By Michael Holland – 

One of the most irritating comments I hear from leaders at all levels is along the lines of “. . . my team is my family . . . ” And when a leader above the rank of director talks this way, I become extremely concerned for the welfare of the company and employees.

A family is fundamental societal group and there are distinct behaviors and emotions and relationships and dysfunction that are found in families.

Teams are a grouping of people coming together to achieve a common goal.

There are behaviors, emotions, relationships and dysfunction within teams as well, but clearly teams are not the same as family.  You choose the teams you want to be on and/or stay on.

Here are some thoughts to help distinguish between teams and families.

Don’t Confuse Familial Love With Paid For Love

Your family will love you no matter what.  Well, maybe not as deeply and in ways you would like but the connection of family lasts your lifetime.

Teams are built on love that is being paid for each day.  Your employees are bartering their time and talent for money and at times this requires them to play together as a team to accomplish a goal.

You Can’t Fire Your Son

You don’t realize that you can’t fire a family member.  You can disassociate with them, you can avoid them for years but your family will always be connected to you. . . somehow. . . even if you don’t want to be connected with them.

You can’t just fire your “son” and dissolve that relationship.

However, you can fire a team member.

The relationship is so different.

Our problem is that we too often try to associate similar behaviors and emotions found within families and teams.

But it’s this mis-association of behavior and emotion that causes us to make bad decisions or worse we don’t make wise decisions.

Mature leaders understand this distinction.

Don’t Confuse Dysfunction with Dysfunction

Families have their own distinct versions of dysfunction.

And while most teams are dysfunctional at some level, the behaviors and emotions of this dysfunction must be clearly delineated from the dysfunction within your family.

Leaders make the mistake of assuming, often subconsciously, that the dysfunctional behaviors they see at work are the same as they felt in their family growing up and/or the family in which they find themselves today.  Leaders then behave and emote in ways that are counterproductive to what the adults working for them need.

Don’t Confuse Parenting Advice With Adult Conversations

You must hold team members accountable differently than you do your significant other, sister, dad, daughter, uncle, grandma, etc.  And you must provide feedback to an employee differently than you would your son or daughter.

At work, you should be having adult conversations with your team members, your boss and your peers.

Most leaders just don’t have the simple, timely adult conversations that enable an environment for everyone to be their best self.  At work, adult conversations should start the first day on the job because everyone is an adult making a conscious decision to be there.

Great leaders who lead well know these distinctions and how to create the best team environments that enable great success while allowing employees to feel they are getting a tremendous value for their individual barter.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • In your next meeting, look around the room and think about what subtle traits you may be mis-associating with traits of someone in your family.  Are you looking at your boss as your mom?  Are you looking at that peer as your annoying, little brother?
  • When was the last simple yet difficult adult conversation you had with an employee or peer about an issue at work?
  • What are the roles you play at work when you take on the persona of a role you play in your family?