How to balance leadership and friendship in the workplace

Photo: Oli Scarff/ Getty Images.

People have often suggested to not be friends with your team members. I think the opposite of that is true – I want to be absolute best friends with my staff. I want to be closer to my people than anybody.

Relationships are built primarily on honesty, which includes being able to have hard conversations, as well as direct and forthright communication. I walk into our entrepreneur development centre in Ultimo, and my whole heart, my whole body feels like it is home. That’s how culture should be.

Prior to going into business with anybody – particularly people that you already have an existing relationship with – all parties need to have an extremely high level of emotional intelligence. They need to understand who they are – their strengths and weaknesses. They need to understand how to communicate effectively and how to give and receive feedback. Most importantly, they need to do all of that in a very objective way.

When it comes to doing business with someone you know, there needs to be a level of maturity and sophistication to be able to separate a professional discussion and a personal discussion. It is important to understand the dynamics of those two discussions are going to be very different.

If you haven’t yet, but are considering going into business with your friends, you both need to have a conversation pre-getting into the relationship where you establish some principles. You need to discuss how you like to receive feedback and set up expectations. If your level of work isn’t completely aligned to the standards of the joint business, how would you love to have that conversation, and if you want to give feedback what’s the best way to be able to do that?

My team understand that when I come and have a conversation around expectations, or when I come and I have a conversation around any feedback, that is the highest sign of respect and compassion that I can show. I tell them that would be easy for me to not to talk directly with them, particularly when there’s other managers in the business. It’s easier for me to go through the different lines of communication. But often I’ll go direct to a person because I truly care for that person, so they know that anytime I going to them personally, they see that as a demonstration of my respect and my care for their growth and their development.

Be close with your people but understand you need to be the leader, you need to be the person they believe you are and always hold true to that. Everybody needs to understand that business, progress, change and growth requires hard conversations all the time- that’s part and parcel with the journey that we’ve chosen and that is not something that should be shied away from, that should be something that’s embraced and seen for what it is. It is a demonstration of respect and an investment into the relationship.

Jack Delosa is the founder and CEO of The Entourage. For more information on The Entourage visit their website.

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