Vince Lombardi spoke of a line in the dirt that must never be crossed; a thought process that is true in business as well as on the football field. On one side of the line is you (the boss) and on the other side is your team.
The point is to get as close to that line as possible to know your team as a whole and as individuals, but never cross that line and become friends with any team members.
People cannot separate business from non-business. Imagine going out for after hours drinks with an employee. You hit it off and instantly become friends. The next morning you assign a task that your “new friend” finds unappealing. How do you react when they question the decision because “I thought we were friends”?
Once a leader steps over that line, it is practically impossible to undo. Even if somehow the two parties can come to an agreement to stay professional while on the clock, and are able to do so, the rest of the team may see things differently because their perception makes reality regardless of your thoughts or motives.
If you give the employee space to work on their own because of their capabilities and work ethic, the team may deem it as your friend gets to do whatever they want. On the other hand, if you are a micro-manager and hover over the employee because of their work ethic, the team may believe that the two of you are just hanging out and you’re showing favoritism. It does not matter what your working relationship was with that employee prior to stepping over that line, the rest of the team won’t remember it that way, nor will they care. As a leader you may have always let your employees work on their own, or micromanaged every decision; the team however, will see that you have changed and are no longer fair.
It is a no-win situation for the manager.
How do you change that perception? The best line of defense is to never step over that line in the first place. Leaders can be fun and personable without losing respect or authority. However, if it’s already too late for that option, then time is your friend. Follow company standards and policies, making sure that everyone on your team is treated fairly and equally (depending on their roles); and if you decide to socialize after work, make sure that the invitation is open to everyone, and that you equally split your time between every employee.
In closing, one last thought on leadership from Vince Lombardi, “A leader must be able to direct people but he must also be able to make people willing to accept direction. The strength of a company or a team is in the will of the leaders. If the manager is weak-willed, the company will be poorly directed.”
April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.
Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.
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