During my undergrad days, I was appointed to lead a group consisting of my course mates—something I struggled with because I was younger than many of them. After watching me struggle for a semester, my lecturer sat me down and gave me a firm pep talk, telling me that I was being too nice and needed to be a more commanding leader if we were going to be effective as a team.
Today, a couple of years later, after successfully leading a couple of other teams, I pride myself on being a leader my team trusts and respects, but there are still times I ask myself, “Am I being too nice?”
While being understanding and supportive as team leaders, many of us struggle with being too nice. With the trend of modern managers trying to break the mold of old-fashioned, hard-driving bosses, some have taken it a tad too far. Coupled with the era of telecommuting, work from home/flexible work schedules, and collaborative work-spaces, the line between boss and friend has become has somehow become ‘un-distinguishable’.
But like the saying goes, ‘too much of anything is bad.’ If being “nice” leads to managers putting off addressing important workplace issues, problems can fester and like a wound that has been left to fester, it will lead to further complications like; mediocrity and unseriousness and perhaps worst of all, it will lead to slow growth among team members(the team leader is supposed to push the members of his or her unit to out of their comfort zones). The ultimate result is damaging both the employee’s career development and overall team dynamics. When you think of it like that, you’d come to the realization that being “too nice” isn’t very nice at all.
I can bet you are wondering if you might be going a little too easy on your team; Here are three telltale signs you’ve crossed into “too-nice” territory:
1. You’re Slow to Make Decisions
Are you slow when it comes to making workplace changes or decisions that affect your team, do you feel the need to delay decision-making until you’ve weighed and discussed potential concerns with every member of your team? While it is a good leadership trait not to impose decisions on your followers and team members(I mean you don’t want to come across as a dictator), the inability to make decisions until you’ve gained the full support of your direct reports is a sure sign you’re taking the notion of inclusion too far.
2. You Make Excuses for Underperformers
Are you quick to make excuses for team members when they struggle to meet performance standards for their job? Or perhaps you naturally fall into a more nurturing role and become the ‘Mother Theresa’ of the clan? Do you find yourself making excuses for employees’ performance issues—especially those employees you like on a personal level? If yes, it is a sign that you have crossed the boundary and it is about time you took ten steps, no, make that a hundred steps back. Remember, employees, particularly those who are struggling, need mentoring and support, not mothering and excuses.
3. You Find Yourself Playing Counselor
All good managers, team leaders and most bosses want their people to trust them, and when you spend upward of 25-30 hours a week with your colleagues, there’s a huge possibility that you’ve been exposed to a lot of their personal life. However, if your direct reports regularly come to your office during work hours to complain about their latest dating disaster or shed tears about an argument with a BFF, chances are the lines between boss and friend are a bit blurry.
If this sounds anything like you, there’s good news: realizing and acknowledging that you might be a “too-nice” boss is the first step toward improvement.
If after reading the three points and you are still unsure, try asking colleagues, friends, and even your boss for feedback. Or, try to find a mentor who you think strikes the right balance. Think about leaders you’ve met in your career who did a particularly good job nurturing and pushing their teams, and see if they’ll share insights with you.
Some of your team members might not find this change amusing in the beginning, if they are serious-minded people and are willing to grow, they’ll adjust to your approach and attitude and you’ll watch your relationship with your direct reports evolve from one of “buddies” to one of mutual respect. And isn’t that a better foundation for shared fulfillment and success?Are You Being Too Nice To Your Team? by Stellamaris Obomanu