When you manage a staff, it’s only natural to want them to like you. But at the same time, it’s a mistake to get so chummy with employees that you lose your ability to lead them effectively.
The best managers walk a fine line by earning the respect of their team without going overboard and befriending everyone. They gain acceptance not by insisting on being everyone’s best buddy but by building trust and exhibiting fairness and consistency.
Here’s how you can strike the proper balance:
Listen and learn. Many managers hate to hear all the problems their employees bring to them on a daily basis. But whether your workers raise personal or professional matters with you, reserve time for these discussions. Practice active listening.
By serving as a sounding board, you can absorb what employees say and learn more about their motivations. Don’t assume you must offer instant advice or play amateur psychologist. In many cases, your staffers merely want to express their feelings and know you’ll sit still and hear them out without rushing off or taking phone calls every few seconds.
Follow up. Here’s a simple way to show more kindness while still maintaining your professional distance: Ask follow-up questions about employees’ personal lives. If a clerk tells you he intends to volunteer at a local hospital this weekend, ask how it went when you greet him next Monday. If a receptionist mentions that she’s taking a big exam in her night class tomorrow, remember to ask her about it later in the week.
Employees will find your interest most gratifying, and they’ll appreciate the fact that you cared enough to follow up.
Reject complaints. Never allow employees to rattle off problems without proposing solutions. Otherwise, you may find yourself buried under the weight of all their crises. If a worker starts complaining, interrupt and say, “I understand what’s bothering you. What steps are you taking to fix it?”
If you just sit there and let people dump everything on you, you’ll grow miserable—and you won’t necessarily strengthen your bonds with employees. A smarter approach is to require them to present a problem, cause and solution in a concise manner, so that neither of you gets bogged down in bellyaching.