Through years of interviewing leaders' stakeholders, I’ve noticed a tendency for leaders to put a lot of effort into developing relationships with their boss and their direct reports. But they may neglect a group of important stakeholders: their peers. This can result in these peers misunderstanding or having conflict with the leader in question.
So, when I bring that feedback to the leader, they give a metaphorical yawn and shrug, unconcerned with the fact that their peers don’t have a high regard for them. They are getting results, so what’s the big deal?
Beware any indifference you may feel when your peers aren’t in your corner! They’re more important to your ongoing success than you might think, because:
Your manager is noticing and listening to what’s going on. He or she may be forming their opinion based on what they see and what others tell them. If your manager is forming opinions that you aren’t a team player or that you might be ignoring or experiencing ongoing, unresolved conflict with peers that doesn’t get resolved, your future may not be what you want it to be.
Your peer could be your manager at some point. Some of the best advice that you can take to heart is to treat everyone with respect, because you never know who your next boss might be. It happens often that a peer can become a boss in a reorganization. So developing relationships with your peers makes sense. Because honestly, you can’t predict the future, and they deserve your respect as human beings no matter what.
They talk to each other about things, including you. If one of your peers has a conflict with you and is talking about it, that can leak into the relationships you have with others. It becomes easy for your others to see you through a lens that isn’t what you might prefer (and may not be entirely true) because it’s be colored by what someone else is saying about you.
You need them more than you think. Even if your peers aren’t tightly tied together in the work you do, they can be a great source of support. Because you are all at the same level in the organization, you may experience some of the same things. You don’t have to struggle alone when you have great relationships with your peers, and they can be a great coaches and a sounding board for you.
You may need to pay more attention to developing your peer relationships. They are there to help you or harm you, depending on how you treat them, and they can have a bigger impact on your career than you think.
More From Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small- sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.