I met and coached a CEO recently and he confided in me that it can be lonely at the top. He is recognized throughout his organization as a wise and competent person. He is there to bounce ideas off of, is running the company, having regular management meetings and retreats and is managing the hiring and firing of the company.

The big distinction that came out of the coaching when to be formal versus informal. It’s a great lesson to learn.

Being folksy and informal is part of the American way. It’s down home, “Bill Clintonesque” and fun and lively. I teach charisma which shows a person how to have the ability to switch on the personality when it’s needed. This particular CEO felt a bit taken advantage of by one of his managers. They became good friends and golf buddies and slowly the friendship was mirrored in the boardroom. Slightly, ever so slightly, the formality wore off around the other managers and the CEO became more like one of the guys and not like the leader he once was.

We discussed that every human has basic needs and one is the need to be loved and admired. Those needs need to be filled, but the question is, by whom? Does a leader need to be loved by those he leads? Does he need to be strict or a lovable teddy bear type to be effective? What about you? Can you ask yourself: When should I act formal, if ever, and when should I act informal, if ever?

Certainly, each person has the right to answer those questions by themselves but the truth is that in most circles, being completely folksy won’t garner the type of respect that a person needs in order to maintain respect for ones work. Structures, protocols and guidelines can help a person who has the tendency to be down to earth in their personality, seem more formal in work. Without those structures, the “feel” is a bit loosey-goosey and not all that credible.

I’ve gone through my own formal versus informal game recently. I’m new in a community and am building a PR, coaching and communication business. I’ve got one of those gregarious, fun and lively personalities so that’s fun when I’m socializing. I’ve realized though that in business, that personality is best left on the shelf until I’ve proven my effectiveness in business. I have found that it’s best to be effective first, and have fun later. I’ve even decided that because I’m in the community with friends AND potential clients, to save my gregariousness for close friends and family. It’s a choice that I’m making for the good of my business. And business is my priority and responsibility right now, not just having fun all of the time.

Try it on yourself. Imagine yourself with your mate’s work associates. How do you want to be seen? What about with the President of the US? How would you act with him or someone else you greatly respect? Now, imagine yourself with your best friends and your potential best clients? How is it that you want to appear and act then?

Monitoring our own behavior sometimes is a difficult thing to do. As humans we want to tend to make ourselves right all of the time and any critical look at our actions are somewhat hard to take. However, this is the best way to grow, and to improve relationships, our image and our business, by looking at ourselves.

The old saying goes, if you want to grow your business, grow yourself. What have you done to grow yourself lately?