Working with "Friends and Family" - HOW?

“One person is being open, friendly, caring, helpful, considerate, cheerful, confident, even joyful in her work, while the other is being closed, distant, uncaring, inconsiderate, grumpy even resentful of what she is doing.”

- God from Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

Most Seniors teach the Middle that having a friend or a family member work as one of their Teamers or developing a friendship with your Teamers is the wrong thing to do, but I’ve have found that is simply not true. Over my years as a Middle, I have developed many friendships with Teamers and only rarely has this led to problems working with them. Trusting one another just naturally leads to be becoming friends too. But you can’t let your friendship lead you to situations of inequality between your Teamers or not doing fair performance reviews or project assignments for everyone. Even though they are your friends you must treat them the same as your other Teamers. You can’t allow any prejudices to develop as you perform your responsibilities as the Middle.

Establish “ground rules” for working with all of your Teamers (as well as the rest of the folks in your Organization), including those that are also your friends. Those Teamers who are also your friends will understand the need for these ground rules for consistency and if they don’t, they aren’t really your friend.

One of the first steps that you should consider is formally publishing a “code of conduct” that you want all of your Teamers (and you) to follow each day. One of the best Seniors that I’ve ever worked with (my thanks to Senior Tom) handed out the following “code of conduct” to all of his supervisors and managers reporting to him (I’ve editorialized it a bit to match the terminology that I use in my book) after a major reorganization that had him managing all of the engineering resources worldwide during his first meeting with his new staff. As he said then “I want to get us all on the same page on how I want us to work together.” Again, this is only a sample to get you to start thinking about the code of conduct you feel is needed for you and your Teamers. I’ve always used a code of conduct and suggest that you give it a try too. The code of conduct is the foundation for your ground rules on how you want your Teamers to work together and the rest of your Organization.

A Code of Conduct

  • I will actively work to insure each of my Teamers is challenged by assignments.
  • I will actively work to insure there is opportunity for each of my Teamers to grow and develop.
  • I will actively work to insure increasing levels of responsibilities for each of my Teamers as they are ready.
  • The needs of the people I manage come before my own needs.
  • A Teamer’s concerns are always treated as legitimate.
  • Responses to a Teamers’ requests will be in a timely and a respectful manner.
  • Criticism of an individual will be handled in private.
  • I will not criticize the Organization or another supervisor/manager in public.
  • Once a decision is made, I will support the decision as if I originally agreed.
  • A Teamer’s personal data is to be treated confidentially.
  • I will support Organizational policies, procedures and goals.
  • I will strive to insure that our working environment is both safe and healthy.
  • I am committed to insuring that each of my Teamers has a clear understanding of specific performance expectations.
  • I am committed to insuring that each of my Teamers has a clear understanding of how their performance will be evaluated.
  • I am committed to providing fair and timely feedback on a Teamers’ performance.
  • I will work to insure that each of my Teamers is compensated fairly for their work.
  • I will strive to inform my immediate supervisor/manager of impending problems as early as possible.
  • I will assist other personnel in the Organization in an appropriate manner.

In addition to a formal, written Code of Conduct I offer you the following suggestions and ideas for your consideration that I “found” for fostering a good “friends and family” environment with your Teamers.

“The things you say about others, also say a lot about you.”

- Mark Amend

Remember the Birthdays of Your Teamers

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

 - Lao Tzu

Simply collect a list of the birthdays of all of your Teamers and sort it by the months of the year. Then buy a box or two of generic birthday cards so that you can write a simple greeting in each of them. Always mail the card to the home of each Teamer. Never give the card to them at work or try to use an email for a greeting! Hand write your greeting, buy a stamp and send it a few days before their birthday. Your Teamers will love it!

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

 – Maya Angelou

Give Your Teamers Holiday Greetings

“Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.”

 – Richard L. Evans

The day before each holiday I always made a habit of walking around and giving each of my Teamers the appropriate greeting. “Have a very Merry Christmas,” or “I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.” This seemed to make the Teamers happy and I also felt great exchanging greetings with them!

“The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.”

 - James Dean

Celebrate Teamer Anniversaries

“There isn’t a person anywhere who isn’t capable of doing more than he things he can.”

