Are you building a “with” or “for” culture?

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When businesses are in their early beginnings, they’re in a fledgling state where things are still being worked out. Processes are being tweaked and products being innovated. The few people who are involved work together as a team. The roles are hybrids, they lack definition. Everyone is contributing and collaborating on a shoestring budget to meet deadlines and make things happen. The people are a team who work with you.

Then, somewhere along the way, more people get hired, processes and roles get more defined. Walls go up and everyone is in their cubicle doing their job. The work is no longer a living thing, it’s a job, and you have reached a position of being the President or CEO where those “people” you’ve hired now work for you.

There is a distinction in the words with and for. One says we are together serving each other, the other says we are in service of someone who has power over us.

The question is, which culture do you have? Is it “with” or “for?”

In talking to some successful entrepreneurs, they speak of the trials and tribulations of getting there while at the same time waxing poetic about the fun and excitement of the early days where everyone worked closely together with lots of energy and creativity.

Those exhilarating days of “with” can still exist, you just have to give up the corner office for a seat in the middle of the floor. You have to begin thinking of your team members working with you horizontally rather than for you vertically. You have to give up having answers for asking questions. You have to give up having power for giving power.

It is just two words, seven letters in all, but the thinking behind them makes all the difference.

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