Thursday, December 29, 2011

My New Year’s resolutions

Of course I am going to be fitter, lose a few pounds – eat a bit more healthy, drink a little less and spend more quality time with my loved ones. But 2012 is the year I will declare war on bad service and do whatever I can to promote good customer service.
·         I will not go back but find an alternative, if the shops I usually use do not provide good service. (Living in Belgium that might actually be a real issue to find an alternative). This also goes for restaurants, bars and cafes – and will seriously limit the selection of nightspots we have
·         I will complain to the store instead of just accept it as an annoyance (name and shame)
·         I will also make sure I compliment good service. (like praising good behavior in a child)
As consumers we need to put an end to the acceptance of bad service, and demand proper service wherever we go.
These are my New Year’s resolutions; what are yours?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't let simple housekeeping let you down.

It is a shame when you have a great product, great facilities and your people do a fantastic job and just because you miss some really simple housekeeping you let your customers down. That happened to me today…… I started up being really impressed then quite annoyed.
But the story started already two weeks ago. Alpha-male, son and I were on our way to visit family in the UK and we were – as per usual delayed so in a rush to catch a ferry. On the way we got a chip on the windscreen (a nasty big one) so as we drove on I called Carglass for help – the lady in the call center were fantastic listing us options en-route in Belgium where we could stop by to get it fixed – but as we were late for the ferry she organized that Carglass UK would come and fix it the next morning at our destination.  As promised the next morning a gentleman came and fixed the windscreen in the most pleasant and polite way you can imagine, as he finished off he told me to, when back in Belgium, to go to the local Carglass branch and let them check the fix is OK.
This I did today – to ensure I would not waste my time queuing I first call the call center and explained, again the agent was fantastic told me just to come and it would be done very quickly. To find my nearest Carglass Branch I looked at their webpage typed in my address and was directed to a branch only 5 km away. When I arrived at the address the branch had closed down (and from the look of it for quite a while). So for the second time today I had to call the call center to ask for the address of the nearest Branch which was 14 km in the other direction.  Arriving there I am again being helped in the most professional manner and I am very impressed with the facilities they offer the customers should there be any waiting time.  
But regardless, I still ended up being annoyed for having to waste time driving to a closed branch, call the call center and then have to drive opposite direction. And this would be such an easy thing to keep up to date and that let the overall experience down.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Re-inventing you, back to work or just needing an “over haul”?

13 years ago I found out I was pregnant, whilst this was not planned we were nevertheless delighted with the news.
At the same time (well actually 1 month earlier) Alpha-male had accepted a job relocation from Amsterdam to London and I had quit my job to follow him. Whilst I had no intentions of being a “trailing spouse” being pregnant did not really leave me much choice - let’s face not many companies are willing to hire a pregnant woman.
After our son was born I had planned to take 9 months maternity leave and then start looking for a job, but for many reasons (mostly because I enjoyed it and we could afford it) the nine months became 3 years.
After the three years, we moved to Belgium, which meant comming back to European mainland and more importantly I would start working again! By the time we had set up home and it was time for me to find a job I had been away from the job marked for more than 4 years and I was scared.
I was scared that I had “dimmed down” in the last 4 years – that I would not remember how to work, that I would not understand anything – but most of all I was scared that I would be stuck in a job with no possibility of advancement.
Of course I realized that I would  have to step down the ladder compared to when I left, I would have to work hard and prove not only to my employer but also to myself  that I still had what it takes (and to be frank I think I was the hardest judge). So I got a job (as a cover for a girl on maternity leave) and to my surprise I still knew how to work and I loved it (I still do). I worked hard and I proved my worth in the company. Now I am responsible for a customer care organization of 70 people covering 13 countries in 10 different languages.

But in the process I had to reinvent myself somewhat.
Looks: I was a home-mum long before the term “yummy mummy” were coined, although I liked to look good and dress well, more money was spend on son who grew out of everything and Alpha-male who needed to dress well for work. So when I started to work again I needed a new wardrobe – initially I got some wrong, but now my work-wardrobe gives me comfort and the style I like and want to portrait, but most important it is very easy for me to get dressed in the morning, because everything matches and are thought through.  
Office life: One thing I really had to work on was the big picture, I used to think that if I did a good job – showed what I am capable off and that I have ambition to move up would be enough. But this time around I tried to understand the workings of a big corporation, in the beginning I forced myself to read all announcements from everywhere in the business – now it is such an integral part of my work life, because without understanding the big picture I would never be able to create a vision for my team. Of course I have had the great pleasure of working with people who readily shared their knowledge and taught me new things – things that helped me on the way.
So for every woman who are scared of leaving work to be with their child on the grounds that it might ruin their long term career I will always say that you can for sure do it, but I also believe the timing is vital: I was in my late twenties early thirties when I was out – I am not sure it would be a good idea now when I have hit forty. But on the other hand when I am hiring and see a CV with a “gap” from somebody who has been a home mum or dad I am not holding it against them (something I might have done if I had not done it myself). But whether the reason for re-inventing yourself is because you are reentering the job marked or you just think you need an “over haul” invest the energy, time and maybe a small amount of money. You will be a much happier person!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Job well done: task and essence

