For or With

Recently our family finally discovered streaming television (I know, we were late to the party).  One of the shows we have taken to is Downton Abbey.  If you haven’t seen the show, it’s an early 20th century story of an elite English family and the “challenges” that come with money and power.  Think of Dallas or Days of Our Lives just 100 years ago.  From one show to the next, the good guys become villains and the bad guys change their stripes.  It’s quite difficult to keep track of who has what agenda at any given time.
A few weeks ago, our Pastor Frank Switzer talked about situations where people need support and that support sometimes comes and sometimes does not.  Specifically, he cited a few passages where the concept of “I’m for you” or “I’m with you” surfaced.  Note the subtle difference.  “For” as in “I’m rooting for you” means a person says they are technically on your side, but are leaving it to you to accomplish whatever goal or task you seek to finish.  “With” as in “I’m with you” means that person will stand by your side and help you accomplish that goal or task.  It’s subtle, but there is a world of difference between the two.
In the case of Downton Abbey, there are certain characters that you know are “with” you and will stand steadfast along the journey.  Loyal to their core.  Then there are the posers that are in it for themselves, the “for you” crowd.  In life, we need more of the “with” people, whether that is in family, friendship, work, volunteerism, academics, faith, you name it.  With is a lot better than for.  My wife often says, “Who is it that you would want to be in the trenches with?”  That is a great barometer to gage the for versus with continuum.
A real life example of the “with” factor comes in one of our favorite sporting events, the annual Army-Navy game.  Those that have been long time readers of the Monday Huddle Up know how much we love the Army-Navy game.  The tradition, the pageantry, everything the game stands for in honoring the men and women that serve our country.  The young men that play in that game will someday stand next to one another in battle.  For 60 minutes on a Saturday in December they compete against one another for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.  For many of them the years that follow will be spent defending the Commander in Chief (the person) and the freedom our country has enjoyed for nearly 250 years.  These men and women are “with us” in a very real way every day.
So how does this we/for scenario apply to our organizations?  Simple.  Great teams are built on trust.  This applies to families, athletic teams, and of course work groups.  If people trust us and what we stand for, they will be more apt to fall into the “with” category.  As we build out our organizations, we have to play the long game and think about how the people we bring on board will fit in the future.  Will they be a “for” person or a “with” person?  While that sounds easy to accomplish, it’s not.  Here is what we have found to be effective in the past to help identify the “with” people…..

  • Hire more on personality than on job skills.  If the person holds true to similar beliefs that the current team has, it’s more likely they will be “with you” down the road when the chips are down. 

  • Lean on people close to you to help evaluate potential new hires.  In our company, I often send candidates to meet with a couple of companies we partner with, and they always meet my wife prior to any decision being made.  Once they pass those tests then we can make a decision on whether to hire that person or not.  After all, who knows your business and culture better than those you work with and your family?

  • Make it personal.  People are happier when those they work with care about them and about what they value most.  As a leader, we owe it to our people to take time to get to know them, how they are wired, what they care about.  Happy people are far more likely to become “with” people if they feel valued by those around them.  Take the extra time to get to know your people and put them in a position to achieve all the things they want to as people, outside of their goals at work.

Play for the long game.  Hire people that fit the culture above and beyond focusing on just their skills.  Lean on those that know you and your organization to help make the big decisions.  Invest in your people.  These tactics will all contribute to a culture of “with” which will lead to greater success long into the future.