Most of us have grown up believing in the erroneous myth that the key to career success is just hard work and dedication. However, great and effective leaders know that professional success is also closely connected to how fruitful they build relationships with their co-workers.
Simply spending long hours in the business won’t help you deliver better results and, therefore, get to the top of the career ladder. Let’s face it: Your success at work strongly depends on the effectiveness of the peer relationships you cultivate and promote.
The importance of peer relationships at work
“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know”. We all have heard this saying from our parents, teachers, and professors. In a connected world,online networking for career enrichment is on the rise. But we often forget about the importance and benefits of building relationships with other professionals in a way we hadn’t paid attention to before — that is face to face and in the workplace.
Getting valuable and sincere feedback, delivering big projects to tight deadlines or even finding more innovative and creative ways of solving a problem is easier when you have good relationships with other team members and co-workers.
Leaders are often honored and recognized for how satisfactorily their teams perform. Therefore, self-serving and selfish behaviors within a team won’t help you get ahead. Just like on the playing field, the following motto applies in the working world: “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships”. Learn the game and play it well: You cannot win this championship by yourself because your peers play an integral role in delivering organizational objectives.
For this reason, achieving harmonious coordination among individuals, workgroups, and departments is of crucial importance to successful leadership.
Building strong peer networks
- Understand the needs of other people
We all know what needs are – things that are necessary or required. On paper, every employee works towards the same organizational goals and, therefore, our needs and priorities should be similar, right? Well, in reality, everything works a little bit differently.
Each of us has a distinct position and plays a unique role within a team. This means that we all look at the world from different perspectives. Thereby, our ways of thinking, prioritizing and contributing towards the organization’s objectives are diverse. Even within the same company, people’s needs will differ not only between departments but also between individuals working in the same team.
For this reason, the first step to promote effective peer relationships is putting ourselves in the shoes of our co-workers. You need to decipher correctly the context other people work in.
- Understand the role every department plays within the company and try to learn more about the way every team contributes to achieving organizational goals.
- After that, you should get to know the position of your co-worker. What are his or her functions within his or her department? What is he or she responsible for?
- Finally, put everything into perspective and ask yourself about the nature of the interdependence between your peer’s function (or department) and yours.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses
Now it’s time to go a step further in order to build solid relationships at work. Continue by identifying the concrete role a person plays in a team: Is he a supporter or a leader? A planner or a creator? What is he or she good at? What are his/her biggest weaknesses?
Recognizing the negative and positive qualities of others will not be enough if you are not aware of your own. Step back and take some time to think through and identify not only your issues but also everything that can make you a valuable partner and leader.
- Find spaces for collaboration
Relationships are reciprocal: When you help others, you are indirectly helping yourself. The more you can support other people’s success, the more they will be willing to help you succeed.
Identifying workplace strengths, weaknesses and needs can empower yourself to step back and look at the big pictureof how the different skills and contexts fit together. Moreover, you will be able to see how every member can complement each other. Thus, it will be easier to find a sweet spot of satisfactory collaboration without dragging people into areas where they can’t add a lot of value.
Now it’s time to ask yourself what kind of support you can offer to the other person: What does the other person need the most? What a are you/other team members good at?
- Emotional supportcomes in a variety of shapes and sizes: understanding, empathy, trust, etc.
- Instrumental supportmeans providing tangible help, e.g. doing some research, writing a report, analyzing data…
- Informational supportis given when you are assisting problem-solving with your knowledge, expertise, experiences, opinions, and ideas.
- Appraisal supportis all about giving constructive feedback, communicating a realistic evaluation, etc.
- Manage workplace conflicts effectively
A winner workplace strategy should be focused on the positives and the benefits of teamwork. Also, effective leaders recognize the importance of embracing differences. But even if you are cultivating and promoting strong relationships to amplify the strengths and complement the weaknesses of your team, the differences may eventually come up in the form of conflicts. And these need to be handled in a healthy way.
Normally, when you think of the word conflict, you picture nerve-shattering stressful confrontations. But not all conflict is bad! Sure, a conflict within your team is always difficult and unpleasant but it can lead to growth and change. As a leader, it’s in your hands to manage conflict and promote professional and productive ways of handling it within your team.
Note that a certain level of organizational conflict can be actually desirable because it shows that the parties are strongly committed to the same goals and are actively looking for the best way to achieve them.
- Avoid seeing conflicts in the workplace as personal confrontations. Take a deep breath and step back for a while if necessary. Put everything into perspective and focus on the structural aspects of the problem: It’s not about you and the other person but about the common tasks, projects and goals.
- As a leader, you are responsible for creating a positive work environment. So, even if you’re not directly involved, when the differences between employees escalate into an inter-personal confrontation, you must mediate in the conflict immediately to ensure that it is resolved professionally.
- Concentrate on the positive effects a confrontation can lead to. Don’t see it as a threat but as an opportunity to improve the quality of the decisions, arouse creativity, foster new ideas and build more synergy. It ultimately facilitates team development.
- The added value: Co-create ideas
Good work relationships bring people together and boost collaboration between individuals and teams. They represent, therefore, an effective way to ditch inter-departmental and inter-personal silos. For this reason, they create also an added value in the workplace that can also make a difference in your career.
Building strong peer networks allows you to break down the walls between individuals and teams. This way, you can co-create ideas in a unique way that would be difficult for others to imitate or copy. Remember Aristotle’s wise words: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”.
In the minefield of today’s world of work, great leaders are identified as those who can go a step further to create an added value for the organization. Promoting and building strong peer relationships within your team is the key that can harness the power of disruptive thinking and make the difference between a good and a great leader.
She loves sharing her insights and experience to help people find career fulfillment.
Feel free to reach out to her on Twitter at @NittaCastro.