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