“It’s better to have one person working with you than it is to have three people working for you.” --Author unknown

Working for someone and working with someone may look the same from a distance, but if you take the time to dig a little deeper, you’ll find some pretty significant differences.

Here's what it looks like when someone works for you

When someone is working for you, they require constant direction. Because they are tasked with a small piece of the overall puzzle, they must look to you for details, clarification, and progress checks. The time you spend directing someone else is time you’re not working toward your own goals. In other words, having people working for you can actually slow you down.

When someone is working for you, they will willingly take on the assignments you give them. But too often they go about those tasks not fully understanding why they are doing them or what purpose they serve. As a result, they’re not able to offer alternative suggestions, ideas for improvement, or increased efficiencies. The entire burden of thinking, refining, and strategizing falls on you.

When someone is working for you, they are less invested in the work and the results. Their focus is on completion, not innovation or collaboration. Success, for them, is defined by checking individual tasks off their to-do lists and the paycheck they receive.

Contrast that to someone working with you

When someone is working with you, they share your goals, objectives, and vision. You’re able to talk about the strategy around where you’re going and how you’ll get there. And now you’ve got two (or more!) people contributing ideas. Collectively, you are working towards something significantly larger than accomplishing a mere task.

Of course, tasks will still be necessary. But instead of one person directing and one person executing, together you can focus on the bigger picture of what each task is intended to accomplish. Even better, instead of celebrating the mere completion of a task, you can celebrate because you understand its significance in moving you closer to your vision.

When someone is working with you, they become a source of greater energy, excitement, and passion. Instead of diverting time and resources, that person becomes an integral part of something bigger— a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The nuances between having someone work with you instead of for you may sound trivial at first, but it’s often the difference between success and just surviving. Between loving what you do and finding it merely tolerable.

If you’re not convinced, take a look around. The most motivated, passionate, and successful people are not the micromanaging, finger pointers of the world. They are empathetic, charismatic leaders and mentors. And you can bet they have plenty of great people working with them.


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Photo by BrunoWeltmann