 - Henry Ford

I always worked to have a special anniversary celebration for each Teamer. Not on the one or two year stuff but on the major ones, that is five, ten, fifteen, twenty etc. I usually sprung for a cake and some drinks to help make it a special event for the Teamer. You don’t need to do anything extravagant, just take time to acknowledge the event and their time and contributions to the Organization. You will be surprised how much your Teamers will appreciate this.

“Keep in mind that the true measure of an individual is now he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.”

 - Ann Landers

Always Look Your Teamers in the Eye with Total Honesty

“It has always seemed strange to me…the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

- John Steinbeck

One essential trait that you must develop is to look your Teamers in the eye each time that you talk with them. Looking down or away or at papers will simply not provide them with “the trust” that you want them to have. In meetings I always worked to look everyone in the eye, moving my focus from one Teamer to the next. The bottom line is that if you can’t tell them what you have to tell them without looking them dead in the eye, perhaps you don’t really believe what you are telling them. Being a Middle can be a very difficult life to lead. You are always between your Teamers and the Seniors of your Organization. Difficult decisions will be made by your Seniors and your Organization and you will need to be able to explain them to your Teamers with honesty that you may not get from your Senior.

You must realize that you are the only real link and translator of all that your Senior and Organization decides to do. This must be translated to your Teamers no matter how difficult this can be for you, with as much total honesty and trust as you can develop. You need to develop the habit of looking your Teamers directly in the eye as you talk with them. Just practice and it will become second-nature for you.

You may also experience “extra side benefits” from always looking your Teamers in the eye when you talk with them. One of the side benefits that I experienced was working with Teamer Karen. We were having a One-on-One session as I recall, and she commented that I was the only manager that she had ever worked for that didn’t look at her chest. Now admittedly, Teamer Karen was a very attractive young lady and well endowed, so I completely understood the behaviors of her other managers, BUT I took it as a compliment and rededicated myself to always looking Teamers in their eyes when talking with them. 

“If I only had three words of advice, they would be, Tell the Truth. If I got three more words, I’d add, All the Time.”

- Randy Pausch

Trust Them

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”

-  Carl Jung

Trust is a critical ingredient in being a good Middle. Trust is a “two-way” relationship; you must trust your Teamers in order for them to trust in you.

Almost all of the folks that I’ve worked with over five decades really wanted to do good work and feel good about their performance and contribution to the success of the team and the Organization, so I recommend that you trust your Teamers until they prove that they can’t be trusted. If you have a Teamer that doesn’t want to do good work and be a part of the team that does, then it is time for you to help them find another opportunity.

Once you give your Teamer the assignment let them make mistakes. You must trust them to do the project. That’s part of the motivation for the project! My suggestion is to meet with them as frequently as you think is needed to avoid a disaster. Focus on their concerns and problems as well as their accomplishments and plans. Can you help them? Then do it! Work with them often so that they don’t go too far from what you want them to accomplish and give them immediate feedback on their performance.

Mutual trust may be the most critical ingredient in empowering you and your Teamers.

“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Manage by Walking Around to See What’s Going On                  

“You’re the only guy up there in that computer palace that ever comes down here on the shop floor to see what’s really going on and what we really do. All the others up there just tell us what they want us to do.”

- Anonymous Machinist at the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company

My door is always open is a great idea, but you need to get out on the “floor” and talk with your Teamers. You need to focus on managing people not things, but also focus on getting and using things to help your people and make their lives better.

The quote above came from an old crotchety machinist that I worked with at the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company, at that time the largest machine tool manufacturer in the world. I was a computer programmer working on a bill of material/parts explosion system. The customer would order machine tool number whatever and the system was to identify all the needed “parts” (down to screws, bolts and nuts!!) that needed to be built, with all of the appropriate lead times and shop floor locations to maximize and speed up the assembly of the machine tool. It took over two years to build some of these machine tools! This machinist told me straight away one day, “Those computer wizards up there don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground! I build these tools with these cards!” And he reached into his shirt pocket for a stack of worn 3 x 5 inch index cards about an inch thick with an old rubber band holding them together.

