It Is Critical for a Manager to Build a Strong Network With Peers

Two businesswomen meeting over lunch
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As managers, we tend to focus our energy on the team members below us, and the bosses above us. However, top performing managers understand the importance of investing time in cultivating in peer-level relationships across the organization.

A strong peer network provides access to resources, expertise and even information essential for your survival and success as a manager. Use these ideas and approaches to help you strengthen your peer network inside your firm.


8 Peer Networking Ideas You Should Adopt Immediately

  1. Set the right tone with your team. Too many functional managers portray an “Us versus Them” mentality when it comes to their opinion of other departments or groups in the organization. Instead, remind your team regularly that every group is critical to an organization’s success and that the other internal groups are customers. 
  2. Establish internal customer success measures. Work with your peers in other groups to analyze the activities where your teams converge and identify, track and share measures of performance for those activities. Make certain your team members are accountable for their goals for these measures. 
  3. Set up regular team information exchanges across departments. A simple, but effective approach to building goodwill between teams and with your peers is to invite individuals from other groups to join your team meetings. One marketing manager resolved the tension with the sales team by encouraging her sales counterpart to regularly send a representative to marketing planning meetings to share insights from the field as well as to learn more about marketing’s efforts to generate sales leads. The sales input strengthened the quality of the marketing programs, and all parties appreciated the added context for the work of their colleagues. 
  1. Invite peers to give you and your team feedback. If your firm lacks a formal 360-degree review process, ask your peers directly to share their views on your team’s performance and your support of cross-group initiatives. If your counterpart finds direct, verbal feedback awkward, create a survey document that encourages performance rating and solicits ideas for improvement. And remember to thank your peer for the feedback and commit to actions in areas identified for improvement. 
  1. Create opportunities to pool resources and solve lingering problems. I reference problems that exist between functions where ownership is unclear as: “problems in the gray zone.” Everyone sees the issue, but no one is certain who owns fixing it. Identify one of those vexing problems and request help from your peer(s) in working together to eliminate or resolve the issue. After succeeding with one initiative, build on this with any remaining lingering challenges. 
  2. Celebrate the successes of your peers and their teams. Never miss an opportunity to show your respect for the successes of other managers and groups. If something noteworthy happens on another team or, if one of your peers earns a big promotion, extend your congratulations and support. 
  3. Create a reciprocity debt with fellow managers. While this might sound manipulative, it is simply smart politics. As humans, we are wired to feel a sense of debt when someone does us a favor. Work hard to support the efforts of others and cultivate a healthy reserve of reciprocity debt. When you need help for an important initiative, your chances of gaining support from those who perceive they “owe you one” is excellent. 
  4. Create opportunities for informal one-on-one discussions. One enterprising manager makes certain her calendar has at least one lunch meeting every week with a different peer-level manager. She uses these opportunities to gain insight into how to better support other teams, and she benefits from the free information sharing that occurs during the meal. And as a student of the reciprocity theory outlined above, whenever possible, she picks up the check.

    6 Big Benefits of Building a Strong Peer Network

    Effective managers understand the importance of cultivating relationships with individuals at all levels and across all functions of the organization. While as suggested earlier, we tend to focus on the vertical relationships, in reality, issues surrounding projects, resources and even decision-making often flow sideways through an organization. A strong peer network offers the following benefits:

    1. You gain early access to strategic information. It pays to know about new organizational changes or shifts in your firm’s key strategies as soon as possible. A strong network of peers improves your odds of gaining access to this information, allowing you increased the time to prepare for forthcoming changes. 
    2. You tap into hidden resource pools. At some point, you or one of your team members will likely lead a project or initiative that crosses over traditional organizational boundaries. You will need to draw upon these strong relationships for cooperation and access to individuals with the skill sets necessary for initiative success. 
    1. Your priorities rise on the organizational agenda. The most powerful of your peers have a strong say in the work that gets done. A strong network allows you to move your ideas and initiatives higher on the priority list. 
    2. You open up access to funding. Money is always an issue, and your peers may control significant budgets. Strong relationships and the right form of reciprocity debt will allow you to tap into those funds for critical cross-group initiatives. 
    3. You gain influence with key decision-makers. It is inevitable that you will need to draw upon the support of others at some point in time. In my article: “How Smart Managers Build Relationships with Human Resources and Finance,” I highlight the influence these groups have on your ability to maneuver in an organization.
    4. You make yourself increasingly valuable to your boss. Your direct manager is dependent upon you for helping him/her achieve their own goals. Your ability to draw upon an extended set of resources supports this issue and strengthens your value to your boss. 

    The Bottom Line

    Actively cultivating positive, productive relationships with your peers is a must for personal and team success. Don’t let the formal organization chart lull you into the mistaken belief that everything important happens above or below you. Instead, look sideways and engage your peers in the work of helping the organization move forward.