When it comes to customer experience it is all down to attitude. Job tasks (place an order – clean a shelf) vs. job essence (understand and accommodate customer’s needs)

Most companies introduce and teach newcomers the tasks of the job, the procedures and work-instructions, but the essence of the job is left to be understood “between the lines”, Customer Service suffers when this is the case and in the long run so will your sales.
Ex I needed a white shirt (you know the classic one to use under a suit), went to a GAP shop could only find t-shirts so I asked the lady stacking the T-shirts “where do I find a white shirt?” with a great smile she pointed to the back of the shop and said “you see to the right of the jeans on the back wall there are all the shirts we have”. Had she done her task of stacking the t- shirts and helping customers who asked? Absolutely I knew exactly where to go. But had she performed the essence of the job she would have walked me over there questioned what kind of shirt I was after  and helped me finding the right style and size.

To ensure employees also understand the essence of their job it is key they are told about it, if I tell you your tasks are to stack shelves and help customers finding their way in the store, but not what I really mean by “helping the customers find their way” I am not clear on what their job is really about. In the above example when I arrived at the back wall I saw loads of shirts but no white ones, and could frankly not be bothered to ask again so I left the shop without purchasing anything.

I do not think this is neither complicated nor a new visionary way of thinking, but why is it then, that so many of us are measured and appraised on the tasks we perform instead of whether we perform the essence of the job? Granted it is easy to appraise on tasks – they are easy measured, and you can quickly tic boxes – but to appraise on performing the essence of the job, takes much more time and energy as a leader you have to really observe and explain, suggest and observe some more.
But I promise you it is worth the investment of time and energy, you will have happier employees (they know what is expected of them task and essence) and you will have happier customers (their needs are being more than met) and your bottom line will enjoy it too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Customer Reviews the next step in customer service and communication.

If you have been following this blog or “Blondies private” you know I do lot of my shopping on-line. And I love it. There are brands that are difficult to get in Belgium; I am not limited by opening hours or running the risk that my choice of color or size is not available in the shop.
If you know the product you are shopping for it is fairly easy to do online, but what if you do not know the product. Example: I need a dress and I would look at Net –a porter or Boden or even M&S. If I like what I see in the photo and if the price I right J I will look at the reviews. These reviews are my “best friend” as long as I can trust them.  My bar for whether I can trust the reviews or not, are bad reviews – if I can find reviews on the site that are bad or at least less good then I think I can trust the reviews.
These reviews does drive my buying behavior, if something I like gets bad reviews I am much less likely to purchase and on the other hand if the reviews are good the possibility of me buying is significantly greater. Going back to my need for a dress, I found a dress online from a brand I know and it looked like it fitted the bill perfectly, however the reviews were so bad that I decided against buying it.
As a company of course you take a risk, opening up for reviews like that, but not doing it creates an even greater risk , some potential buyers might not buy because they are not sure of the fit, quality etc., or even worse they  essential do not trust you. Zappo increased their sales by “cleaning” the reviews ( and I am absolutely all for that as long as the cleaning you do consist of correcting spelling, grammar or similar mistakes, the gist of the review needs to remain.
And the communication gets better, what we see more and more is the company replying to customer’s reviews. Obviously they do not need to reply to each individual review and it is mostly necessary when the reviews are less good.
Going back to my dress, the reviews were bad – almost across the board and what Boden did was to answer these reviews with an acknowledgement; stating that the company is sorry that the dress is not up to their usual standard and for the winter collection they will redesign the problem areas. Do I buy the dress, no of course I do not buy the dress just because Boden acknowledge that it is bad, but it makes me feel better about the company and I would not hesitate to buy from them again (provided of course the reviews are goodJ) because I do not fear their quality has gone completely to the dogs.
This is a classic example of taking customer service to the next level keeping the communication open and the great benefit of influencing the conversations about your brand.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stereotyping customers can cost sales.

