Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey. I’m honored to host this posting by Dr. Christina Schlachter (bio at the end). I met her at a conference last February and while we don't live near each other, we've become "business friends." I hardly ever write on friendships at work so I'm glad she took that angle! And I hope you'll all comment with things you've learned about work relationships! ---------------------------------------
When we were little girls, we would make friends with the girls in our homeroom class, play hopscotch together during recess, and pass notes during science class when we thought the teacher was not looking.
As grown women, homerooms have been traded for conference rooms, playgrounds for a morning latte at the corner coffee shop, and we text friends the latest gossip from our computers as we sit in our cubicles at work. It is amazing how things have changed, yet really stayed the same.
For those who work in offices, we spend over 8 hours a day with our “colleague” friends, so it makes complete sense that we would want to get to know and perhaps become close friends with those around us at the water cooler. But what do you do when your friend (or you) becomes the boss?
Or even for those of who work from home or run our own companies, we still create a business network that can become friends, or need our friends to help us with our businesses. When I started my own coaching and training firm four years ago, I was thrilled to share my excitement and good fortune with friends by using them as vendors, partners, and eventually as clients. The last thing I needed to do was to partner with someone I knew nothing about – I had too much on my plate already! I trusted my friends’ opinions when it came to any problem I was having in my personal life (men, kids, diet, and everything else!), so I assumed I could work with them just as easily.
I happily report that most of my “business friends” have remained intact and many of my clients are also good acquaintances. But I also am sad to say that some of my long time friendships have soured because our “friendship” was used as “wiggle room” when it came to paying bills, providing a quality service, or getting things done on time.
Here's What I Have Learned About Friendship and Work
Alfred A. Montapert, author of The Supreme Philosophy of Man: The Laws of Life, is quoted as saying All lasting business is built on friendship, and while these may not be supreme philosophies, here are three lessons I have learned when I want to make my friendships and business grow together.
- State the obvious - QUICKLY! I have never wanted to hurt a friend’s feelings, especially when it came to telling them they just are not doing a good enough job. Most of my soured friendships in business could have been saved if I had spoken up a little earlier, and I shall take that lesson to my grave. When a friendship is stressed I realize now I need to face the new situation head on and fast. First things first: State the obvious and if things are not working out perfectly, I have learned to let my friends know I value their friendship, and while there is work to be done, I know we can work it out together.
- Set clear objectives and timelines: Duh. Make that double duh. I would never have started a new relationship with a new contractor or vendor without having clear objectives, and I realized I was assuming my friends would just get the work done without the same courtesy I provided people I did not know. I was just as a guilty of using wiggle room with my friends’ objectives as my friends were on their end of the deal. While I have realized friendships will need a more “friendly” approach, I now kick off my new business relationship with clear objectives, timelines, and measurements. In a time of stress, there is nothing like clear objectives to keep everyone focused at the task at hand.
- Set time a side for friendship. Just friendship. One mistake I made when I enlisted friends to work with me in business was to assume it was perfectly fine to move our gossiping happy hours to power lunches discussing the next greatest service offering or marketing approach. We used to hang around the water cooler, take long lunches, and instant message about the horrible outfits people wear to work, and all those times abruptly ended. I realized that while I was the boss, I still needed to put a little extra effort into scheduling NO-WORK-TALK coffee, after hours drinks, or just down time to keep my friendship going. It does take a little more effort, but I now know my friendships are worth it.
It is true, the top of the corporate ladder can be lonely. But it does not need to be. You need a team of people to help you get to the top of the corporate ladder, and wouldn’t it be nice if your team was full of people who really liked you and called you friend?
Dr. Christina Schlachter (@DrChristinaS) runs She Leads, an American Express M31000 award winning company providing training and coaching that helps teams & leaders communicate better and achieve their goals. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two sons. Her book, The Change Plan: Your Guide to Transforming Your Career and Life in 12 Weeks will hit the shelves later this year.