take an interest in them as people and look for ways to help them where it’s within your power to do so. Win them over authentically, recognising that although perks and remuneration have their place, capturing your people’s hearts and minds will take your time, your attention, and your commitment to them.

Quid pro quo.

Try to see things differently. Rather than viewing your team as people that you compensate financially in return for doing a job, can you view your team as partners who want different things to you? You can help each other; salary becomes just one part of your investment in them, and their work becomes just a part of what they bring to you. They bring energy, passion, values, creativity - buy in.

The reality of the new employment landscape is vastly different to what has gone before. The faster we can not only understand it but embrace it, the faster you will find your frustration subsiding and your effectiveness growing.

You need to be the leader your team needs, and you need to consistently develop your leadership skills, knowledge, and confidence.

To help owners and managers navigate the challenges of 2023 leadership, I run the Great Boss Academy. Members have a supportive community, one-to-one coaching and a proven path to greater confidence and success as a leader. Find out more at

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