image of a coffee cupMany of the most accomplished professionals and leaders I’ve encountered point not to mentors as sources of guidance and inspiration, but rather to a particular workplace peer-level partnership as having been critical to their success.

The Right Peer Level Partnership Offers You:

  • A person you trust to bounce ideas around with…often ideas that you might be uncomfortable sharing in a broader work group setting.
  • Someone who will be more likely to provide you with the unadulterated feedback on your performance and/or how you are being perceived by others.
  • A source who is comfortable challenging how you frame problems and potential solutions.
  • Someone you trust to help you navigate the most difficult of professional situations.

While lacking in the experience-based perspective typically present in a mentor, the peer-level relationship offers a tremendous source of psychological support, along with the practical benefits described above.

It’s good to be rowing in a similar boat with someone you trust and someone who trusts you.

Much like seeking out and selecting a mentor, there are some important considerations in choosing workplace partnerships to cultivate.

Do’s for Building Strong Peer Relationships in the Workplace

  1. Connect with people who display values you agree with and admire.
  2. Be proactive. Find ways to begin building bridges. Collaborate on a project together. Serve on a committee. Find areas of mutual intersection for your roles or your teams and build a dialogue on how to strengthen performance in those areas.
  3. As situations present themselves, seek opportunities to bounce ideas around and/or ask for feedback on something you or your team did.
  4. Give to get. Offer help. Offer support. If requested, offer feedback.
  5. As time progresses and mutual trust grows, increase the focus on performance feedback and professional development.
  6. Do respect the integrity of the relationship. It’s not about office politics and boss bashing, it’s about growth and support.

Don’ts When Seeking to Build Strong Peer Relationships in the Workplace:

  1. Definitely don’t push hard into the boundary of someone who isn’t interested in cultivating a more active workplace relationship.
  2. Don’t violate the one-way signs. If it’s all you asking…or all the other person taking, it’s not healthy.
  3. Don’t expect too much too fast. These relationships evolve naturally.
  4. Don’t cultivate workplace relationships based on boss or peer bashing. (Yes, it bears repeating!)
  5. Don’t attempt to hang on to a workplace relationship after the expiration date. People change, their priorities change and not every workplace relationship evolves into a long-term friendship. Let them go when it’s obvious their time has passed.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Sometimes the most honest appraisal and the best guidance comes from the person sitting at the same table as you. While seeking out and cultivating relationships is a challenging issue in every walk of life, there’s ample opportunity for mutually beneficial workplace relationships to flourish if you want them to. Of the dozen or so that have helped me along my way, two are priceless and one remains active long beyond our time working together.

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