Why doesn’t anyone do what I want them to do?

The likelihood is that you have great technical skills, and quite possibly great social skills. But do you have the skills in place that you need to run your organisation? Possibly not. And you can’t run a good organisation on technical skill, or social skill, alone.

Do these phrases sound familiar?

  • We’re just like a family
  • I believe you can’t manage people unless you are willing to do anything yourself that you ask them to do
  • My team get on really well – we’re always playing pranks on each other
  • I hate giving critical feedback – they get the hump and sulk
  • I prefer to motivate by rewards – I always bring in doughnuts if we’ve had a good day

There’s a third set of skills you and all your staff need to distinguish, and then develop: collaborative working skills. And it’s surprising how many people in quite senior roles in business still haven’t drawn the distinction between these and their social skills.

You are NOT a family!

Leaders of medium-sized businesses often make a virtue of being a ‘family’, or of being ‘friendly’. If we ask what they do in the way of organisation development, they often say, “Oh we do a lot! We’re always going out together and having fun. We go out for a big lunch every so often. In fact we’re going out for one next week…”

Do you find yourself saying ‘we’re like family’? What’s the problem with that? Well, being ‘one big happy family’ is not the way to run a business that is durable, that provides a satisfying environment for people to work in and that is financially stable and sound.

A really great business, and a really great team, develop a life of their own, beyond your traits, skills and vision alone – and professional people develop and negotiate ways of working that go beyond ‘getting on well’ together (though that can be a bonus).

‘Getting on well’ together isn’t enough

For staff, there’s a huge and critical difference between working relationships – which, as a professional, you must have and maintain – and personal relationships with your work colleagues, and customers, which you may choose to have or not to have. Having a social relationship with your colleagues and customers is a matter of personal taste. Some people like to, and some don’t. But you are paid to have a working relationship with your colleagues. How much time and effort do most people spend on creating and refining that relationship? And, no, I don’t mean over a pint at the pub!

The trouble is, most people in business get the two confused, which can cause problems. I’d go so far as to say that people who don’t have much of a personal relationship often have much better working relationships than friends who work together. Why? Because they have to work at creating and maintaining them.

People who are ‘friends’ often rely too heavily on their friendship to see them through. And ‘friend’ communication patterns, however useful for maintaining a friendship, are often inadequate to manage and maintain the complex issues of status, dominance, leadership and calling to account that are needed in a working relationship.

You don’t need “someone just like me”

Too many business owners recruit people on the basis that they like them, or even worse, that they are like them! Don’t have your attention on ‘will we get on well together?’ but on ‘is this person and their skills right for my business?’ Your business, beyond a certain point, develops a life of its own. It’s an organism in its own right, and has needs of its own.

Once this starts to happen, the demands on your role change, from the huge energy needed to set up and run a small start-up organisation, to the very different demands of nurturing this larger organism and helping it to thrive. And you won’t achieve that by trying to be its ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, or by mucking in with the guys and girls and trying to be one of them.

As its leader, your organisation now needs you to create and maintain an environment in which it can thrive – and you’ll often do that best by standing back and looking carefully at what it needs to become and stay healthy.

Why your business is not your family

Develop the skills to make you a better leader