Peers and Power Are a Potent Mix
Excerpted from “The Truth About Being a Leader…And Nothing But The
ever walked into a high school locker room or a martial arts class? The
smell that hits you is that of competition and sweat. In meeting rooms
in organizations around the world, the dynamics, if not the aroma, are
similar, as peers jockey for power in an adult version of sports
It's no accident
that on feedback questionnaires of all kinds, peers tend to mark each
other below scores received from bosses and direct reports.
When you enter a
leadership role, it's important to realize that the game has changed and
your new peers may now see you as competition.
It's usually not
personal. A certain amount of distrust is natural, because, now or in
the future, you and your peers will be in direct competition for roles,
resources, and remuneration. And it's okay, indeed healthy, to develop
some caution regarding the motivation and moves of your peers.
Otherwise, you could be in for a nasty surprise.
who relied on another department's research and fact finding
capabilities. He soon found that their reports could be biased and that
they did not give his group enough information.
openly complained about the research department and refused to continue
using their reports. But Albert soon realized he was burning bridges
with his actions. He backed off and approached the problem differently.
gleaned from asking his clients what they thought, he let the research
department know how the biases and omissions in their previous reports
had upset his clients. When the emphasis was on serving clients, not
helping a peer and possible competitor, the research department
recognized and responded to the need to cooperate.
resources are usually stretched and the interests of departments often
don't coincide, developing trust with peers is tricky. Ideally, trust
comes from knowing that a peer is able to put the organization's
interests before his or her own, and will give credit to other
departments rather taking total ownership.
But don't take it
for granted that a peer will always act this way. Establish clear
guidelines and expectations for your work together. For instance, if you
have to split a commission, agree on the percentage split in advance.
And constantly monitor your joint efforts, giving quick feedback about
what’s working and what isn’t if your peers' work diverges from the
framework you set up.
In Albert's case,
he found that providing clear guidelines and expectations backed by
others was the first step in creating a good peer group relationship.
He also learned that he had to communicate constantly with and test the
research team to be sure they were working toward compatible goals.
Remember, a peer
today may be a boss tomorrow. See keep it clean and keep it clear and
you’ll be happy that you did.