I recently came across an article about Leadership and playing favourites, and how if you do play favourites, nothing good can necessarily come from it.
Some of the key insights from the article were:
It’s human nature to like some colleagues more than others. But when you’re the boss, treating direct reports differently — and especially playing favourites — is unwise and unfair.
What the Experts Say
“When it comes to playing favourites, no matter how fair you think you’re being and no matter how high you think your EQ is, you’re probably guilty,” says Robert Sutton, Stanford University professor and coauthor of Scaling Up Excellence.
“When managers favour one employee over another, morale and productivity suffer. The danger is that you’re laying a foundation for creating a dysfunctional team around you,” says Karen Dillon, author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics.
Now obviously the subject of “Favourites” and how it all goes down is huge, and once you start to look at it at a micro level you start to get into understanding the differences that can influence your approach.
Areas such as:
Inclusivity vs. exclusivity
Experience vs. development or growth opportunities
Depth vs. breadth
Creating multi dimensional bonds vs. simply liking or not liking someone
Necessity vs. opportunity
So long story short on the subject of playing favourites, I don’t necessarily agree with everything that was outlined in the article, as I have always taken a slightly different approach to the subject.
I play favourites and always have!
As a professional sports coach I was often asked (and I mean really often!) “Do you have favourites?” and if I wasn’t asked, I would go out of my way to raise the subject and explain my position to the parents and athletes that “Yes, I do have favourites!”
Their reaction was usually one of shock and horror.
First of all, I went into deep explanation that there is a huge difference between “having favourites” (earning the right) and “playing favourites” (playing one off against the other). I would then go on to outline that if you want your son or daughter to be one of my favourites, then understanding the following becomes absolutely paramount:
Being one of my favourites has absolutely nothing to do with how fast or successful they are in competition.
Being one of my favourites (and there is no limit on how many I had) comes down to:
Come to all of your allocated training sessions
Be on time
Challenge yourself and those around you
Don’t take short cuts
Treat others with respect
Be an exemplary example of sportsmanship in all you do and say
Own your programme
Listen intently and talk honestly (With yourself, your team mates and with me)
There are plenty more but in all honesty, I don’t think we need to go through them. Basically the message I was attempting to effectively deliver was do the right thing, and you will get all of my attention, support, experience, understanding and time. Basically the opposite of the naughty kid gets my attention.
Yes there was and still is a price to pay to be a favourite, but in the end it is to the advantage of the people I work with and not to me. By approaching favouritism in this way I am doing what I can to ensure that for the people I work with…
The Journey Continues!