By Ashley Laabs
One of the most difficult aspects of managing a team is to practice a high level of professionalism. Often, this means putting objectivity ahead of your own personal preferences. This task is rarely more challenging than when it comes to managing an individual with whom you just don’t click.
In small businesses especially, it’s easy to confuse a good working relationship with a sense of camaraderie, which is why the lack of friendship can become a major obstacle for managers – especially young managers. Try these suggestions for overcoming those personal feelings to optimize your leadership potential:
Identify your hangups. If you can pinpoint the specific habits or qualities that get under your skin, it becomes much easier to identify the proper response. If it’s something that has absolutely nothing to do with the employee’s performance, your job as manager is to adapt your point of view. A manager is required to remain professional and objective, which is why they are relied upon to make tough choices. If you’re too focused on not being BFFs with one of your subordinates, you might not be able to make the right decision for the business.
Appreciate their unique value. A diverse team may give rise to conflict, but a team of clones will have a hard time finding the same level of success. Even if you don’t like someone on a personal level, you’re likely to find that they contribute to the team in a very necessary way. Don’t allow your emotions to distract you from the most important matter: their performance. If you allow your personal preferences to cloud your judgment, you may miss out on beneficial talents that round out the team. Instead of striving to like this person, their strengths and value can help you find a deep sense of respect for them.
Don’t turn them into the problem. If you can identify that your issues are of a personal nature and that the employee provides professional value, the next step is treating this person as an ally. It’s not you against them; it’s both of you against the problem. Take the high road of leadership by inviting this person to be part of the solution. If you decide to hold onto those negative feelings instead, it’s only going to burden you with stress, and could potentially weigh down the team. If your team senses that there is a disadvantage to not being personally liked by you, they may become more motivated to suck up than to perform their best.
Observe their interactions with others. Sometimes, it takes a little outside perspective to neutralize any negative opinions. By seeing how they communicate with clients, employees and even friends, you may find that the working relationship becomes much easier with a different approach. If other members of your team have found a way to be productive with this person, you can too!
Don’t forget to lead. It’s easy to get focused on what you want, but it’s usually a waste of energy to try to get anyone else to change their personality. If you put yourself in their shoes, you’ll see that a tense relationship benefits neither of you. Be a bigger person and take ownership for making your working relationship a success. Ask what this person may need from you to find success at the company, and follow through to help them become their best.