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Common first time leader mistake – trying to be best friends with the team

Millennial09Last week I wrote a couple of blog posts about the most common mistakes made by first time leaders – thinking you can control your staff and assuming the title means respect – and I had promised a couple more this week. So here is number three – trying to be best friends with the team.

You can’t. There, I said it. The truth is that being best friends with people in the team is hard, if not impossible. As a supervisor, manager or team leader, you have to make decisions that are based on the needs of the organization first and foremost, and not the feelings of your friends. And these two diverse needs will often conflict. For example, what happens if a good friend is up for a promotion but not necessarily the best candidate for the job? How will your friend feel and react if he doesn’t get the job? What if you had to give difficult constructive criticism to another friend? Worse, how would it feel if you had to fire her? Unfortunately, such situations will arise, whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not. So you cannot, as much as you want to, be best friends with your staff.   Let’s be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a positive friendly relationship with your employees; quite the contrary. But I am saying that you need to understand that you will find yourself in circumstances where you will have to make a choice between the company and your friend, and when that happens, you will be conflicted. You’re going to have to draw the line, and it won’t be easy!

If this is a situation that you are facing, then I refer you to this column I wrote for The Globe & Mail back in January 2014 – How to be the boss when your co-workers are your friends. In it, I lay out seven steps to ease the transition from friend to boss.

Well, let’s hear your experiences. Have you found yourself in the situation where you are trying to balance the role of supervisor with that of friend? How have you handled it? If you’re an experienced leader, what advice do you have to share with those who are new to this scenario? Please add your thoughts by commenting below.

I’ve got one more common mistake made by first time leaders to share with you later this week, so start thinking about what should be added to the list.

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