In March 2009 I needed a new company car. Armed with a generous budget I set out to order a car. I have no knowledge of cars whatsoever (if the oil needs changing I ask for help in the gas station and a flat… well that is why you have roadside help is it not?). I drive long distances a couple of time a month so I want a powerful car that drives smoothly and I like having small compartment for cards, coins and yes lipstick, but basically this it the extend of my needs in a car. Close to the office we have a Audi dealership and as we (alpha-male and I) have driven Audi before I thought I would spend my lunch break checking out the kind of car they could offer.
What happens: I arrive, hover around a bit looking at the cars whilst waiting for somebody who can help me, although I am the only customer in the showroom they all seem very busy doing paper work, and as I approach the desk one guy get up very reluctantly from his desk and decides that he have time to serve me.  But the service is non excitant, clearly he has come to the conclusion that no way am I going to make a decision without a man present, and thus he tries to fib me of with showing me just one car. Bearing in mind this was in early 2009 and the economic crisis were full on you would think that they would be more eager to sell me a top-end car.  My thinking here is obviously that if I get no service whatsoever when I am standing there with money in hand ready to spend – how are they going to serve me if I have a problem? Clearly I took my business elsewhere and now I am the very happy driver of a Volkswagen.
 The point missed by Audi in this case was they stereotyped me, by looking at me they decided that I was not the decision maker for this transaction. Completely wrong as the first time Alpha-Male saw the VW was when it was delivered. Treat every customer the way he/she deserves, do not jump to conclusions but take the time to give the service and make that sale.  If I get good service and a good product then I am a very loyal customer; my next car will almost certainly also be a VW.  Audi did not miss one but probably multiple sales.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Work environment

I love to hear about companies who really spoil their employees, who wouldn’t like working at Google or Apple campuses, where you do not have to leave work to go to the hairdresser have a nice crèche for you little ones and lunch room with proper food that is delicious and healthy, where you have not only an on-site gym but also games rooms.  Or a party means really dressing up – you might even bring your spouse instead of a lukewarm buffet with lazy beer and a DJ who frankly belong at a children party.
Unfortunately I do not have the budget to create a coffee/juice bar, an onsite gym – or even a shower, although I would love to offer it. If I should have a coffee bar, the bare minimum the team would have to give up is their lunch- voucher arrangement (for each day they work the receive a lunch voucher worth 6 Euros – they pay themselves just under 3 Euros (but that is before tax)) so it almost works out at an extra 70 -80 Euros a month in the hand. Even for a “free” lunch people do not want to give up the lunch vouchers so certainly not for coffee or juice.  When the choice is either introducing small luxuries and cutting peoples salaries, or keep the salaries and introduce small gestures the latter wins for me.

I think we have a great workplace, people are nice, we have the tools we need, the offices are not spectacular by any measurement but we have loads of light, nice furniture, neat meeting rooms and as we do not have a cafeteria we do have arrangements with a couple of local sandwich shops who delivers if we order before 10. There is ample of space to eat your lunch and whilst you have to pay for sweets we do offer free fruit for everybody.  We changed coffee machines a couple of years ago after a survey showed that most of the people did not like the coffee. When it came to choosing the new coffee supplier we ask the employees to taste and choose and the one with most votes won. The same goes for chairs – this year we needed to change the chairs in the office we had 4 different chairs on trial and asked a panel to choose which one we should buy. So although we do not have a very fancy office environment it is nice, and we do try to involve many people in the bigger decisions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Experience makes a brand

