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When I first went into management, my manager at the time gave me a piece of advice I never forgot. He said “always remember The Three F’s: Fair, Firm and Friendly. In that order.

Fair, Firm and Friendly

This approach really applies to all areas in life. Whether dealing with a partner, children or staff, being fair firm and friendly builds trust. Trust leads to more open minds. Open minds lead to agreement and acceptance.


Two people and scalesBeing fair doesn’t mean giving in to unreasonable demands or expectations.

This is where communication skills can be critical. If someone were to approach you saying that you were mean and unreasonable in a situation, it’s likely you would become defensive and the fight or flight response would kick in. I would bet that most in a position of authority will lean to “fight” mode. When we are in fight mode, it’s difficult to “hear” the other person. We become focused on winning rather than finding a fair place of compromise. By the same token, always conceding doesn’t mean the resolution is fair and/or balanced.

Being fair means being willing to listen to your “opponent”. There is the root of the problem. I don’t believe in problems, just challenges. Rather than treating the other person as an opponent, treat them as a partner you are collaborating with to resolve a challenge.

What if instead of hearing “you were mean and unreasonable”, you chose to hear “my feelings are hurt and I don’t understand why you said or did what you did”? The words are just the words but think about what message the other person is trying to convey. Yes, it take two to tango but someone has to lead. Are you a leader?


Firm womanBeing fair doesn’t mean being soft in your position. People need to know what your values are and where you stand. It can sometimes be difficult to separate yourself from the role you need to play. When we are in the role of manager, there are expectations that have to be met. As long as you have been fair in establishing expectations, it’s reasonable to be firm in a resolution process.

When expectations and appropriate penalties or resolutions are agreed upon up front, there is a need to follow through. Now, let’s make sure to apply fair to the circumstances. Sometimes, there can be mitigating circumstances but if there are none, it’s fair to be firm. It’s not fair to let people dump their garbage all over you.


Advisor shaking hands with clientThrough all of this, it’s important to be “friendly”. We are all people and have feelings. When you approach someone with a challenge and an honest intent to find an equitable solution, it promotes a feeling of safety and leads to more open dialogue. I’m not saying you should be best beer buddies, just approach discussion with honesty and integrity. Collaborate to seek a fair solution without being mean about it.

Being friendly is not the same as bowing down to someone in deference. It’s really about being respectful of others as individuals and valuing their thoughts and opinions whether you agree with them or not.

Always remember fair, firm and friendly. In that order!

Make it a great day!


P.S. What am I thankful for today? I’m thankful for my mentors. I’m thankful for opportunities to grow. I’m thankful for each new day. What are you thankful for today?

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