Hi friends, this is Jason with our first blog post in 2013, so Happy New Year! (belated.)
I just finished having breakfast at Eggtc. with my buddies from high school. We meet every month to talk about family, politics, sports, religion, business and doing life well. It’s a small group, including Chris Arnold, Mitch Flesher, Troy Reynolds, but I like it that way because we have time to get into meaningful conversations.
Our discussion this morning was a strong reminder of how important my personal and professional relationships are to me! And then I realized that, in many cases, those are one and the same.
Throughout my career, I’ve been told that I should keep my personal life separate, or at least at arms length, from my professional life. Previous business partners have suggested that I can’t manage effectively if I’m trying to be friends with my team because I won’t be able to hold them accountable (or be the heavy) when I need to.
I have heard business owners say, “I don’t want to know too much about my employees personal lives because I wouldn’t want to have to fire them.” Usually in jest, but always with a hint of seriousness mixed in. And one of my favorites is, “never let them take a picture of you drinking a beer… it will show up in the KC Business Journal.”
Blurring the Lines
I’ve never agreed with relationship advice that involves putting up walls. In fact, I’m as “open book” as they come. As far as business relationships, I want to work with companies and teams of people that I can become friends with. This mutual respect and ability to be friends first and clients second is the primary reason that I was able to start a company and make a living while getting to do what I enjoy doing most…teaching and helping people.
I often joke that I love to call out the “elephant in the middle of the room.” If there’s a problem in a relationship, we might as well talk about it and figure out what to do about it. I’m sure you’ve been in the awkward situation where someone is upset and not talking about it. This has happened with your spouse, your staff and your clients… probably on a weekly basis involving all three. It’s so much better (not necessarily easier) to clear the air and you will have stronger relationships as a result.
So back to the three examples I mentioned…
As A Manager, Don’t Get Too Close To Your Team
I believe this is completely opposite of how to run an effective team. Many of those people are still with me… even though many years and jobs separate what we are doing today and when we first worked together.
I can tell you stories all day long about people that used to work for me that have referred Blue Gurus to their employers, that I’ve been able to help get jobs with my current clients, and that I run into at AMC 30 and see the look of surprise and joy at the reunion instead of casual avoidance.
I Don’t Want To Know Too Much About My Employees
If you don’t know what motivates your employees in their personal lives, you won’t know the best way to compensate them or reward them for going above and beyond. More and more, I see that people are motivated by a lot of things besides money. Especially GenX and GenY.
If you’re trying to keep your staff at arms length, they will sense it. And it doesn’t feel good. If you invest in them personally and show genuine interest, there’s a much better chance that they’ll stick with you in harder times because they feel like a valuable part of your team.
Never Let Them Take A Picture Of You Drinking a Beer
So many people are worried about what other people think, especially in business. So what if they take a picture of you drinking a beer in a professional setting. If someone is going to judge you for that, you don’t want to do business with them anyway.
My insurance friends like Chandler Cullor, Howie Fleischer, Patrick Brock, Mike Foley and Bo Govea (to name just a few) would probably love this opportunity to mention that there’s liability for your staff consuming alcohol in a professional setting.
I invest in the people that I enjoy working with and those relationships will last for decades. I would love to hear your stories (leave a comment!) about the successes you’ve had because you blurred the lines between personal and professional relationships.