Why We All Need Friends at Work

Do you have a best friend at work? It might just be the secret to happiness and success.

My son joined the Navy last year, and this Thanksgiving, he didn’t have enough leave to come home. So, we traveled up to see him for the holiday as a family.

We stayed in a hotel and ate our Thanksgiving meal at a local restaurant.

It wasn’t ideal, but at least we were together.

On Saturday, we were all invited to a party. One of my son’s shipmates also had family in town. His family had rented an entire house for the holiday and invited a dozen sailors from the base for drinks and a traditional Cuban meal.

That night was the first time I saw my son interacting with his closest Navy buddies.

The laughter, jokes, smiles, and friendship were all very familiar. I recognized them from my own time in the Navy.

Seeing my son surrounded by friends that loved him and loved being around him made me extremely happy as a father.

It was the first time since he left for the Navy that I knew he had found his place.

He belonged to a special group, and I knew he would be successful in his Navy career.

I knew it because I could see his deep friendships.

There is an African Proverb that says, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Having friends at work is a powerful indicator of happiness and success.

Having friends at work is a powerful indicator of happiness and success. Click To Tweet

How do I know? It certainly has been the case throughout my career and it was also one of the findings in my favorite leadership book.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently was written by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Buckingham and Coffman were Gallup analysts when they wrote this book. They drew upon 25 years of Gallup studies of 80,000 managers across 400 companies.

One of their conclusions was that solid personal relationships signify a positive workplace.

Solid personal relationships signify a positive workplace. Click To Tweet

Employees who could identify that they had close friends at work were more likely to be happy and successful in their careers.

The reasons are pretty straightforward.

When things are going great, you have friends to celebrate the moments.

In the tough times, friends will be there to help you get through.

Close friends watch out for you and have your back to ensure no one can come after you.

They support your crazy ideas and help make them a reality.

They are a shoulder to cry on and a hand to high five when you hit your goals.

Why do we need friends at work? Having close friends at work leads to happiness and success.

As leaders, we need to foster an atmosphere where friendships can form and thrive. It’s both good for employees and the overall performance of the business.

Leading like you are all in the same boat is a good place to start. Learn more in my new leadership book.

[US Navy Photo]

The Unexpected Leadership Lessons of Elf

It’s officially Christmas season and full confession – at one business I led, I used to dress up as Buddy the Elf (yellow tights and all) to deliver candy to all my employees during the Holidays.

That’s how much I love the movie Elf.

I actually have a Buddy the Elf coffee mug that I use at work every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas. In fact, I’m drinking from it right now!

I’m not the only one who loves this movie either. In the 18 years since its release, Elf has become a classic “must watch” holiday movie. Most people can quote at least one line from this hilarious Christmas comedy.

As I watched Elf again this year, I realize how many powerful leadership messages are contained in the story.

Here are some things I noticed:

Sometimes people just don’t fit in. Buddy the Elf was a human raised by elves. As such, he didn’t really fit into either world. As a leader, there are times when we have great employees who just don’t fit into an assignment or a department. We need to identify these people and put them in roles where they are a better fit.

Employees need to discover things on their own. Buddy the Elf learned his birth father, who he had never met, was on the “naughty list.” He went on a quest to find him to learn more about himself. Oftentimes, employees need to do the same thing. They need to try new activities and be given stretch assignments to learn what they love. As leaders, we need to give people the freedom to discover what their true passions are.

People will always amaze you. When Buddy the Elf decides to decorate the toy department at Gimbels for Santa’s visit, everyone is shocked at his abilities. People will amaze you as well. Give them the chance to show you what they can do. As George Patton said, let them surprise you with their results.

Just smile. An employee once told me, I was her favorite boss. When I asked why, she explained that I always said, “thank you” and I smiled a lot. As a leader, we set the tone. If we’re upbeat and happy, our employees will sense that. Even when you’re having a rough day, remember to smile.

Don’t pick a snowball fight with someone from the North Pole. Buddy the Elf befriends his half-brother when he shows off his unusual talents in a snowball fight. Leaders need to recognize when to fight and when to back down. Not every fight needs to be won. Pick your battles, whether it’s with employees, co-workers, or even customers. Always remember that discretion is often the better part of valor.