Let’s face it in most industries the differentiator is not the quality of the product anymore. Most quality is “good enough”.
Take Nespresso, we (mostly the Alpha-male I live with) drink a lot of Nespresso coffee – much more than when we made percolated coffee.  And yes it is easy – you just make the one cup you need and it is very quick. But if you, like Alpha-male, drinks 5 cups in the space of 20 min you could probably get away with percolated coffee.
The point is that it is not better coffee, and there are other less expensive brands of (one –cup-at –a –time) coffees. In our house we like it because it “feels” good.
If I go to the Nespresso shop it feels good – the shop is luxurious  a life-style shop, the décor, the way you have a “membership”, the packing of the beautiful colored capsules in very nice looking boxes and the paper bags of small boutique quality. I know it is wrong on many levels:
  • The, very tiny, eco-warrior in me hates that packaging wise there is a box for every 10 capsules when everybody buys 100 -300 capsules.
  • The fact that even though they have tried to “sex” it up the recycling is pants.
  • The fact the shop is on 4 levels of prime real-estate location – and through my capsules I am paying for that.
Despite my observant self knows all of this it still feels nice…..
If I am honest, I do not really enjoy spending my Saturdays waiting in my life-style shop – with the frequency we need the coffee, so I mostly order on-line. The webpage is easy to use – the delivery is quick and on the very few occasions I have had to contact Nespresso they have been super helpful (both verbal in their call center, but also in email). That makes me happy!
It is the entire experience that makes a brand: The shop – the website – the call center- the packaging – the delivery. At any of these points of contact you can meet my expectations, delight or disappoint me, at any point! And if your service faults I will go to an alternative (other differentiator – but the quality is still “good enough”).
All companies should keep this in mind; make sure that not only at the point of contact, but everybody in the company should know the value of the offering. Think of the cleaner at NASA who when asked did NOT answer “I am a cleaner” instead saw his job as “part of a team, that will send a man to the moon”.
For social media make a plan for what you want to achieve with the use of social media. If you have a FB page or Twitter account give some serious thoughts to what you want the customers to experience – have a plan with measurable goals and have “toll-gate” reviews to measure your progress but also to ensure you are going down the right path.
It is vital you have the right people who write on behalf of the brand (and the policies to back them up), you do not want to make a “Kenneth Cole” and alienate your “fans”. Ensure you monitor the “noise” about your brand and evaluate the impact. Every brand will be talked about – You need and want to be able to influence the talk about yours!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We are hiring!

 It might come as a surprise to some people, but as a hiring manager when I have read your application and decided to invite you to an interview, I actually want you to be successful. First of all because I want to fill the need in my team, but I also want to go back to do what I do best and not have to spend time interviewing people (and I guess  I also want to be happy to have picked the right candidates in the pile of applications on my desk).  Which means that already before you have said a word I am hoping you are a keeper.  So it is certainly a surprise to me that so many candidates are completely missing the point of “presenting” yourself at an interview. Here are some of my favorite dislikes and these are not even mentioning the answers some candidates’ give (I guess there is an entire blog post in that):
·         Dress code. Gone are apparently the days where you sported your “Sunday best” for an interview. Granted you should dress for the job you want – but I still believe at an interview you dress up at least a little. I see people for the second or third interview (they are told I am the “big fish”-  in a small pond I give you that... but still), so I do not understand why they show up in dirty jeans with an out of shape t-shirt and hoodie, if this is the “Sunday best” what will they wear on a normal day? This is not another Gen Y ‘isme - I am interviewing people in their 40’es as well.  Of course there can be good reasons (albeit not many). Once a candidate came in wearing jeans and shirt, the first thing he said was: “ I apologies for my dressing today, but as I am doing this interview in my lunch-break it would look really suspicious at my current job if I come in dressing up more” I completely  “forgave” him because
o   he acknowledged that a more formal dressing would be appropriate.
o   he explained and apologized.
·         Handshake: Be firm- don’t crush my hand but the limp/wet shake frankly gives me the creeps.
·         Be interested: One candidate showed no interest whatsoever in the job or the company – only when he realized our compensation package is better than the one he is used to did he show a glimmer of interest. If you are not interested in the job itself why should I hire you? Read our jobdescription, note our key- word, use them to show how you will be a perfect fit for our needs.
·         Agency forwarded. A fair amount of the candidates we have are presented by agencies. If I hire these candidates it cost me more (a fee to the agency) but it does give me the opportunity to give somebody I am not sure of a chance to prove herself. And I understand that if you are in employment and not looking around you would probably not have seen our opening unless the agency called you. However if you are current unemployed and actively looking I do not understand why you did not apply directly to our Monster or Stepstone adds. It does not show me a real interest in getting a job.
·         Do not be late. We have interviewed more than 20 candidates the last two weeks – a staggering four of those have been late.
o   One came 40 min late with no explanation
o   Two could not find their way  and came 20 and 30 min late
o   One took the bus a stop too much and did not want to walk back – because it had started to rain.  
My point is, if you want a job make sure you are on time – better even  be early and prepared to wait (for me it means that if I have the opportunity I will start the interview earlier and then move on to my “real” job – but it also shows me you are well prepared and eager). Also how difficult can it be to check a map if you go to an interview – even if you are on the bus look out the window check street names and numbers. For the guy who got lost and did not want to walk in the rain …. Really need I say more?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Inefficiency costing sales??

