Startup Lessons Learned: Can You Be a “Friendly” Boss?

startup lessons learnedI was recently spending time with a good friend of mine, he’s a hot shot professor of design in Switzerland.  Tom also has his own design firm and had just brought on a couple interns. He was talking to me about an issue he had with them.
Tom had invited them out for a night of fun – drinking & dancing to a well-known DJ going late into the night. But there was an initial agreement. If he allowed them to join him, that the next day they needed to deliver some initial design comps for a new product line. And…they kind of dropped the ball. Our buddy is a very nice guy, and was feeling frustrated about the line between ‘friends/friendly’ and being an effective manager.
It brought up a dilemma many managers face – can you be friends with your employees? My buddy Kevin O’Leary (Shark Tank, Mattel) says “your employees are not your friends” and I get it. It can remove objectivity and jeopardize your business decisions. But, if you already crossed that line,  how do you manage this issue to success?
It’s actually very simple in theory, but 100% necessary to execute, especially if you are a ‘friendly’ type of manager:
  • Establish clear goals from the beginning – don’t beat around the bush
  • Lead by example – have fun but get your business shit done
  • Address & resolve any issues immediately – nip any issues, even if they seem minor, in the bud. Once you let something slide, you are on your way to failure. Your employees deserve to know your thoughts so they have a chance to improve.
  • Establish boundaries and if they re not respected you have the wrong people, friends or not
  • And, if it isn’t working, take the hit – fire if necessary. BUT take a close look at yourself and change your management style. Because it’s all about Business First.
Hey, I’ve lost friends because I had to fire them, and wish I would have never hired them in the first place. So don’t misplace friendship for objective business decisions and for new folks you hire, it’s OK to be ‘friendly’, but watch that line!

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