If you’re reading this, chances are you work for, or own, a business of some sort. It may be for-profit, it may be nonprofit, doesn’t really matter. The goal of every healthy organization is to grow. The motivation behind that growth may be different, but, as the saying goes, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

Growth inevitably means expanding your team. Identifying the next team member or partner (outsourced service as an example) to join your team is no easy task. Whether or not this is your responsibility, you are, no doubt, impacted by every new organizational relationshipwhether it’s internal or external. 

It’s always tricky to define what exact role/partner you need to add in order to allow the greatest growth. What skill set do you need them to bring? What kind of experience is most relevant? This is especially challenging in a smaller organization where the team member may need more diverse talents. While all of this is critically important, rarely is just defining the skill set the most significant factor in determining just how much growth that new addition will allow you to achieve as an organization. 

Unlocking the potential 

The growth potential that new team member or partner will allow is mostly determined by your motivation and perspective in hiring them. The big question is, are you looking for someone to work FOR you or are you looking for someone to work WITH you? 

If you're hiring people or partners to work FOR you, you're simply looking for someone who won't hold you back. If you're hiring people and partners to work WITH you, you're investing in people who will move you forward. It can be the same person/partner, it's your attitude towards the person that will make the ultimate difference. 

Even though attitude is the ultimate difference-maker, a positive attitude alone isn’t enough. It’s easy to tell yourself, “Of course I want people/partners to work WITH me!” But, even when start with a positive and healthy attitude and intent, you can totally sabotage everything if you wrap that positive attitude with unintentionally negative actions. 

WITH or FOR environment 

That positive attitude has to manifest itself in the overall environment and culture you create. Even if you never specifically expressed your attitude, your environment and culture must make your attitude obvious; it has to speak on your behalf.  

Look around you and take a quick inventory. Do you believe the people working on your team are simply working FOR you or are they truly working WITH you? What does your team think?  

Look at the last job description you put together. Was it dominated by ensuring the candidate could check all of the minimum skill-expectation boxes of the role? Or was it balanced (maybe even overshadowed) by describing the psychographic traits you want and need in the candidate/partner to be a good cultural fit?  

Look at your current team members and critical partner relationships. What goals do you set for each? How do you measure success with that team member or partner? Are the goals things that are measured by what you get or are the goals measured by outcomes that measure your mutual growth?  

Once you have the new people on board, how do you interact with them? Does the dynamic create a situation where they are expected to reactrespond, and report to you? Or does the interaction flow much more like a partnership of equals? Are they comfortable in challenging you and suggesting different courses of action? 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting an environment without structure, rules, or hierarchy. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. Mutual growth has to come with structure, with defined expectations, and with mutual accountability. But it’s the attitude woven into each that makes the ultimate difference.  

It’s not easy 

Hiring people to work WITH you is much more challenging than hiring them to work FOR you. 

It takes a strong leader to give up absolute control and to set ego aside in order to have a WITH environment.  

In fact, leaders in a WITH environment recognize that they actually have to put the growth of their team members and partners ahead of their own. But they also recognize that when they, as the leader, orchestrate the growth of those assembled within and around their organization, the organization itself will always be the biggest growth benefactor of all. It just can’t be the myopic, primary motivation. 

Celebrate the risk  

If someone works FOR you, it is easy to create a safe (non-risk) relationship. But putting a team member or partner into a FOR environment is like putting a boat into its mooring. Sure, it’s safe there, but its real purpose and potential will never be achieved. 

Putting someone into a WITH environment does come with risk. At some point you are going to be so successful at helping someone hit their potential that they will actually grow faster than the organization. When this happens, don’t pull them back into a FOR relationship with you. Encourage them to go wherever you have prepared them to go. Yep, that will suck for the moment, but this should be your ultimate celebration.  

If you have created a WITH environment, you may have individuals whose growth outpaces you. But, if you have created this environment focused on the growth of others, I promise your organizational growth will outpace the growth of every one of your competitors.  

When you have created a WITH environment, your team members will build your organization faster than you could ever imagine.  

When you have created a WITH environment, your outside partners will always out-deliver and do whatever they can to drive your success. 

When you have created a WITH environment, you will never have a problem recruiting the next team member or partner; they will be lined up to work WITH you. 

When you have created a WITH environment, you have created an environment people love, value, and want to be part of. Even though you have prepared them to have the opportunity to go elsewhere, the reality is they will stay with you much longer than you might expect. 

Are you WITH us on this one?! 


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Photo by Dean Drobot