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Getting Too Familiar

Dec 05, 2019

As a leader, you’re responsible for the vision of your organization—you set the course, define many of the objectives, and lead your team in pursuing your goals. There’s a little-known element of this leadership that many people overlook—and that’s the familiarity of the relationships within your team.

As a leader, you set the tone for how familiar others will be with you. All familiarity happens because you give others permission to act that way with you. If you joke around with a coworker, he or she will receive the message that it’s okay to joke back to you. If you talk about deeply personal things with your team, they’ll believe that you want to hear about their personal lives, as well.

What leaders do in moderation, followers do in excess. This is why paying attention to the level of familiarity you adopt with your team is so critical. There’s a fine balance between cordiality and professionalism. You can be friends with somebody without being overly familiar—in fact, I hope you are friendly and somewhat open with your team. However, it’s a balance you have to intentionally maintain every day. You have to make sure you’re not slipping into disrespect by becoming too familiar with your team.

And here’s the catch: people can tell when they’re being disrespected. Think about it: have you ever felt disrespected? Have you ever felt patronized? Have you ever felt manipulated? You knew right away! So does your team. This is why, when you respect people, you get respect back. Paul actually said, “Whatever you sow, you will also reap.”

What are you sowing? If you sow respect, you will reap respect. And people know—just like you do, when you’re being disrespected—people know when they are being disrespected. Make sure the level of familiarity—and the level of respect—that you exude reflects the culture and atmosphere you truly want to see in your organization.

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