I’m writing this flying home to Brooklyn. I’ve been away for almost a month. The trip started with work and ended with vacation. It feels nice to be flying home with my family, to a place I feel connected to. I feel grateful for this.
I heard some small talk between two fellow passengers. It’s the kind of small talk I used to take part in when I traveled too much as a “management” consultant. (I still don’t know exactly what being a “management” consultant means…)
The chatter was the safe, disconnected exchange two strangers often have. It revolved around where they work, went to school and current challenges at work. The latter didn’t go too far and stayed surface level. Safe. Comfortable. More comfortable than ignoring each other. Yet not uncomfortable enough to establish a real connection.
I heard one passenger say they work “for…” Hearing this sparked this newsletter’s topic. It reminded me of my preference to work “with” not “for” others.
I tracked this thinking back a few steps. I realized the distinction between “for” and “with”, in my experience, relates to a couple topics. The first is working within a hierarchical vs. non-hierarchical structure.
“For” implies I’m working under someone else’s control and others are working under mine. Control implies a command and control structure. I relate command and control with people having to do work they either aren’t motivated by and/or really don’t believe in. “With” implies we’re working together, toward common goals, through a shared set of values, that we believe in.
The second topic relates to rolling on our own terms. Working “for” someone implies, again to me and in my experience, I’m trudging along on someone else’s terms. Working “with” someone implies I’m rolling on my own terms, in sync with others and their terms.
Most of my working life I worked on others’ terms. Flying home and writing this, I feel grateful to be flying home on my terms. I feel fortunate to be returning to work with teams I believe in, toward shared goals we believe in together.
How about you? Do you work “for” or “with” others? Are you rolling on your own or someone else’s terms?
Let me know by replying directly to this email.
Catch you next week,