Work | Universal Truths #3

So back here I did the first of my universal truths series. Here today to share two more of my observations from 20+years of managing and leading people. If you didn’t see #1 then here’s a quick recap and my disclaimer.

I want to share with you the ying and the yang of management and leaadership, one from the warm, fuzzy side and one from the hard arse, dark side. It’s kinda like Star Wars and the force. We need both to keep the work universe in order and ticking along productively.

Disclaimer: Yes, these observations are gross generalisations and won’t apply to everyone or every situation. But hey, in my experience these apply to most, and while they are my universal truths, they don’t have to be yours.

Two types of truth

Truth One: The warm, fuzzy, empathetic, uplifting, inclusive and engaging side of management and leadership.

This is the one everyone likes to talk about when we talk of leadership and managing people. It is the inspiring side of leadership.

Truth Two: The dark, tough, toe the line, I’m the boss, you are not, don’t try me side of the management and leadership. We forget that there is a very real counterbalance required, if in fact, you are going to really lead and make a difference.

It’s not all beer and skittles, coffee dates and sharing birthday cake.

No, to be an effective leader means that some of the time, some of the people will not like you. At all. Not even for birthday cake.

In sharing my universal truths I hope you find something that makes you think, smile or question. Let me know in the comments what your universal truths are as I’d be keen to explore this subject more. Cheers Le

Universal Truth #3a

Invest in your outliers and grow the capacity of the team

Sometimes we default to managing the ‘easy people’ in the team, to the exclusion of the the ‘different people’. We tend to migrate towards ‘people like ourselves’, when in fact diversity brings strength to a team. We don’t even do this consciously, but it may happen just the same.

Whether we admit it or not, managers have favourites. Favourites might be the high performers, or the easy going ones, or the hassle free employees. Then there is the big swell of team members who are just fine. So what about the minority, the ones that take a bit more time, that have a greater need for something from us, the ones with a complicated home life or some other demand on them.

When we marginalise these team members, the whole team suffers. It’s your job, as the leader, to find a way to make all team members shine bright. The quirky, left of centre team member will add value in their own way, if you facilitate the opportunity for them to have a voice, find meaning in their work and gain the confidence to contribute.

When you find ways for each individual in the team to shine, the collective light of the whole team grows brighter, stronger and more resilient. Be the one who takes the time to know these individuals, to understand what makes them tick and give them the opportunity to thrive. When you do this their loyalty, commitment to task and value add may even surprise you, and you might want to hire a few more unicorns and mermaids.

The Dark Side #3b

Workplaces are not friendship circles

Ok, so it might be tough to hear, but as a manager you may be friendly, but being friends is a slippery slope to nowhere good. Just forget it. Sure, be friends after you leave. Be friends when they leave. Being friends, with members of your team, when you are the boss, is going to get you into a hot spot of bother.

Maybe not now, maybe not next week, but eventually there will be tensions, tears and trauma. And probably a dismissal … who’s dismissal is up in the air.

The major flaw with a work based manager – subordinate friendship is the imbalance of power. Now don’t sit there and say this doesn’t apply to you and your buddy, because, you know you’re enlightened. It does. You are the boss, they are not, simple. This links in with turf wars too, more on that another time.

The imbalance of power thing is not a good building block for friendship anyway. So just give it away. Pursuit of a friendship with a subordinate may inadvertently take you, as the leader, down the dark alley of future harassment, bullying allegations or reputational damage.

The second really big issue is perception. Even if the two of you manage to avoid a plethora of likely dilemmas, because, you know, you’re special, the team around you will notice and will not be thrilled. Favouritism, ‘in jokes’, familiarity, shared social media pics and more will breed contempt within the team. Everyone is a loser in this situation. JUST. DON’T. DO.IT

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