Like your associates, and you may be sorry!

Chapter 1, pages 25-26 from “Lead With Love” by Gerry Czarencki

Just as “philia,” or brotherly love, can be damaging for leaders, so too can liking be dangerous. You may decide to be the leader of only those you like so you will not be challenged by conflict. That is often the next step along the destructive road of leading by liking. Since you want to like everybody who works for you, you begin the process by favoring the ones you like. In many cases, you look past the weaknesses of those you like and become highly critical of those you do not like. The process of favorites or “teacher’s pets” begins. Even though your intentions may be honest and pure, you begin purging your staff of all those whom you do not like. Before you are finished, you have a team of people you like. It may or may not be a great team, but you like the team members and they like you. Maybe they are all friends as well. This friendship will probably influence your decisions, on occasion to the detriment of the organization. Bias wins again.

What is wrong with these scenarios? You could argue that nothing destroys a team more than a person who just does not fit in. Indeed, that can be very true. One rotten apple can spoil the basket. But what if the rotten apple is one of the people you like? Doesn’t that make the problem more complex and sometimes painful? This is especially true if the friend has come to believe that the relationship with you is more important than the leadership relationship. Remember, as a leader your primary mission is to drive peak performance, not build a team of people you enjoy being with. That may make going to work fun, but it may also create serious conflict for you when a friend fails to achieve peak performance. Unfortunately, when this condition exists, leaders have a tendency to ignore the problem until the entire basket is rotten. Again, bias wins.

A more common problem is a leader’s inability to see weakness in a liked person. We all have a tendency to overlook, if not ignore, weaknesses in the people we like. Indeed, we have a tendency to inflate their strengths as well. As a result, we may be so completely blinded that we cannot truly be objective about performance. Remember, as leaders we are almost always accountable, either to ourselves or to a higher authority, for results that match the goals or objectives of the organization or unit. If we are blinded by liking, then we will never be able to evaluate the performance of the group or an individual in it. Often this situation causes shortfalls in performance or failure to achieve goals. At that point, most of us will attribute the failure to external factors rather than conclude that we have failed ourselves or that the team or its members have failed. Bias wins again.

Keep that notion of chemistry, or people liking each other, in mind. If a team is formed from a group of people who do not like each other, it is important that they learn to love each other. This sense of caring, in spite of the lack of liking, is crucial to team success. You do not need liking to create warmth; you need love. For this reason, when Allan Cox talks of warmth in The Making of the Achiever, we assume he means the kind of caring that comes from loving your associates. “Warmth is catching. It is easy to discern those companies where warmth in management has caught on. From first contact with the headquarters receptionist to the head of custodial services in an outlying plant, a visitor who walks the halls of a warm company and chats with its people senses the team-play and pride that pervade its atmosphere.”

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