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When personal relationships compromise leadership thinking
May 19, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
It happens to all leaders. You are or have become friends with an employee. (Or, to make matters more sensitive, the employee may be a relative.) Performance and/or behavior issues are becoming obvious to the rest of the team and they’re looking to you for a solution. Of course you’ve seen the issues for quite some time and you’ve had several “light” conversations with the employee hoping things would get better. Well it hasn’t – and your continued reluctance to have that crucial conversation is talking its toll on the team and your credibility as a leader.
When leaders allow personal relationships to cloud and distort their thinking, compromise is always the outcome. I’m not suggesting that you discard your sense of compassion and respect for your employees. Not in the least. What I am emphatically suggesting is that, as leader of your company, your prime objective is to serve and protect the integrity of the business, its team and its customers. The no-compromise leader must never see and acknowledge a problem and fail to act. Not to pounce on problems, but to identify and seek solutions through coaching. Given this, allowing a personal relationship to get in the way signals to each and every employee that you support and protect a double-standard culture – one for friends and relatives and another for all other employees. Talk about contaminating a business culture from the top down!
Here are some red-hot strategies to keep personal relationships in business in check:
- When hiring a friend or relative, establish clear expectations and guidelines that all employees are held to the same standards of performance. No exceptions. No special treatment. No compromise.
- For friends or relatives already employed, it’s time for a crucial conversation that establishes where personal relationships end and business relationships and accountability begins. Get it all out for discussion. Your goal is to have extreme clarity on how your relationships will not interfere in your ability to lead the company.
- Have friends or relatives report to another leader. Do not interfere. Do not override that leader’s decisions. All parties will be better served though this separation.
- If it’s already gotten out of hand, it’s time to fix what your compromising created. Remember, all eyes are upon you. Your leadership credibility is on the line. Acknowledge that you allowed a double standard to evolve and that it has created issues and resentment with the rest of the team. Clearly identify what needs to change. Ask if there are questions and agreement on moving forward.
- The toughest fix to do is when the friend or relative is in a decision-making position that he or she is clearly not qualified for. To allow this to continue is clearly a serious compromise. In addition to the host of issues that occur when an employee is in over his or her head, it’s setting the employee up for failure. Either find another position more suited to the employee’s skill set or end it. You’ll be doing all parties a great service.
Leadership is tough work and, on occasion, you will find yourself in the midst of a disconcerting dilemma purely of your own making. Recognize it. Fix it. For the no-compromise leader there is no other alternative.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends They’ll appreciate it.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO and author of No-Compromise Leadership
Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up