The Caution of Working with Friends

I believe in being friends with the people with whom I work.  I consider the people on our staff to be friends. I hope we never hire anyone I could not also claim as a friend.  Part of building a healthy team environment is getting to know team members and building close relationships…friends.

That is the disclaimer statement, because this post is not about working with friends.  Actually this post is the opposite. This post is a warning against working with friends; especially close friends.  Well maybe not a warning, but definitely a caution.

Here are a few cautions when working with or supervising friends:

  • Sometimes leaders allow the vision to be sacrificed to protect a friend, but that approach is never good for the organization or the friend. Relationships should not get in the way of accomplishing vision.
  • Friendships create a fine line between what is fair for the organization and what is fair for the friend.
  • Close friendships within an organization can sometimes cause others in the organization to feel left out of private conversations or inside jokes, creating tension in the working environment.
  • When a friend is disciplined or fired it can be difficult for the friend who stays with the organization to continue respecting leadership.
  • When a friend is under performing many leaders have a harder time addressing the problem if that worker is a friend.
  • Friends sometimes assume unqualified job security.  Some leaders are afraid to fire a person if that person is a friend, but again that approach is never good for the organization or the friend.  There are times when a friend is no longer a good fit for the position or even for the organization.
  • If a friend no longer is a fit for the organization and is asked to leave, it can become more difficult to maintain the friendship.

As I said at the start, I love working with friends.  I would not want it any other way.  It is important, however, that friends recognize the risk of working together, knowing that the vision of the organization, at least in the work environment, trumps the friendship.  The bottom line is that doing the best thing for the organization often involves making hard decisions. Leaders should not be held back because of the level of difficulty.

I realize that even this post will create division among readers. Some readers will say that friendships are more important than the vision, but I would disagree.  If the vision is a worthy goal then the vision is worth protecting and friendships should not get in the way.

Have you seen close friendships affect the work environment in a negative way?  Would you rather you did or did not work with friends?

Baddest Boss Qualifier?

In a previous post I listed 9 Bad Bosses I have experienced in my working career.  In that post I stated that I was looking for Bad Boss number ten.  In the follow up feedback to that post I have been reminded of perhaps the worst boss of all and he or she is a combination of a couple of the ones listed.

Qualifying for perhaps the biggest “bad boss” award, but certainly qualifying for a number 10 slot:

The never say anything one-way or the other and you never know where he or she stands on anything, so you keep doing the best you know how and then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, he or she has an issue with the entire project you have been working on boss.

Have you ever known that boss?

Leaders, here’s my advice.  If you have a problem with the overall direction of a team member’s activities, tell them early in the project.  If you suspect a team member is not a good fit for the team, do not pretend they are until they have unknowingly settled into the position.  Consistent and constructive feedback is critical to a healthy team.

I am not suggesting you become a nagging leader, but I am suggesting that a surprise attack is never fair, seldom effective, and usually disruptive to a pleasant working environment.

Do you have a worse example of a bad boss for me to consider?

Lessons from General Motors for the Church?

gm_logoThis morning, thanks to my Google Reader, I landed on an editorial story by Ed Wallace of Business Week Online. You can read the story HERE. Ed writes from an insider’s perspective about the reasons for the fall of General Motors. His insight is of a company who faced problems of arrogance and indifference, failing to meet the changing needs of its consumers. He saw a company that allowed the quality of their product to suffer while refusing to listen to concerns of insiders who were suggesting improvements.

I obviously have no personal insight into General Motors and their demise. Mr. Wallace is one man with an opinion, although certainly far closer to the issue than most of us, with his 10 years working for the company. I wonder, however, if there are lessons for all organizations in his story and General Motor’s current predicament. Is there something here from which we can learn?

Could there be similarities in Wallace’s description of GM’s major problems from his perspective, with other organizations in trouble, such as maybe some churches and denominations today? Could arrogance, failure to accept change and failure to recognize the needs of their constituents be causing injury to the organization of the church? Is there room for improvement in the quality of the product churches use to tell the world about the unchanging message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I think we must ask ourselves tough questions, unless we are too proud to admit our own mistakes.

What are your thoughts? Do you see common lessons to be learned from General Motors with your organization?

Altering My Personal Leadership Style

I am trying to do a better job of adding structure and management to my leadership style. Honestly my preferred approach is to hire the right people and trust them to do the job they were hired to do with limited interaction from me.  I want to be a resource for the people I lead, I try to be approachable, I believe in investment and teaching, but ultimately I want to lead, as I like to be led, and that is with limited direct oversight.

I have learned that this approach is not always effective and honestly it is not even always fair.  I realize, especially in the birthing stage of our church, that people are looking to me for accountability and structure. They want and need to be managed as much as be led.  (I personally believe there is a difference.  To read more about this concept read this POST.)

In my pursuit for consistent improvement in my own life I am opening myself up to a new approach. I will attempt to ask more questions to keep people accountable.  I will visit people’s offices more frequently.  I will eat more lunches with my staff.  I will do a better job of tracking individual progress. It is not a matter of trust but a matter of recognizing the responsibility that I have been given and the individuality of the people I lead.

Leaders, do you need to consider a different approach to your leadership style?  Are you willing to change your approach if the organization or the people you lead require something different than you are accustomed to giving?

Elements To Help Build a Healthy Team Spirit

What fosters an attitude of team spirit in an organization?

