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Yet Another Subtle Yet Huge Distinction

A few weeks back, in Feeling Like You Belong, Or Just Trying to Fit In, I kicked off my weekly post with something that looks like a minor difference, but that’s actually pretty significant when you break it down.

Such is the case once again with our current topic, which is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First off, this is yet another basic topic that I cannot believe I haven’t written about here before, despite writing each and every week for over a decade now.

Second, it was inspired by a question my daughter asked me recently, based on something she noted that I’d posted on LinkedIn.

You know your kids are grown up when that’s the platform you have in common.

My Joining Blackwood Family Enterprise Services

Those of you who also spend time on LinkedIn may have noticed some recent posts that noted that I have joined forces with Blackwood Family Enterprise Services (BFES).

After having worked mostly alone over the past decade, it was wonderful to discover a group of like-minded advisors who are expanding across the country and building an inter-disciplinary team to serve client families.

But when my daughter saw one of those posts, she asked, “So you work for Blackwood now?”

“Well, not exactly”, I replied. “Not working for Blackwood, more working with Blackwood”.

Being invited to join a group and being hired as an employee are not the same thing.

Offspring Working with Mom and Dad

There’s a related situation that occurs in many family businesses, of course.

When I speak to a second generation member of a family enterprise, I can sometimes be corrected by them if I happen to note that they work “for” their parents, rather than talking about the fact that they work “with” these family members.

This is also something that will likely evolve over time.

As a youngster, going to work in your parents’ business after school, on weekends, or during the summer school break, it’s pretty clear that you are working “for” them.

But if you fast forward a couple of decades, and now you have established a credible career, it’s easier to begin to think in terms of working “with” these more senior family members.

And if you’re really lucky, you can even ride this all the way through to the other side, where the parents end up feeling like they’re working “for” their offspring.

Adult to Adult Relationships Are Key

In both scenarios above, professionals working together or family members toiling in the same business, what’s key is that everyone try to maintain proper relationships with each other.

Being on a team with others, we are constantly placed in situations where the “me” and the “we” can be in conflict.

The more we can be sure that all such relationships are indeed “adult to adult”, the better things tend to go.

There may be a hierarchy that needs to be respected, but the more that lays quietly in the background, the better.

Feeling like someone is flexing that over you is not conducive to sustainable relations.

Coaching and Being With

When I work with members of an enterprising family, or even the whole family as a group, I’m always on the lookout for clues around their relationships with each other.

When a family engages me, they are hiring me to work for them, but I treat it much more as though I am there to work with them.

While they hire other professionals who serve them in other ways, typically for some technical service, they may feel more like they are hiring those specialists to work for them.

Because I serve much more on the process side of things, the working with is a better way to go.

When I did my coach training a decade ago, the concept of “being with” the person we are coaching was driven home over and over.

Walking with Others, Side-by-Side 

As I write these lines, I’m flashing back to a post from 2017, Work with Me, Walk with Me.

There, I shared an expression I had picked up from a course leader during a series of facilitation courses. (Third Part Neutral)

She explained that she’d spent a few years walking with some indigenous groups, and I asked her to clarify if she’s said “walked with” or “worked with”.

She had, in fact, said “walked with”, and that analogy has stayed with me, as I walk with families, as their guide, side-by-side.