Strong leadership requires that you develop meaningful relationships with your team. In order to draw out an employee’s greatest assets we must relate to him in ways that are both engaging and inspiring. The challenge, however, lies in creating a balance between identifying with the employee and maintaining a professional boundary. When the need to be liked overpowers the desire to lead, a dangerous dynamic develops between Supervisor and employee-one with catastrophic effects at the professional, programmatic, and organizational level.
Let’s take a look at some of the dangers that come with this kind of a relationship:
- POORLY DEFINED ROLES!- Your team members need to understand who they are and what is expected of them. They also need to understand your role in the organization and how your credentials, experience, and leadership will lead them to excellence. By establishing friendships with your staff you are depriving them of this information by sending mixed messages about everyone’s role on the team. SOLUTION: Be clear about everyone’s roles and your expectations of them! Set an example by establishing who you are and what your team may expect of you. Ensure that your behavior, language, and mannerisms reflect who you are as a leader at all times. Model excellence in all your do and perform your supervisor duties to the best of your abilities. REPEAT AFTER ME…. “I am their leader-not their friend.” Make those job descriptions come to life!
- THEY CAN USE IT AGAINST YOU! I get it-you love your team. You think they are the best thing since sliced bread and believe they can do no wrong. I’m here to tell you that you are officially an IDIOT. Even the most dedicated employee has the capacity to turn on you when their livelihood is threatened. As an Executive Coach I have worked with countless Program Directors who found themselves in their Boss’s office after being reported by their so called “golden child.” Believe me-it happens! SOLUTION: Protect yourself by maintaining boundaries with all of your team members. Remember that this is the workplace and always keep your organization’s mission at the forefront of every decision you make.
- YOUR DEADLINES WILL BE IGNORED! Supervisors are responsible for making things happen. After all, you are helping to run a business. As a solution focused leader, your attention should be on outcomes. Your staff will play a major role in this process by providing documentation for the work they do, relaying important information via email, and helping you to ensure regulatory compliance. By befriending your employees you are more likely to experience resistance in this area. Deadlines will be viewed as suggestions rather than requirements and the information you need will be placed on the back burner. SOLUTION: Establish and maintain boundaries! Set deadlines and remain firm on what you ask for. While flexibility is an important leadership quality it should be used sparingly and with intention. When expectations are not met, be prepared to hold team members accountable.
- THEY WILL EXPECT PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT! By presenting yourself to your team as a “friend” you are entering a relationship marked by closeness and intimacy. This type of a dynamic is unnatural because as a Supervisor, you are in a POSITION OF POWER. The result of poor boundaries is a series of requests for days off, extended deadlines, lateness, and so forth. Your team has learned that you are “one of them” so why shouldn’t they get to do as they wish? SOLUTION: Establish yourself as a leader from day one! Refrain from sharing information about your personal life (marriage, sex life, family) and NEVER engage in conversation around such topics as religion, politics, or money. Any opinion you share about the organization you work for should be positive. If disagree with a policy or are frustrated by management, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.
- IT’S NOT PROFESSIONAL! By establishing yourself as a “friend” to your team you are sending a message about what you consider to be appropriate behavior in the workplace. By establishing yourself as their “buddy” you are creating an expectation that other Supervisors and companies follow suit. When this does not occur, your employees will be left with a false sense of entitlement which may lead to poor performance, strained relationships, or even job loss. SOLUTION: As a Supervisor you should present yourself in a professional manner at all times. Talk, dress, and behave like a leader. Be a model for them to follow when they move on to another position, program, or organization. Remember: your team is always watching so give them the best possible version of yourself.
Maintaining professional boundaries with your team is sometimes easier said than done! If you, or a Supervisor on your team need development in this area email me at Info@ExcellenceByMonicaGuzman.com for a FREE Executive Coaching consultation.