Here are some elements that help build a healthy team spirit:

  • An understanding of the overall goals and objectives of the team-When the big picture objective is understood each team member is more willing to pull together to accomplish the mission because they know their purpose.
  • Healthy team relationships- For a team to have team spirit it needs to be filled with team members who actually like each other.
  • Fun times – A team needs time just to have fun together.
  • Team members who value the mission and the team – Some people are not team players.  They may be great people, but they would work better outside a team environment.
  • A “we are in this together” attitude as a team – Healthy teams are those where its members are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.  There are no turf wars on a healthy team.  (For more on this concept, read my previous post HERE.)
  • Team leadership that embraces the team environment – Some leaders lead best from the penthouse suite environment.  They give orders well, but do not really enjoy playing the game with the team.  Team leadership requires involvement.

How does your organization foster a team spirit?  Do you feel you are a part of a healthy team?  What could help your team’s spirit be healthier?

Fostering an Attitude of Team Spirit (Whatever it Takes)

team_building_ringOne of the most damaging expressions in a team environment is the phrase “that’s not my job” or “that’s not my area of responsibility”.  Thankfully I have never heard that said at Grace Community Church.  Sadly it is far too common in organizations that claim to be a team environment.  I talk with people on staffs frequently who feel they are on an island by themselves within the organization and no one ever helps them think through a problem, recruit volunteers for their area, or lend a hand during crunch times.

While I agree with the equally modern concept these days of job specialization, working from one’s strengths and having clear expectations of a job’s responsibility, the very concept of a team is one of shared resources and shared responsibilities.  For a team to thrive it’s members must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission of the team.

Team leaders must foster a spirit of cooperation within the team.  Leading by example, team leaders demonstrate this concept best by willingly participating in whatever is necessary to help the team, even if that task is way out of their comfort level or interest.

Does your team need a dose of a “whatever it takes” attitude?  How does your team foster team spirit?

9 Bad Boss Types

I was reflecting recently on bad bosses I have either had personally or that were in an organization in which I worked. Sadly in years past I may have played some of these roles as a boss.

Do you identify with any of these bad boss types:

The Bully Boss: This boss beats production out of employees.  Employees feel intimidated, which causes them to perform at less than capable performance levels.

The Passive Boss: This boss refuses to lead employees, will not confront problems, and allows dissension among employees. Employees run the show and politics destroys progress.

The Fence Leaner Boss: This boss always sees the grass as greener in another position in the organization or in another organization.  Employees feel abandoned without a voice in the organization and begin to look for their own greener grass.

The My Life Is A Mess Boss: This boss has a messed-up personal life and brings it into the office.  Employees are caught in a sea of drama, which keeps the organization in turmoil.

The Too Good For You Boss. This boss is unapproachable and never invests in employees who therefore feel unappreciated.

The Scared of Competition Boss. This boss is afraid employees will outperform him or her and so employees are given few responsibilities and the boss micro-manages all work.  The best employees feel underutilized and eventually leave the organization in search of more opportunities.

The Never Satisfied Boss: This boss is overly critical and hard to please. Employees wear out trying to make the boss happy and never feel a sense of accomplishment.

The Incompetent Boss: This boss hides behind his or her lack of qualification.  Employees suffer personally from a boss who cannot lead them.

The Aimless Boss: This boss has no expectations for the organization.  Goals and objectives are never obtained and employees are left without direction.

What’s crazy is that I learned valuable leadership principles from each of these bad bosses, if nothing more than what not to do as a boss.

Feel free to add number 10.

Have you ever had a bad boss?

Elements of a Healthy Team

I have written all week about team idleness. Check out more of the posts on the home page of this blog.  I thought it was equally important to share some thoughts about what makes up a healthy team. Obviously that is our goal. Here are some quick elements of healthy teams:

Agreed upon mission: everyone knows where the organization wants to go and what a win looks like.

Right people: The people on the team are the correct fit for the role they have been assigned and have the proper training to complete their assignment.

Ample resources: Regardless of the awesomeness of a team, if the team lacks adequate resources it will never achieve its full potential. (Take it from a former small business owner…no matter how good your employees are cash is king!)

Consistent pace: Healthy teams can’t move too fast or they burnout. If they move to slow they stagnate. There will always be highs and lows with any team, but healthy teams find the right balance for the team and find ways to continue to grow.

Accountability: Teams fail when no one holds the members accountable for success. There are very few people who can continue to function well without a structure in place to insure consistent progress.

Healthy teams reach their full potential and guard against team idleness. Here’s my challenge for you and I to build healthy teams.

What suggestions do you have for building healthy teams?

Will The Real Leader Please Stand Up?

I am writing some posts this week on the concept of team idleness. Check out other posts on the blog.

I believe and practice the concept of team leadership.  I want people in our organization that will assume ownership of an individual task and follow through with the responsibility of seeing projects completed well.  We have a shared leadership philosophy at Grace Community Church and I have posted about the need for a leader to “give their vision away” to people he or she trust to make it better.

That being said, there is usually a balancing statement needed for most principles to work in the real world.  When considering team leadership, for example, one thing that must be equally understood is that there comes a time when one person has to stand up and assume responsibility for the project or task. Someone has to lead.    The leader doesn’t always have to be the same person, depending on the task, but one person needs to be accountable for completion and success of the project.  If not, team members are left staring at each other and nothing moves forward.

Does your organization practice team leadership?  How do you assign ultimate responsibility for successful completion?