Dear Team: I don't love you

Managers beware: getting too close to your colleagues is a bad idea, says Chris Pearse.

by Chris Pearse
Last Updated: 14 Feb 2018
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Down to business

Dear Team,

It’s Valentine’s day again and I want to take this opportunity to put a few things straight about our relationship. The first thing, which may come as a bit of a shock, is that I don’t love you and I don’t want you to love me - even today, of all days.

Let me explain… just because I’m your boss doesn’t mean that we have to love each other. In fact we don’t even have to like each other. Sometimes the friendship that develops between a manager and her team can seem like a good thing, oiling the wheels of the organisation and helping to overcome challenges. But, in reality, it can often work against us all, making it harder to hold those awkward conversations about our performance - or lack of it - and to hold people to account.

The fact is that my best bosses were the last people I’d want to have a drink with. I had nothing in common with them outside work and no desire to fraternise with them. I’m not sure I even liked them. But I certainly respected them and I would do everything to make sure I hit the targets and fulfil the objectives they were expecting me to.

The truth is, I wasn’t doing it for them, I was doing it for me. What they did was to create an environment in which I would do better than I thought I could. Isn’t that what leadership is all about, getting people to be better than they think they can be?

Now I’m not saying, for one moment, that we can have a bad relationship in which we actively dislike each other and have no mutual respect. We have to be able to get on, regardless of how incompatible our personalities may be.

There is an unwritten but non-negotiable requirement in every job spec, and that is the need to get on with your colleagues regardless of how you feel about them. If you can’t do that, you can’t do your job and you need to consider your position. That’s what being professional is all about - putting responsibilities before ego.

And speaking of responsibilities, here’s another bombshell… as your boss, I am not responsible for your behaviour or your performance. Why? Because you are, that’s why. I’m only responsible for creating an environment in which you can take full responsibility for yourself. I can’t tell you how many teams fall apart and fail simply because the boss just doesn’t get this simple fact.

Let me clarify another detail: when I say I don’t want you to love me, it’s not that I want you to dislike me. It’s just that it doesn’t really matter what you think of me. It’s not my focus. My focus is on getting the best out of us all - even when the best is better than you thought it could be. So whether you like me or not - whether you love me or not - is of little concern, because what you think of me is really none of my business.

So I wish you all a great Valentine’s Day without me. I expect you to get along with each other and no more. I advise you not to focus on what I think of you, just like I don’t overly concern myself with what you think of me. I suggest that what you think of yourself is so much more important. And when you like and love yourself, then everything else has a knack of falling into place. And if you don’t believe me, give it a try.

Chris Pearse is founder of Clarity Space providing leadership development, coaching and training for CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs.

Image credit: Raw


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