Is It Lonely At The Top?


By Neal Glatt

Recently I was on a podcast where a company leader told me that “it’s lonely at the top” was a business truth that she strives to achieve by limiting the amount of personal details she shares with her employees.  It’s too bad that people strive for a disconnected workplace, especially when it’s been proven that close relationships at work lead to higher profits.  Here’s what the science shows about friendships at work…

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Gallup has asked employees for decades if they feel that they have a best friend at work.  “Best friend” has been difficult phrasing for many companies when they take the surveys, but it is the only level of relationship that leads to significant outcomes.  On average, only about 1 in 5 employees in the US strongly agree they have a best friend at work.  Yet companies where 3 in 5 employees strongly agree they have a best friend at work enjoy 12% higher profit.  Having best friends at work makes businesses perform better.

If you are struggling to get performance, engagement, and energy from team members, let me ask you a question.  Think of the one person in the world you would consider your best friend.  My question is: What would you do for them?  Almost anything, right?  For my best friend, no matter what I’m doing, what time it is, or where I am, I would answer the phone and, if he needed help, I would do anything in my power to help him.  But would the same be true for an average co-worker?  Of course not.  Relationships are what cause people to perform.

Even beyond the performance is the fulfillment of working with a best friend.  When teams enjoy working together, have positive interactions, and know about each others’ personal lives and goals, work is more fun.  When work feels like a grind, more often it’s because of who we are working with rather than what we are working on.  People make the difference, and building intentional relationships is the difference between great leaders and average managers.

Every week at GrowTheBench, we start our weekly meetings by sharing good news about what has been accomplished at work.  But we also share good news about what has happened personally.  As a result, we intentionally build and maintain relationships that have reached “best friend at work” status, and teamwork is more fun and effective.  We dedicate less than only five minutes per week to this sharing time, but the results are invaluable.

Why do you suppose that people who have successfully sold their companies who later decide to start a new venture immediately recruit their old team?  Because people make the difference and there is no substitute for years of friendships.

I feel sorry for people who live “lonely at the top” of their organization.  Fortunately, John Maxwell, my leadership mentor, has taught me that leadership is relational, not positional.  If you consider yourself a leader in your organization, what relationships can you invest in at work today?  It just may be the edge you need to unlock the next level of performance.

Tags: Performance , Relationships , Connections ,