I have just returned from a 24 hour trip to Dublin. DAA Dublin Airport has opened a new terminal recently – and for the first time I went through it today. I was really looking forward, the old terminal is a bit dated – and I do love the new airports for their airy feel (like terminal 5 in Heathrow or Copenhagen airport). But man was I disappointed, not that the terminal is ugly or dark – It did look nice - there were many things I would have liked to explore had I just had the time. But the way you are treated there makes it not only impossible to relax and enjoy the surroundings but also so stretched for time that if you do want to explore you miss your flight.
The terminal is over 3 floors on the ground floor you check in, on the first floor you arrive and on the third floor you have access to the departure gates. As I arrived from the other terminal I arrived on the first floor which meant first going down to check-in then going up to the 3rd floor to go through security, already this is ridiculous – too many people to go up multiple floors and only two escalators and 6 elevators, but I made it. Now through security  - and here is the same issue as in terminal 1 you have to snail your way through a long queue, the people are not very friendly and as you reach “the other side” where you think you can go through the scanners only to be met by even more queues. These queues are “organized” by four employees – and it really begs the question “why not organize the queues from the beginning (as in Brussels airport) then you do not have to have four people standing and shouting at people?” but maybe it is a kind of scheme to keep more people in employment?
So finally I made it to the scanners. I travel a lot – so I am pretty good at knowing what to have inside the bag and what to leave on show. But in Dublin Airport it is always just that little bit more complicated. Obviously I am not the only one in this situation so most people need to put their things through twice. This of course adding to the ever expanding queues. And the people working there (probably mentally exhausted from the endless queues and comments from tired travelers) are quite unfriendly – I mean they say the right things you can just hear that they do not mean it, which do not add anything positive to the experience.
 So this morning despite me travelling with only one piece of hand-luggage and having my stuff ready it took me 50 minutes just to pass security and by then my plane was on the final call. So I could only look longingly at the restos and shops as I ran to catch my plane which was so far out the pier it made Brussels airport look compact.
I feel sorry for the retailers – they must miss out on lots of sales because security is so inefficient.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dress Code in Office

In our office we do not have a dress code as such, for health and safety we ask the team not to wear Flip-flops and thongs, but nothing else –generally we do business casual pretty well. But now as spring and summer is ahead and we have had a few days of unusual warm weather, it gets tricky.
 I must admit that it gets warm here – we have lots of windows, big open office with many people and lots of PC’s, and to top an Airco system that has seen better days. So when the women here starts to wear shorter dresses and bare legs it is understandable, but what about the guys? Some are wearing Bermudas or ¾ lengths trousers – I completely understand – but I do not like it.  
In my opinion when you are working in an office your clothes should not take any attention away from the work you do. So if you would feel perfectly at home by the pool or in a club you are not dressed right for the occasion. I have no problem with jeans and t-shirts- but there are things you should avoid. Ex I once saw a woman not wearing a bra but a T-shirt stating “Eat Me”, that might be fun at a party but in the office certainly not.
What do you do in your company? Where do you draw the line? Or should we just get over ourselves and not pay attention to what other people wear?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Change Management

I am about to start a big move in my team set-up;  one of our remote teams will be moving “back” to the “mother-ship”. We only had them working remotely for 2 years – but have realized this is not the best option. The reasons are many folded but leverage of knowledge and expertise are the top ones. The remote team is doing a great job – working really well and hard, so it has definitely nothing to do with the staff – but everything with the set-up.
To successfully execute this move, planning will be key, so I am in the zone of “Change Management”, leveraging on the experiences I made in the past.
What is the key to successful change management?
·         Communication
·         Communication
·         Communication
 The change team needs to be completely aligned in their communication; as Professor Philip Stiles of Cambridge University puts it: “an elevator speech – preferably practice so you can all say the same thing almost “word for word””.
 You need to be open and honest (keeping anything back will only result in lost credibility). Make sure you are available to the people who are affected (both direct and in-direct). Although I keep a very open door policy in the office – it can be daunting to go to your “boss’s boss”. I make a point of drinking coffee in the coffee corner more frequently when changes are happening and take my lunch so it is “covering” two lunch shifts – doing everything I can to make myself available for those “I just bumped into you” informal chats.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Service Level has to be delivered at all contact points.

