This is a follow up to my earlier post on building a leadership collective.
If structured right, some of the most powerful leadership development happens among peers. Peers can challenge each other in ways that only those with equal power can. Direct-reports who know how to influence their manager are invaluable. Bosses often have the most power to improve ones position in an organization. And if you win the boss lottery, you have a boss who cannot only help you manage the politics and relationships, but can coach you in your role. I find this type of boss rare these days. Leaders seem to have less and less time to invest in coaching and mentoring their teams. Though many of them want to spend more time developing their team, they struggle to make the time and many don’t have the skills to coach others. Companies are still promoting star performers and they don’t always make the best people developers.
Peer cohorts learning from each other is untapped energy in most organizations. If you are smart you have a diverse team with different skills and strengths. With the right set up, peers can coach and develop each other on important projects. They can provide feedback and tell each other the truth without the power imbalance of a direct-report relationship. They have insights into each other’s teams because of prevalent matrix structures. Peers are more likely than ever to share staff on different projects. When team members can’t (or don’t want to) go directly to their boss, they often go to a peer-manager they trust.
Instead of leveraging all this experience and knowledge, a competitive dynamic still reigns amongst peer groups. Clients tell me that they have to be careful with peers because they are in line for the same promotions. They hesitate to share information, learning, and knowledge because it could provide advantage. Too much energy is being spent on internal competition that would be much better spent focused on the external market and competitors. Peers aren’t siblings, even if they sometimes act like them. But what peers have in common with siblings is that the corporate (“family”) structure and dynamic largely determines how well they share, collaborate, “play”, support and accomplish goals.
If you see a lot of internal competition amongst peer groups, be worried. You should be wondering who you are ignoring while you are competing with each other. Peer learning is valuable untapped energy. With a little investment, it can power your business.
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.