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Leadership on the Front Line

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
Gund Sesame Street Cookie Monster 12" Plush

OK - its great to have friends at work.  In fact I think its a necessity - there are very few of us who would do this (or any) job for no pay and as such work is just that ... its work.  If it was easy and always fun it would be called PLAY.  So with that being said, having someone to talk to at the water cooler is a good idea ... however ... there is a difference when you are a manager!  There is a line that shouldn't and mustn't be crossed and that is the line of professionalism.  So how do you lead these people without seeming like an unapproachable monster?  Well here are some hints and ideas for you:
    Time to Talk: Making the workplace more enjoyable through the conversations you have with your team.
  • Be honest - there are obviously things that you can and cannot share with your employees - terminations and reviews comes to mind! - but as long as you make it clear to your staff that there are some things that you cannot answer that should suffice.  Let them know that in whatever you are telling them you are being as honest and as candid as you possibly can be.  Remember if you get caught in a lie, its not only going to impact the employee that you lied to, but everyone else also once they hear about it ... after all if you could lie to one of their peers about something, whats to tell them that you're not lying to them also?
  • Communicate - talk to your teamALWAYS.  Constant and continual feedback on performance is imperative.  They need to know how they stand in the company and in their team, what they can do to improve and if they've done something wrong this is even more important.  Most employees are in the job to do the best that they can do - there have been very few instances in my career that an employee just didn't care and actively campaigned to get terminated (that's a story for another day!) - and its up to you to tell them how to do this.  In addition to keeping your staff informed and motivated however this has a direct impact on you - do you remember my previous post about Performance Appraisals (if not, click here) - trying to do a year end performance appraisal without giving the employee feedback throughout the year is going to be extremely difficult unless you've decided to grade them at the highest possible level.  If you've not been telling them what they can do to improve and trying to help them to do this they have every right to rip you apart in the review meeting!
  • Respect - Ensure that you are on time for and prepared for any meetings you have with anyone in your team.  In or out of the office your comments about other staff, management and the company in general should always be of the highest calibre.  NEVER let yourself get into a blame game and if you're in a meeting with someone - anyone - pay attention!  This means: 
  • stop looking at your email, 
  • stop looking at your blackberry and 
  • stop answering the phone. 
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series)
Now where do you go to blow of steam?  Lets be honest (which I always encourage - see point 1!) managing is a hard job.  If you're in a difficult situation with your company or a member of your team you sometimes need to be able to say things that are outside the scope.  This is where your manager comes in and if you have a large enough and established enough company - your peers - come in.  They will be able to assist you in your decision making process and give you clear unbiased opinions on any decisions that you are concerned about.  If you're not comfortable utilizing that framework - heck ask me!  I'll give you a completely unbiased opinion and off course there are also tons of networking related groups available online that you can frequent that will be able to provide you guidance in your field too.

Leadership and management isn't easy ... well managing badly can be very easy ... its becoming a great manager that takes work.  I hope you choose to make the effort.
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