A few short decades ago, there was a strong mentality that being professional meant that you didn’t become friends. Work was work, and home was home. Fast forward to today, and those lines are blurring fast. Being accessible and having a real, personal relationship with your team can be a significant performance enhancer for your business.
Friendship and Loyalty Go Hand in Hand
When you have a more personal relationship with someone, your empathy and emotional investment in that person make you less willing to jump ship every time the waters get a little rough. You believe in the other person’s value and trust that you know each other well enough to work things out.
On your end as a leader, this can mean you’re more willing to invest in your team to resolve conflicts, do training, and find roles that are a great fit. On the worker side, employees can see your investment in them and want to reciprocate. They stick around, not because they don’t want to let the business down, but because they trust you for who you are.
Clarifying Your Company Vision
The most successful businesses with the most synergy and innovation are those where the employees share the same vision and beliefs and work with a shared sense of purpose. Yet, in many companies, it’s rare for employees to have an accurate understanding of what the CEO – or upper management in general – really does outside of work, what guides them, or how they think. They don’t feel comfortable coming to superiors and talking about what’s not working, how they feel, or what they care about.
Forming personal relationships lets you bridge this gap. People on your team know how to approach and communicate with you. They feel good about voicing their opinions or needs because they know your goals and whether your beliefs align with their own. They use time and resources well because they have a more personal sense of urgency and responsibility for objectives, and they become your best brand advocates.
At the same time, rather than just dictating, you can make respectful team requests – for example, coming back to the office during COVID-19 – that connect to your goals. People will trust you to make good choices for the team because they’ll know more of where you’re coming from with your asks.
This doesn’t erase the need to be mindful of what’s appropriate as you determine what people think or need. But if you stay mindful of boundaries as you invite people to be vulnerable, and if you show them that they’re personally valued, then the reward for taking the risk of inquiry can be huge.
Accountability, Not Fear
Fear can be a powerful motivator. But when you act like a big, scary CEO and make people terrified of making mistakes, it doesn’t keep them from making mistakes. It just stops them from being honest about it.
Conversely, when an employee sees you as human, they know that, even though you’re going to hold them accountable, you’re also going to give them a shot to correct what went wrong. So they’re usually more willing to be honest and fess up. They hear you out when you explain the big-picture ramifications, and they work hard to fix their blunder because they understand how their actions influenced everybody else. They try to set themselves up not to make the same mistake again, as well. That protects their results and, consequently, your company.
Trade in the Gilded Tower To Accelerate Your Progress
Putting yourself in an ivory tower as a leader imposes a distance between you and your team that makes moving forward together exceptionally difficult. When you are accessible and show your team exactly who you are, your expectations are clear and predictable. You create an understanding of what everyone needs to do to succeed, supporting a healthy, collaborative culture.
So if you’re not spending time getting to know your people, start doing it now. By giving them you rather than just the image of a bigshot boss, they’ll follow because they want to, and you’ll naturally earn the power to guide your business in any direction you choose.