Simple Questions Leaders Can Use to Improve Peer Relationships

three people talking

“How much time does your team invest in becoming better leaders — together?” That’s a question Bob Anderson likes to ask when he consults with senior leadership teams. Anderson is chief knowledge officer and co-founder of The Leadership Circle; his clients are leaders in global firms across all major business sectors. Does the notion of improving your peer relationships take a back seat to other workplace challenges? You’re not alone. According to research by McKinsey & Company, although a majority of leadership teams cite strong communication practices as imperative, less than 40% actually achieve consistent communication. 

A Blind Spot in Leadership Development

Anderson’s inquiry highlights a blind spot common with many leadership teams. When asked, leaders at all levels of an organization say that developing “leadership effectiveness” is a given. Nevertheless when Anderson asks what he calls “L1” leaders — those in the senior most ranks of organizations — how much time they work on their own collective leadership effectiveness as a team, he gets sheepish looks or blank stares.

Yet this question, if addressed, would help many leadership teams gain a competitive edge. Leadership effectiveness is more than the sum of really great leaders working individually. “Collective leadership effectiveness drives business performance,” Anderson and his co-author Bill Adams write in “Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results.” It’s a twist on the quest for engagement so prevalent in today’s workplaces: those leading an organization must engage with their peers every bit much as the employees they lead. “Leadership teams must work deliberately and unflaggingly on the quality of their own engagement,” explain Anderson and Adams.

Benefits of Connecting More Fully with Your Peers

How “engaged” is your leadership team with each other? Here are 10 questions to help you think about how well you and your management team are working on your “work” together.

Reflecting on these questions will help you:

  • Find out if you’re doing your best to shape interactions with your peers
  • Help your colleagues learn and grow
  • Step up to resolve conflicts and facilitate communication
  1. Do I have the same level of commitment to my leadership team as I do to the group I lead? Why or why not?
  2. Who sets the tone for the way our leadership team interacts? Am I a positive part of that process, or a bystander?
  3. When conflicts arise between me and my peers, how willing am I to speak up?
  4. In what ways can I help my colleagues learn and grow?
  5. When was the last time I sincerely complimented a peer on his or her team’s success?
  6. Do I actively look for ways to give credit in public to my peers’ teams or departments?
  7. If a member of my leadership is struggling, do I offer a hand?
  8. When mistakes are made outside my department, how do I communicate with others about the problem?
  9. Am I a positive role model for my peers?
  10. If I sense that values or vision amongst my team members are out of alignment, what steps do I take to rectify the situation?

Your leadership effectiveness is the sum of more than just your interactions with your direct reports. Truly effective leaders constantly work on yet another vital organizational relationship — the one with their peer group. Reflecting on the answers to these ten questions will help you (regardless of your leadership title) develop a stronger, more engaged connection with your peers.

A modified version of this article originally appeared in Smartbrief on Leadership and is used with permission.

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