As individuals we desire to increase our personal skills and experience to maximize our ability to move up to bigger and better positions and roles. To do this we often align ourselves with what our manager’s want us to be instead of what the organization needs us to be. A belief has arisen that we can’t tell managers they are wrong – just as managers believe they can’t be too hard on employees. It creates an environment where neither side is trying to maximize the combined contributions of all parties. We are instead all moving towards a set of personal goals that are very different than the business’ goals.
As they say: this is show business not show friends.
Why do so many of us have issues separating our business life from our personal life? We feel like we have to be friends (or at least friendly) with the people that we work with. But there’s a difference between being friends and being friendly. Friends are long term relationships that we hope to establish to enhance our personal lives. Friendly is knowing the other person and treating them decently.
Decently doesn’t always mean being nice though. When people make mistakes it can be important to point it out and make sure that it doesn’t happen again. This doesn’t mean yelling, screaming and public chastisement. But it does mean having a hard conversation sometimes. Interestingly, the managers I’ve had that help me grow are those that haven’t coddled me or treated me as if I don’t screw up are the ones I most respect and would work for forever. The managers that behave as if I’m awesome and only do good work – never challenge me – may seem good on the surface, but they will never really help me grow long term.
One of the hardest lessons (that I’m still trying to learn) is how to be less like the nice guy manager and more like the manager that pushes and challenges. It can be a fine line to straddle being nice and being challenging. I’ve been knowingly working on it for nearly a year and still struggle mightily with it.
Anyway, what this means for leadership is having more people understand the difference between being friends and being a manager. I’m not sure that a lot of managers really get that distinction – and many of those that think they do believe it means that they shouldn’t be friendly.