"I'm Not Here To Make Friends..."

That's what he said. Exactly what he said. I wrote it down.

The occasion I witnessed was one in which the desperate CEO was trying to impress on his organization the critical need to raise revenue, deliver product and service faster, reduce costs, and on and on. And indeed those needs were critical, no question about it. I am sure he felt the weight of those challenges squarely on his shoulders. And that's when he said it…I'm not here to make friends. Now there's a motivating line if I've ever heard one. When you want the only people who have even a remote chance of saving your butt to come through for you, what you do is say, "I'm not here to make friends..." and then go on to ask them to deliver supernatural performance for you.

Between psychology and education, I have four degrees. Written three books on leadership and teamwork. I've spoken on high performance teamwork, customer service and leadership to corporations around the world for thirty years. Unashamedly I tell you - I am one heck of a motivating speaker. Yet, in one simple sentence this friendless CEO reminded me that I can always learn something new about motivating human beings. Let me share my learning with you, even though I am still working it all through.

My first revelation came from imagining all of his people emulating his behavior. I've always thought that senior leaders are to be models for those they lead: an example of devotion, enthusiasm, effective communication, energy, determination, commitment to results and even innovation. Shouldn't people be saying, "There goes my leader, I want to be just like him or her?" Or have I spent too much time in pressurized airplanes?

If I am right about that, we should expect managers in his organization to not really care about team relationships either - they might get too friendly. And forget any cross-departmental connections; that would be taking things way too far to the friendly, personal side. No manager should be there to make any friends, given that consistency in management philosophy is paramount. Indeed, no one should have friends, at least not in the work place.

Managers should begin annual Performance Reviews with: "I'm not here to make friends…" And if you are into 360-degree feedback, there should be no signs of friendship from any direction. (Watch this column for my article titled: 360 degree Performance

Those values hung so righteously on the wall of the cafeteria? Let's add a list of things we don't value - starting with friendship! It is time for us to take a stand for what we don't believe in; though we should be careful not to look like we are actually doing it in any unified or friendly way.

And certainly those who interface with the customer shouldn't even think of entertaining any relationship that includes friendliness. No sir. We are to be focused on increasing revenue, bettering productivity and service - we do not have time for this bleeding heart, milk-toast, airy-fairy friendship stuff.

For example, every Call Center employee should be coached to use this phrase in dealing with an upset customer: "Look, I am not here to make friends…" The earlier it is said in the conversation, the sooner they can get on to the next customer call. We are talking about an efficiency breakthrough here! Over time you won't even need a Call Center. Think of the savings! In summary, I had no idea that, in tough times, it is best for leaders to be friendless.

My second eye-opening revelation really made this whole thing very confusing, causing me tremendous emotional turmoil. It started with my examining the alternatives to the one he proposed in that simple statement. I did enough research in graduate school to know that it is best to examine both the hypothesis and the null hypothesis. On the null side it seems to me there is only one alternative, but let me test it out on you because you are not as emotionally involved.

Finish this sentence: I am not here to make friends, I am here to make____________ . If you said "enemies" you have affirmed my own thinking, and with relief I thank you.

In war movies, when the soldier on guard sees someone coming out of the shadows toward the compound, he doesn't point his rifle and demand: "Halt! Friend, neutral person, or foe?" Of course not! He knows that at the moment of most critical need, at the moment of ultimate tension, there are two choices: you are either a friend or you are the enemy. Neutral does not exist. If you are the one coming out of the darkness to be questioned in this way, it is not wise to answer: "I have no feelings one way or the other." I really do not think that response will relax the situation.

It is this simple. In times of corporate stress and challenge, employees are either a friend of the corporation (and its leader); or they are an enemy to the corporation (and its leader). Take some time to imagine which alternative is likely to gain you the end result you so desperately need. Who is likely to say an encouraging word when so many forces seem mounted against you? Friend or Enemy? Who will share the stress and burden with you and take the weight from your shoulders? Friend or Enemy? Who is most likely to care passionately about the wise and prudent use of resources, while simultaneously fighting against poor quality in every dimension of your product or service? Friend or Enemy? Who is most likely to freely and joyfully give you their very heart and soul so that together you can walk through the valley and climb victoriously to the mountaintop? Friend or Enemy? Who will go the second and third mile in providing unparalleled customer service? Friend or Enemy? When you are distracted by some obstinate detail and have your back turned, which do you want standing behind you? Friend or Enemy?

Let me cut to the chase here. In my book The 7 Secrets to a Life of Meaning, I quoted world champion cowboy Al Dunning who said, "Don't count your friends when you are on top of the world. Count them when the world is on top of you."There are many, many corporations out there today that have the world on top of them. Some organizations have already suffocated. Some are gasping for their last breath. And some feel the growing pressure of the weight. Hear this: At that moment, you need all the friends you can get! You'd better be here to make friends Mr. or Ms Leader! That's the only chance you've got. Oh, I can hear the arguments from those who fear friendship. "In tough times you might have to make tough decisions!" Yeah? Does that mean that making tough decisions is easier or more effective if everyone dislikes you? Where does this convoluted thinking come from? As an employee, would you prefer to be told some difficult news by a beloved leader or by a leader you can barely stand and for whom you have little personal regard? If you are going to be laid off, whether because of your performance or not, would you prefer to have that intervention come from a leader who truly wants the best for you or from one who has declared he does not intend to be your friend?

I've got to wrap this up - and you know - writing this out has been helpful for me. I am coming down on the side of friendship. No doubt about it. And the tougher the times, the more friendship I want to have around me! Please, wherever you are reading this - raise your coffee mug or water bottle and offer a silent toast to friendship. May you always be surrounded by it!

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"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation".
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.

Ian Percy is an international speaker and consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com

 
 

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