Every organization needs both protectors and advancers.
A successful entrepreneur gave me this advice a number of years ago. Shortly into our meeting he dropped this nugget of insight. He didn’t unpack it a lot, but I found interesting enough that it caused me to further reflect. (Side note: These kind of comments are why I always have something with me with which to take notes when I meet with people. That way I can unpack it further after we are finished and the conversation heads in other directions.)
The business leader told me in his business all their employees are either protectors or advancers.
He said protectors are usually found in HR, legal or accounting departments. They “protect” the organization. There needs to be an adequate number of protectors in every organization.
Advancers, on the other hand, grow the business. Regardless of their job title these people help the organization do more towards accomplishing their mission. They produce a product. These people are “revenue positive“. They add income to the bottom line.
Then he went on to say he always wants more advancers than protectors.
Far more. In fact, nearly everyone in his company (and it is a very large company) needs to be an advancer.
After the meeting I kept pondering his words. I saw relevance in his theory in business and in ministry. This logic could work in the for profit world and the non-profit. It could even apply in the church.
In simple terms the goal in business is to make a profit. The goal in ministry or nonprofits is to advance a cause. In both types of organizations we need to protect and advance.
If we don’t have protectors we will eventually get into trouble. If we don’t have advancers we will eventually not exist.
There are a few other things I landed on in my pondering of this concept of advancers and protectors.
In my experience, people naturally become protectors. They get accustomed to the way things are done and become comfortable with a system or strategy. Protectors begin to love tradition and the way things have “always been done” – and soon even those who should be advancers begin to protect at all costs.
People will seldom “self-select” to become advancers – at least in my experience. Most advancers have to be continually encouraged to advance. (Even protectors can help with advancing when encouraged to do so.)
Generally speaking, protectors manage programs. Advancers want to consistently tweak or change them.
Protectors build systems. Advancers challenge them.
Protectors often frustrate advancers.
Simply doing their role – as they should – they “hold the line”, enforce the rules, and ensure the budget is followed.
Advancers often frustrate protectors.
They challenge the status quo, introduce change and stretch paradigms. (And budgets.)
We need both protectors and advancers.
Part of leadership is balancing the need for protectors and advancers, so we can better realize the goal for the organization.
Think about your organization. How many protectors do you have? How many advancers?
More importantly, will you achieve the goals you’ve set for your organization this year with the balance you currently have on your team?