Sometimes we need to apologize.  When things didn’t initially work out with Buddy’s newfound family, he leaves an apology letter. Apologizing is often the hardest but most important thing we do as leaders. If we make a mistake, admit it and apologize. People know it’s hard to admit when you are wrong or hurt someone which makes a sincere apology even more powerful.

Employees can spot a fake. Buddy the Elf quickly spotted the fake Santa and our employees will spot fakes as well. If you are not being genuine, authentic, and truthful, your employees will know. They can tell when you are not being real with them. Don’t think you can fake it around your team.

You need people to believe in your vision to bring it to life. Buddy the Elf knew people had to believe in Santa to make the reindeer fly. It’s the same thing with our visions. To bring our plans to life, we need people to understand and believe in them. Do your employees understand your vision? Do they believe in it? If not, it’s never going to get off the ground.

The Christmas season is a great time to gather with families and watch our favorite Holiday movies.

As you sit through Elf this year, think about these leadership messages.

Look for those employees who are not fitting in, find ways to let employees discover things on their own, give your people room to amaze you, find time to smile, choose your battles carefully, apologize, be authentic, and give your people something to believe in.

If we do these things, we will be more successful as leaders and, maybe, be as happy as Buddy the Elf himself.

Give the gift of leadership this Christmas by giving the leaders and future leaders a copy of one of my books.

From now until Christmas, all my leadership books are on sale at jonsrennie.com! Use the coupon code ‘elf20’ at checkout to get 20% off and free domestic shipping!

elf20 sale

Looking to Start a Business? Read this One Book First

Close to 4.5 million new businesses were started in the United States in 2020, making it the highest year on record. New business start-ups jumped 24% from 2019 and more than 50% about the 2010-2019 average. Half a million businesses were started in January 2021 alone.

One of the effects of the COVID pandemic is a desire for people to leave their jobs and do something independently.

As a manufacturing business owner in my sixth year of a start-up, I want to caution those beginning down this path.

Starting a business is challenging, and success is not guaranteed.

You are more likely to fail than succeed.

So, why do millions of people each year ignore the statistics and become entrepreneurs?

Because they see successful entrepreneurs, and they think they can do it as well.

They see the “hustle porn” on social media telling them that they too can have a fancy car and a private jet if they just work hard.

They see people like Phil Knight, a former college athlete who took a desire to find the perfect running shoe and built it into Nike, a global brand worth more than $280 billion.

They think, “if he can do it, I can too.”

The problem is that every entrepreneur underestimates the immensity of the task.

Every entrepreneur underestimates the immensity of the task. Click To Tweet

How do I know? I did as well.

As aspiring entrepreneurs, we only see the final version of Nike. We have no idea what it took Phil Knight and his team to get it there.

That is until Phil Knight told us about it in his book, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike.

This is an incredible dive into what it truly takes to start a company. In this book, we learn that Phil Knight’s journey from a crazy idea of importing Japanese running shoes to building a successful, global brand was anything but a short story.

He faced cash flow problems, lawsuits, unfaithful partners, government investigations, media scrutiny, employees leaving for the competition, and the loss of endorsing athletes.

Problems every entrepreneur will face.

Nike is the story of an overnight success that took more than 18 years.

The lesson you will take away from this book is that starting a business is incredibly arduous, and only the strong, persistent, and lucky will survive.

Starting a business is incredibly arduous, and only the strong, persistent, and lucky will survive. Click To Tweet

One quote that struck me from the book is Knight talking with his team after struggling for years to get the company off the ground.

He said, “The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”

If you’re thinking of starting a business, you probably know it won’t be an overnight success. But are you prepared for 2, 5, or 10 years of continuous struggle?

Knight and his team battled for close to two decades to get Nike off the ground.

For me, there is no better book to understand real entrepreneurship than Shoe Dog.

I highly recommend you read it cover-to-cover before you even think about registering your new company.

Start-up life is gratifying, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

[THANA PRASONGSIN/GETTY IMAGES]