You’ve got a friend in me!
Updated: Apr 30
The bosses I have been the happiest working for, the ones where I grew the most, who I was the most challenged by, learned the most from, and who I always worked the hardest for, were also my friend. The ones who asked me how my weekend was and cared about the answer; who knew the names of my husband and kids, and their interests.
When both leader and employee are invested in each other, I mean really care about one another, both grow and gain from the relationship. You become each other’s advocates, and you truly want the best for each other! You are not competing with one another; you hold each other UP!
You may outgrow each other professionally, but you will have that friend and advocate for life! Its important to know what type of leader will be the best fit for you. If you are in a situation where you don't feel good about your current relationship with your leader, what are you doing about it?
I once had a boss who would come in every day, head straight to their office, and shut the door. They didn’t have a personal relationship with anyone on the team. In fact, most of the time people feared this person. Often, we would send someone down to find out what kind of mood they were in and then tell everyone else before they had to meet with them, what to expect that day.
I remember my very first performance review with them. In preparing, I asked the entire team if they had any feedback for this individual. Overwhelmingly, the team shared they just didn’t feel this leader cared about them as people, they didn’t feel appreciated, some were even looking for new jobs on different teams because of this. A woman on the team said, “I don’t even think they know I am pregnant” (8 months into the pregnancy).
I remember being anxious preparing for the conversation because I didn’t feel confident in how to bring this stuff up, I didn’t have a personal relationship with this leader either; was strictly work.
I walked into the leader’s office, sat down across the desk from them, got thru the review and at the end the leader said, “is there anything you or the team needs from me?”. I felt my face get hot and with a shaking voice I blurted “No one on the team thinks you care about them as people. You come in each day, you go straight to your office. You don’t say good morning, you don’t ask them about their lives, you don’t know who they truly are. Many aren't happy and some want to leave the team". GULP, followed by silence, then I couldn't help but tear up...did I just say that? I was thinking I was about to get fired. The leader got up from behind the desk, walk to the other side by me, pulled up a chair, leaned in and said “I can tell that was very hard for you to tell me. Thank you so much for the feedback”. And then said, “I will remember this day 2 years from now. No one has ever told me that”. THANK YOU, JESUS! I was not getting fired!
When I left the office, I remember being so proud of myself. I immediately called my mom (even though it was a long time ago, I would probably still do the same thing today). The best part of this is this leader immediately made changes. Authentic, real, lasting, change. I noticed immediately as they started to take interest in me as a whole person. The team noticed too! Years later, I was talking to a good friend of mine who worked for that same leader, and he said what an amazing leader that person was. I was so happy to hear the change did last!
lf you want something more than a strictly work/transactional relationship with your leader, have an open discussion with them about how to get the most out of you. If you are looking for a new job, make sure you interview with the hiring manager directly. Make sure you ask them questions like:
What do you like to do in your spare time? Steer clear if you hear things like "what spare time, hahaha, I work 24x7". Or, "I work in my spare time"... RUN!
Tell me about a time when you had a conversation with an employee where you didn't agree with them, but allowed them to make a decision you didn't agree with. What happened? Listen for an authentic answer. You know they will not have prepared ahead of time.
Would you mind giving me the names of 2 of people I can talk to about your leadership style? If they say no, RUN! If they offer up 2 names, ask similar questions as above.
Do a little digging on your own about that prospective leader:
Do you know anyone that might know them who you can talk to?
What do they post about on social? Are they not on social? Not sure this is a bad thing, but it could indicate that they have a work life and a personal life. Does that matter to you? It may not.
Bottom line, get a sense for what type of relationship you want that makes you the happiest! Yes, you should be happy with your leader! You own this. They aren't mind readers. If you have been honest with what you need and you aren't getting it....
People don’t leave companies, they leave people….