Effective management means having an effective relationship.
But does it mean being friends?
Of course it’s OK for a manager and their employee have a “friendly” relationship. In fact, having a good relationship that extends purely beyond work is encouraged.
Kim Scott – author of Radical Candor – argued that ‘caring personally’ is one of two keys to effective management. This means taking time to actually get to know the person you manage. Learn about their family and ask how they are. Discover their passions and ambitions in life and mentor them. Identify what makes them tick beyond the 9-5.
However, there then needs to be a very clear distinction when the manager – employee relationship comes into play. Clear boundaries that separate being “friends”, and being “colleagues”.
So how is this achieved?
It means the manager giving direct, honest feedback when it’s needed. Or based on Kim Scott’s Radical Candor model – to ‘challenge directly’.
Being direct in this way can be difficult for both manager and employee. For the manager, there’s always going to be a concern that they’ll cause upset, or that they’ll no longer be ‘liked’ by the person they’re managing.
For the employee, this feedback can sometimes be jarring to hear.
But this is why developing the relationship is important. It means that the intentions of the feedback will be fully understood.
If there is genuine care in the relationship, the employee won’t perceive the feedback as malicious. Instead, they’ll see that, beyond the words, their manager wants to do everything they can to help them grow.
So caring personally is good. But without the ‘challenge directly’ (i.e. honest feedback) element, the manager and employee are no more than friends (albeit with one having a slightly more senior job title than the other).
This will mean the employee remaining ignorant to any mistakes they might be making, and never developing beyond their current abilities.
Without the ‘caring personally’ element, the manager falls into becoming that aggressive arsehole that has their own agenda, and who everybody hates.
Ultimately, the job of a manager is to help someone grow. And it’s by finding the right balance between a good relationship and direct feedback that will help them achieve that.