I've seen a number of boss/buddy relationships over the years, but the one relationship that stands out the most is my own.
When I first took over the helm of running my family business, we had my father and two uncles in the company, and five other family members were involved. One our first goals was to help transition the roles so my father and my uncles could start a succession plan for retirement.
My father managed all the finances of the business. I needed to hire someone to take over that position, but I wanted to find someone I knew I could trust implicitly. So I offered the job to a close childhood friend. We had known each other since kindergarten. I was the best man at his wedding. He had a finance degree, and he was working in various areas in the financial world. It seemed like the perfect fit.
When You Hire a Friend
As my friend started digging in and crunch time hit, it began to be clear that my friend couldn't keep up. He didn't have some of the initiative that the business needed. In EOS® terms, he didn't GWC™ his seat. He got it to a point, but he would never be the right person to take us to the next level.
Unfortunately, he leaned on our personal friendship. And even though I was asking him to be accountable for certain things, he didn't take that accountability to heart. He thought that because we were friends, it was okay if things didn't get done on time or if he didn't follow through. Eventually I had to let him go.
That was one of the most painful, difficult decisions I ever had to make. Even after going through performance review warnings, and going through several corrective actions, he was floored – he didn't think it would actually come to losing his job.
But the reality was that he was miserable, and we were miserable too. I had to put an end to it. It was really hard, because he had a young family at home. It wasn't a great time to lose a job, and it severed our relationship. But ultimately we needed someone else, who GWC'd the finance seat, for the greater good of the company.
When You Fire a Friend
Fast-forward a couple years later. We had a finance person who was truly the Right Person in the Right Seat. There was no boss/buddy relationship. And this person gave us the financial sophistication that we needed. We got things done in the right time frame, and he was actually leading and pulling us in the direction we needed to go in. My father was able to retire on schedule.
One day, my friend came by to thank me for letting him go, because he wouldn't have done it himself. He was miserable, because he couldn't keep up and he was working long hours. Now he was at a much better position with a franchise, and he was thriving there.
It was painful for both of us to go through that experience, but I learned a valuable lesson. You need to keep expectations clear, and don't ever blur the lines of the boss/buddy relationship – starting from Day One.
EOS Helps Prevent People Problems
If we had been running on the Entrepreneurial Operating System® at the time, we would not have made that mistake – or if we did, it would have been solved quickly. Unfortunately, we didn't have the language or tools like GWC or Right Person/Right Seat, so the situation drifted far too long.
Friendships at work can help strengthen your company and make work more enjoyable. But boss/buddy relationships can open a can of worms. The Accountability Chart, People Analyzer™ and GWC are tools that provide the clarity and accountability that are needed to help ensure your business doesn't suffer from a friendship.
- Download a copy of the Accountability Chart from the EOS Toolbox™ to help you discover the right structure for your company.
- Check the strength of your company with the Organizational Checkup™.
- Download the How to Be a Great Boss Toolkit to access free tools and resources to help you lead, manage, and create accountability on your team.
This post originally appeared on the GPS For Small Business Blog on August 22, 2018.