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of what can only be described as a marathon shopping-expedition in IKEA with my friend Donnell who is setting up new home.
Donnell came prepared with a list of thing she needed, first stop “sofas” we found the sofa – next we went to the lady at the “help point”, as we approached she was leaving and only by almost running up to her did we manage to get her attention.  The conversation was as follows:
“Excuse me we have a huge amount of furniture to buy today, we need to have it delivered – does that mean we collect it all, pay it and hand it over?”
“Yes on each piece of furniture you can see where in our self service hall you can find it”
“thank you”.
This we did through sofas (three), entertainment system storage unit (two), Office tables, shelving unit, and kitchen tables and chairs. Then at dining room furniture we hit a snag (we had to contact another help-point for the table). This is what happens now:
Hi there, we need a dining table with this particular name, in black”
 “what size?”
“Umm not sure but we have the item number here” handing over the list Donnell had made from home.
“Ok here we go I found it – I can see you have all the item numbers written down – I can create a full list of where to find them for you.”
 And she did – fabulous we did not have to write a thing down, the list was neat and ordered so we could start in one end of the hall and fill up numerous trolleys on the way to the check- out.  
Reaching the check-out with 5 trolleys were not easy but we managed and the girl was super helpful (not at all faced by the enormous amount of furniture we had managed to stack precariously on top of each other) even when we hit a bit of an issue with the credit card (an American card to be used in Belgium for the first time) she was all smiles and
Do not worry, I will help the next customer. Please call your bank and let me know when you are ready to pay
Donnell calls the bank and everything gets sorted, we pay, and now for arranging the delivery.
So we have just paid (loads of customers are still paying) and go the customer help desk, only to be told “we are closed”. 
 Needless to say we were not amused!!! Another conversation goes
“But I have five trolleys full of stuff we need delivered”
“go outside there are taxi service they can deliver for you”
“no that will not do, we need you to do it for us”
“but we are closed – ok let me see…fuck”.
One of his colleagues then decides to step in and save us by arranging the delivery next week.
In the end Donnell got it as she wanted in less than an hour had she collected, paid and arranged delivery. But while I was thoroughly impressed with the list-lady and the check-out girl Donnell was very upset about the last guy’s attitude. So it just go to show that it is so important that the service levels you want your company to portray, needs to be known and followed by every single employee. I who look for good service and notice it remember the list lady and check-out girl. Donnell who does not work in the customer care industry she only remember the guy who said “fuck” to her.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Striking the balance.

I adore my team! They are all great individuals and work-wise they outperform most teams. But although I adore them and we speak about family and private life they are not my friends.
I can easily see why we would be great pals had our paths crossed in another way, but as it is now a real friendship is not an option. I am sure in small companies and with exceptionally strong friendships this might actually work but those are the exceptions….
As a leader you need to keep a certain distance, it should be clear when I ask something of you and you deliver it should be because I ask you as a leader not as a friend. You cannot add friendship to the mix. Anybody can understand that sometimes a leader there are thing you cannot share, but as a friend I really should share. Also it is a lot easier to objectively look at a performance when it is not a good friend. So if I have to comment your work in a critical way you know it is just work  and I am not criticizing you as a person if you are friend the balance is really difficult. Naturally you should have friendly interaction with your team and not keep private life completely out of you work life; we all work much better if we can share some of our private life and it is nice to know about the people you work with.
Likewise, my team needs to be able to complain to each other about me, the decisions I take that they feel are wrong (they might be right – or I am not able to disclose the entire picture). So if I see my team huddled in a room without me – or hanging back after a meeting I know they need to discuss things without me – and that is fine.
When it comes to work parties I guess you can drink the most, dance the most and be the last one to close the party – and whilst you are a real party-animal and everybody loves that you should save that for private functions; it is wiser to enjoy yourself and leave a bit earlier. Not only do you avoid looking foolish the next day but you have also spared somebody else from looking foolish (a drunken team-member passing out or start telling everybody how the world really works).
Recently I discussed this with a friend who said “I normally hang out with my team all the time” and when I resorted ” you need to give them time and space to moan about you .” he laughed but gave it a try. Fair play he came back and told me that not only could he see that the team needed it – but most important he had started to interact much more with his peers and that gave him an insight to the other departments he never had before.
When it comes to social media it is important to keep that distance as well – we have all heard the tales of people being fired for calling in sick and then post party-photos on Facebook or posting horrible comments about their colleagues. But as a leader it works the same way – I do not need my team to see pictures of me attending a private party or comments my friends might make about me. So I keep my Facebook profile very private but everyone can LinkedIn with me – that is for professional use. And of course if you want to follow me on Twitter you are most welcome J