Happy New Year! I hope you've had a good break and managed to catch up with friends too. Friends of course, we're told, don't make the ideal manager because the relationship can become confused and crucial decisions delayed for fear of damaging the friendship.
But what if we could isolate the good bits of being a friend and employ a few of them at work? Might we be able to increase rapport with our team and improve their engagement?
Let's take a look at a couple of the skills we use for maintaining friendships and see if they're useful with regard to leadership, management and talent development training.
You're in a cafe with a friend who has just told you they've had bad news. Maybe they're splitting with a partner or their pet passed away. Whatever it is, the one thing that almost never happens is you get stuck for what to ask next. And yet, managers frequently tell us they find it hard to know what to ask next. Why the difference? It's a lot to do with mindset. A friend is curious, they WANT to know what their friend is thinking, feeling, experiencing. They know that by doing so they not only might be able to help, but they come across as caring and empathetic too, building trust and rapport. They just want to 'be there for them', creating a safe place to chat. A manager however quite often doesn't have that curious mindset - they're sometimes focussed on immediately finding a solution, showing themselves to be the fountain of all knowledge. So suddenly questions don't come so easily because their focus isn't on the one with the problem, it's on themselves or their appearance as a leader.
So, what to do? Take that curiosity into the workplace. Simply set out to understand, to uncover, to support rather than only focusing on the solution. Actively tell yourself it's not only about the solution. Solutions will come, and they'll be implemented more effectively if your team feel listened to and understood and help come up with them in the first place.
2. Being direct and honest
Our good friends are the ones we can be truly honest with. Quite often we can say things to them we wouldn't say to others. And when we say it, we make sure it doesn't come across as judgemental or mean because we want to preserve the relationship. But we come across many managers who find it hard to give that necessary feedback, they are worried about the response. Or conversely, they don't care ENOUGH about the response and are too judgemental, not considerate enough of the person they're dealing with.
So, what can we use here? Well, firstly, the ability to get to the point, to be honest and clear and direct is very useful for managers. It gives employees clarity and a sense that the matter needs dealing with. Secondly, just as we consider our friend and how they tend to react, so as manager we need to consider who is sitting in front of us and the style they'd respond best to and adjust accordingly.
A couple of 'friendly' tips for you. Try them out in 2023.