“Are you serious?” I asked him. And he responded, “See that’s the difference between you and those other computer wizards. At least you ask questions and listen.”

This event provided me with a lasting insight that I always needed to be out on the “floor” talking with and listening to everyone; my Teamers (and Co-Workers too) looking for problems and potential solutions. Perhaps it was new software, a change in your processes, or perhaps your policies that can make things work better.

Lastly, every payday I always walked around and handed out the pay checks to all of my Teamers with a personal “thank you!” to each of them. Make sure that you spend time with each Teamer, as often as possible aside from One-on-One sessions. Impromptu meetings are often the best and most rewarding and you can’t have them just staying in your work space on your computer or telephone. Get out there!!! 

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

- Maya Angelou

Thank Them!!!

“Happiness and personal fulfillment are the natural consequences of doing the right thing.”

- Epictetus

First off, you should look for every opportunity possible to thank a Teamer for something well done. A good job, a great job, or truly outstanding performances, whatever, take every opportunity to thank your Teamers.

If you thank them you encourage them to do it again and that’s good. You also encourage other Teamers to improve their performance to get a “thank you!” It can be contagious!

I’ve been asked whether to “thank” your Teamers in public or in private. I always tended to thank people in public. Most times I would call an impromptu staff meeting and then thank them or present them with their service award or special recognition.  

It’s really your choice if you thank them in public or privately just make sure that you thank them!

“The possibility for rich relationships exists all around you - you simply have to open your eyes, open your month and most importantly, open your heart.”

- Cheryl Richardson


“All coaching is, is taking a player where he can’t take himself.”

- Bill McCartney

In sports, coaching is simple.

  • Show and tell them what you want them to do.
  • Watch them do it.
  • Stop them and tell them what they are “doing OK” and “not OK.”
  • Give them help and ideas on fixing their “not OK’s.”
  • Put them back in again.
  • Do it all over again when you spot another “not OK.”

Coaching should also be this simple in the corporate world too, but it usually isn’t.

Coaching is a daily and even hourly event. Don’t wait if you see a problem, take a moment now and do a special coaching session with your Teamer. Immediate feedback on performance is the best and most meaningful for your Teamers!

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Reward Them

“Giving credit where credit is due is a very rewarding habit to form. Its rewards are inestimable.”

- Loretta Young

I’ve seen all sorts of simple reward programs work well for Teamers and the Organization such as reserved parking spots for a month or so or just a plaque with the names of the featured employees selected each month prominently displayed.     

I had an “Employee of the Month” program where we awarded just two movie tickets. Teamers were encouraged to nominate fellow Teamers for accomplishments well done and we would have a team meeting each month to announce the winner. The key is to have all of your Teamers be a part of selecting the employee to be award. Every so often we had to award two sets of tickets but that was really rare. The team always seemed to agree easily on the person to reward for the month. Later, we also added a quarterly award of one hundred dollars for a dinner out.

If you can’t get your Organization to pay for this, just do it yourself. Buy two movie tickets each month. Most movie theaters will give you a discount if you buy tickets for a year. You will be surprised at the positive reception this simple program will provide.

At my last Organization, the president and owner had set up an annual reward program that focused on the “top 10 percent” of the entire Organization. Each manager was allowed to nominate the top 10 percent of their Teamers. The winners got an all-expense-paid trip to exotic locations with their spouse/partner. I always surveyed my clients for their thoughts and suggestions on which of my Teamers deserved this recognition and why, and that really worked out well for me and the team.

Lastly, I suggest that the real key to the success of any reward program is to obtain and include the opinions of your Teamers and your clients in the process of selecting the person(s) to be rewarded. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do this alone – get everyone to contribute!

“Make a game of finding something positive in every situation. Ninety-five percent of your emotions are determined by how you interpret events to yourself.”

 - Brian Tracy

In closing this blog I can only suggest one more “final, bottom-line” suggestion on how to work with “family and friends “ that is always tend to lean towards helping and favoring your Teamers in all that you do. Remember, without them you’re not much of a Middle.

I wish you empowerment, happiness and every success!!