FROM FRIENDSHIPS TO LEADERSHIP
It’s bound to happen. How couldn’t it? You spend up to 8 hours a day at work with other people. You’re bound to make friendships. Some of these workplace friendships are just that – only in the workplace, but some friendships extend beyond the borders of the organization you work for and become stronger friendships. I’m telling you they matter. Workplace friendships are important – and I encourage them.
Workplace friendships are your support system. Even if these friends haven’t met them, they know the names of your kids, your spouse, your siblings, and possibly your parents. Odds are they’ve seen pictures in your work space or are connected with you on social media. They have an inside view of who you are outside of work and what’s important to you.
These people share life’s ups and downs. They’ll comfort you in your worst moments and be happy with you during the best moments. They’ll share your excitements and help with anxieties. In all of the places I’ve worked I’ve had these friendships. They make the experience of working that much better. Looking back, they also make moving on to other opportunities more difficult.
So, yes, I’m in favor of these workplace friendships. Having said that, the old saying goes “with the good comes the bad” and at times these friendships can create some conflict. It’s important as you grow professionally that you are aware of some of the challenges that can occur (that we’ve seen occur) so you can be proactive throughout the journey of your career.
Probably the toughest story we hear is the loss of friendships due to this “Buddy to Boss” scenario. You get promoted, you are now their supervisor, and they expect special treatment or favors. We hear accounts of situations where the friend that feels like they got left behind wants to see you fail. It’s a miserable story. One that we often hear through tears, but sadly it’s common.
How do you handle this type of situation? If you see yourself in any of these scenarios then you need to have a conversation with your friend. This is going to be tough because at the end of this conversation you may find out the friendship is over. We’ve seen this more than once. Sometimes you spent years with this friend, possibly even outside the workplace, only to find out the friendship was more important to you than to them. And if this is the case then you must have the courage to move on. On more than one occasion during our classes a new leader has reconciled the loss of a workplace friendship after they are promoted.
The facts are true friends will not take advantage of you or your position for their benefit. True friends want to see you succeed. True friends are supportive of you and your new role.
It can be a lonely place when you begin a new role. Learning your new expectations, while at the same time learning to lead a team, can be challenging, but also extremely rewarding. Stay strong in your conviction to be a successful leader.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Begin your new leadership position with one-on-one meetings as soon as reasonably possible. This meeting is to find out certain things:
1. Get to know them and exactly what their responsibilities are. Find out what they look forward to in their positions and what they don’t particularly like. (Strengths & Weaknesses)
2. Ask them about their goals. Use that information as soon as you are settled into your new position to meet again to help create an action plan for them to meet those goals.
3. Ask them what they think is good about your department and what can be improved upon.
4. Ask them how you can help them be successful.
5. This is your perfect opportunity to talk to your workplace friends about how the dynamic of your relationship at work has changed.
6. Come up with other questions that will be helpful to you in your new position.
Look for leadership training opportunities for yourself. Anytime you can develop your skills will give you an advantage in your leadership role.
Learn exactly what is expected of you as far as responsibilities, what is expected of your team, and what is expected as a whole from your department (monthly goals/requirements, etc.).
Do not be afraid of accountability. Make a commitment to yourself that you will know the policies/rules of your organization and you will hold every person on your team to that standard, regardless of prior workplace friendships. I can tell you in every single instance, it is easier to begin your role holding all people accountable to standards than it is to be relaxed in this area when you begin and then try to get it under control. You will be tested. Accountability is one of your best tools. Use it.
As I reflect on the workplace friendships I have had, I am still completely in favor of them. There is nothing better than enjoying what you do, and having good relationships with the people you work with plays a part in enjoying what you do. The dynamic will change, but it is not impossible to maintain workplace friendships after your promotion.