Friendship Actually

Schedule regular time with real, “actual” friends.

The need to always be “on” at work – with the politics, constant scrutiny, and deference from employees and colleagues can cause leaders lose sight of their humanity.

Make it a priority to find a place where you can be with those who care about you. Then relax, be listened to, and say what you are really thinking in safety. This is important to your mental and spiritual health. It`s also important to your organization, your family, and your community.

Actual friends may or may not be associated with what you do for a living. You may or may not be related to them. Many of them you`ve known all your lives, others, for a short time.

These friends are there for some very good reasons, not the least of which is to remind us of who we are. Forces of nature have put them in our lives to ground us and to keep us human.

What makes actual friends important for a leader? They:

?· can be trusted to tell us what they think ?€“ and they`ll say it without filters
?· will say what needs to be said with kindness
?· will be there and will pitch in when we ask
?· have no vested interest in pleasing us
?· won`t undermine our efforts
?· don`t want our job
?· won`t talk behind our back

Schedule the time to spend with your actual friends now. Do it often. Accept them as they accept you. Enjoy your humanity.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

8 comments on “Friendship Actually

  1. Excellent reminder, MJ. Busy leaders often get so caught up in schedules, deadlines that they forget to plan for important interactions with REAL people. As our virtual world become so emotionally/intellectually rewarding, it is easy to get so caught up in them that we miss time with our "real life" friends. I have to remind myself often that it is okay — crucial even — to disconnect from my online social networks, especially if it gives me the opportunity to spend time with friends and family instead.

  2. Becky,Thanks for your comments. It is certainly something I pay attention to, and something many of my clients struggle with.

    I've wondered if online social networks will have an impact on our having "actual friends" and being able to relate – in person – to each other. Your thoughts?

  3. I can already see the impact in some of my real life relationships. I stay closer to friends whose lives I can keep up with on Facebook. Seeing them there gives me a nudge to call them in person or get together. Then once we get together, it is easier to connect in a deeper way because we don't need to go over all the day to day details that we share on Facebook. We probably know more about each other's lives by staying in touch on Facebook: we share photos, watch videos of each other's kids: all things we might not have done before.

    I think that online networks can be a great source of making new real relationships as well. When we take the time to connect with our social media contacts in person or on the phone, we add a new dimension and value to those relationships.

  4. We encourage leaders to be humble and to be wary of placing too much onus on the feedback from peers and colleagues which may be clouded and linked to the politics you mention. What I like about your piece is how you've offered the counterbalance as spending time with closer friends and family.

  5. Becky, so many people think social media is a bad thing. I love the way you've framed it as a great "adjunct" to in person relating.

    Oliver, thanks for coming by. I like the idea of using the word "counterbalance" (especially with all of the concern about work-life balance!).

  6. Don't get hung up on your "actual friends" not being your social media friends though.

    "Real" is changing. People can care about you even when they have never met in "real" life.

    Make times for people who bring a blessing to your life. They're your "real friends".

  7. Thank you for another thought-provoking post, Mary Jo. I think it's true that things are changing and we have "real" friends whom we may never have met or even spoken with. But there is something about the richness of the in-person experience that nothing virtual can quite match.

    When we were together in July I happened to notice that my brother-in-law was reading Hunter Thompson's Rum Diary. That sparked a conversation between us that was joined by his son and later his father, my father-in-law. It lasted over the better part of a day, through a meal, several drinks and cigars on the porch. It was the kind of rambling, wonderful, and multi-generational conversation that can only happen in person.

    And, for the record, no one checked their Blackberry or was interrupted by its chirp.

  8. Paul, Thanks for your addition. Our "real friends" are certainly blessings in our lives. And I don't doubt for a second that "friends" can be in the social media realm, especially since I have been quite actively participating over the last couple of years. Twitter has certainly added a new dimension to "friendship".

    However, I do agree with Wally. There seems to be a depth, intimacy and richness that is more readily attainable when you are "in person" with friends. Perhaps in our complex world, there are "degrees" of friendship?

    Wally, thanks for your wonderful story. It conjures up a vision of a close family, together on a long summer day with a very wonderful dialog. It isn't often that we achieve this kind of synergy.

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