As a new leader, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying too hard to be liked. You’ve just arrived in your new role and quite frankly, you’re nervous. You want everything to go well and you want to get along with your team. Leading a team that dislikes you wouldn’t send a very good impression to your superiors would it?
The problem is that communicating with your team in a way that (you think) makes them like you more is likely to raise issues in the long run as you fail to address issues that arise. When you’re new, you need to set the tone for the coming months and years with your team. If you’re trying to get them to like you too much, you are in danger of trying to pander to their every whim!
The trick is to find that magical balance, where you have a good relationship with your team and listen to their input, but they respect you enough to do what you need to when you put your foot down.
How can you tell when you’re trying too hard to be liked?
There are a few tell-tale signs that I look for when I’m trying to work out whether I’m communicating with my team in a way that doesn’t “rock the boat”.
You’re trying too hard to be liked, when you give in to every request from your team
When you raise issues or delegate work and your team is consistently convincing you of a different course of action, you may be trying too hard to avoid upsetting people. If your first decision is consistently being argued against, you may need to look at whether your team is trying to avoid work or whether you’re just making bad decisions.
Once again, there is a balance to be struck between needing to be right as “the boss” and taking input from your team so that they feel like their input is being taken on board.
You’re trying too hard to be liked, when you avoid making decisions
One way that some leaders avoid upsetting their team is by not making decisions at all. Sometimes team members are simply left to “sort it out”. Someone tends to pick up the task that’s required without you telling them to do so.
This non-communication can be damaging, because whilst you are not directly annoying people, you are actually letting the team sort out their work allocation for themselves. While sometimes this can be a good thing, if it gets out of hand, you might find certain team members become disgruntled because they’re shouldering the majority of the burden for the rest of the team.
You’re trying too hard to be liked when you let people get away with bad behaviour
I’ve seen many situations where an individual’s behaviour is adversely affecting a team and fails to be addressed in a timely manner. Time and time again, this individual will upset somebody else through shirking their responsibilities or simply behaving inappropriately. As a leader, you need to nip this in the bud. Communicate directly and clearly that this behaviour is not acceptable.
Just think of the ramifications. If you take action and address the issue directly with the misbehaving team member, you may have one person who is upset at you. If you fail to address the behaviour you may have *many* people upset at you for your inaction…I know which one I’d prefer!
Don’t be one of those leaders that lets people in your team get away with murder. You’ll no doubt be pissing off a lot of people with your inaction.
You’re trying too hard to be liked when you shower your team with praise
Sometimes it can be easy to overcompensate as a new leader – you want your team to like you, right? So you buy your team coffee and cake and try to instil a bit of team spirit. This sort of thing can be good in moderation, but be careful not to overdo it.
Firstly, not everybody likes the same things; for every person who loves “Cake Friday”, there is always somebody who would rather avoid the forced socialising. For every person who loves you buying them beer, there is another who doesn’t drink. They may feels pressure to do so to fit in with the team.
Then there is praise – don’t overdo it. I’ve been in teams where I’ve been praised excessively for minor tasks that really weren’t impressive. Then I’ve been in teams where a lot of great work has been done in a tough environment and there is no thanks from the leader. Once again, there is a sweet spot and there is a balancing act.
If you go over the top with your praise, people are likely to think you are “buttering them up”. Perhaps they will start to think they are amazing when their quality of work is not *really* that great.
It’s hard to be respected and liked at the same time, all the time. Sometimes you’ll upset people through your actions as a leader, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re consistently butting heads with your team then you need to observe this too. It is often a sign of a greater problem.