I was talking to someone I know quite well the other day and they were telling me about how one of their new managers is struggling. He is only 25 years old, in his first role as a manager and he is managing a group of people who are also in their early 20s. After only a few weeks, he has managed to annoy almost all of his team.
My friend says that he is a lovely chap and is trying so hard to be a good manager but, after listening to my friend for a couple of minutes, I could see that the guy was making a crucial mistake. He was trying to be both everyone’s best mate AND their manager. That does not work. He is blurring the lines and leaving his team confused and angry.
I know it is a great temptation to be friends with your team. You want your team to like you, you want them to confide in you, you think this is the way to get the best out of them. But, as soon as you are put in a place of authority, a line is drawn. For instance, an off-the-cuff joke between two mates can sound horrifyingly out of place when re-seen in the context of manager and team member. Or imagine a friend of yours giving you some negative feedback about your work.
Affiliative Leadership style
Daniel Goleman’s Leadership Styles model does include an Affiliative style; a style which is based on creating harmony within the team. It is a very effective style that develops great loyalty and allows people to be more flexible and innovative within the workplace. An Affiliative leader emphasises people over tasks, they develop close bonds with members of staff but they also know there are boundaries.
A Balancing Act
It is a tricky balance but there are ways to achieve this. Just before I got my first management position, I used to go down the pub with the rest of the team on a Friday lunchtime and we would moan about managers. Once I became a manager, I realised that I needed to give them time to moan about me (if they needed to) so I stopped going to the pub on Friday lunchtimes.
So here are some tips on maintaining that balance:
- If your team organise social events, only go if they invite you – don’t assume you can go or invite yourself.
- Never get involved in gossip about other people in the organisation.
- If the team have a non-work discussion at their desks, do not get drawn into it … at some point, you are going to have to remind people to focus on work.
- Never have personal relations with a member of your team … EVER.
- By all means let your members of staff tell you their personal problems (in private) but never disclose those personal details to the team.
In summary, be warm and supportive of your team, be approachable and friendly… just remember that you are paid to manage them, NOT be their mate.
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