So I Got Promoted, Now What? Get To Know Your Peers

[This is part four in a series of posts about how to effectively transition to your new role after being promoted.]

Series Outline

How do you recognize an extroverted IT professional? Answer: He looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

That’s a harsh joke. It’s certainly not true for the people I know in the IT field, but it does illustrate a point. Those of us in the IT realm are not known for our exceptional interpersonal skills. It’s not that we don’t have interpersonal skills. It’s just that we tend to be more at ease when “interfacing” with other techies.

Being comfortable amongst similar people comes naturally. I’m reminded of the old sales axiom: People buy from people they like, and people like themselves.

Why Should I Care About My Peers?

Getting along with other IT folks may have been sufficient in your prior role, but as you get promoted up through the ranks you’ll need to extend your comfort zone to include a broader swath of the organization. Business is relational and you’ll need to be as well to succeed that landscape.

Why? There are many reasons. Here are but a few.

Learn From Your Peers

If someone has been in a position that’s similar to your new role in the organization, it stands to reason that they may have picked up some good insight during their tenure. I’m not suggesting that they’ll be perfect or that you’ll want to follow their lead. That’s probably not the case. You need to be true to your own style and make your own mark, but they may be able to help you navigate around potential land mines as you adjust to your new responsibilities in the organization.

Establish Lines Of Communication

In most organizations, a certain level of cooperation is required from multiple teams and departments. You must work with other groups to push the organization’s goals and objectives forward. It’s much easier to work with someone else when you’ve already established a professional relationship with him. People are more willing to go to bat for someone else if they know him.

Prepare For Future Conflicts

When two people interact regularly, there will eventually be conflict, even under the best of circumstances. The likelihood of conflict is escalated when put in the context of a stressful or demanding project. Some would even argue that the conflict helps to produce s better outcome. Regardless, those conflicts are less intense and are more easily resolved afterward if the two parties have already established trust and mutual respect for one another.

Vet Your Ideas Before Unveiling Them

As we come up with ideas for our department or the organization, it’s good to have a trusted colleague with whom we can share those ideas and get good and honest feedback. An idea that we conceive may have downsides that we haven’t considered. Vetting the ideas before announcing them will help you to improve the ideas and lay the groundwork for better acceptance of them when announced.

Expand Your Network

Let’s face it, business can be turbulent. Mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations and outsourcing, recessions and contracting economies all make for a very dynamic workplace. In such an environment, it’s good to have an extensive network of people who can help you if needed, or who you can help.

Ok, But Who Are My Peers?

That’s a good question. I’m reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan where a young man asks “Who is my neighbor?” and learns that his true neighbors extend far beyond his confort zone.

Getting to know your peers means getting to know others both inside and outside of your current organization, those with whom you work regularly and those you only see occasionally, those who are in the same industry and those who work in complementary industries. In short, most anyone you come into contact with can be considered your peer for these purposes.

However, that’s a pretty ambitious target so let’s narrow it down a little for starters.

Peers At Work

The peers at work are primarily your colleagues at the same level in the organization. If you are the DBA Manager, your peers may be the Dev Team Manager, the Customer Service Team Manager, and the Quality Assurance Team Manager. Don’t limit yourself to one department or physical location; reach out to peers in other departments and locations.

You may also go up the promotional ladder a rung or two, depending on the culture of work environment.

Peers In The Same Industry

Trade shows and conferences offer great opportunities to meet other people in the same industry as yours. If you go to these types of events and only consume the information presented in the break-out sessions, you’re missing out of one of the most important aspects of the event. Networking (in the best sense of the term) is probably the most important aspect of these events. You can even participate when you’re unable to attend in person.

Peers In Complementary  Industries

During the course of your business day, you’ll likely meet people from other walks of life. Getting to know your suppliers, your customers, your service providers will help you to work more effectively with them.

How Do I Get To Know My Peers?

Getting to know your peers is not really that difficult. Little kids seem to have an innate ability to do it. If you go to a playground and watch for a few minutes, you’re bound to see a new kid arrive. At first he tentatively plays near the other kids, then before you know it he’s joined their game.

As we grow, we sometimes convince ourselves that it’s much more difficult than that. We start believing that meeting new people is hard. It’s not. If a little kid can do it, surely we can. Initially you may have a certain level apprehension or even anxiety about striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know very well. As you practice, it will become much easier.

Lots of books have been written about the subject. If you’re looking for a good starting point, try the classic How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a good common sense approach for becoming a good conversationalist. In general, it’s simply finding common ground and becoming a good listener.

Some specific examples of situations where you can get to know your peers may be:

At Meetings

Meeting are pervasive in business today. Our calendars are full of them, so why not use them as an opportunity to meet someone new? Arrive early and introduce yourself to someone else who’s early. Spend a few minutes talking with her before the meeting. Afterward, send a short follow up email. Something simple like “Hey Darlene – It was good chatting with you before the meeting earlier today. Here’s a link to the resource I was telling you about. See you next week.”

Small Tokens

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers with little acts of kindness. For example, if you occasionally bring bagels or donuts for your team, buy some extra and give them to your peer for his team. Let him be the one to give it to his team. “Hey Marc – I was at the bakery this morning picking up some bagels for my team and thought your guys may want some too. Enjoy.”

At Lunch

Of course, lunch is one of the more common ways to get to know your peers. “Let’s do lunch.” as they say. But you’ll probably want to be more genuine than that. I find that it’s typically easier to establish a working relationship with my peers first and then invite them to lunch. For example, after I’ve met and talked with someone a few times I may ask “Hey – I was thinking of trying the new Mongolian place for lunch today. Have you heard anything about it?” And then you can invite him to join you.

Start Today

The best part about all of this is that you don’t have to wait until you’ve been promoted to begin getting to know your peers. You can start reaching out to your co-workers, customers, suppliers, and colleagues in other industries now. What’s stopping you?

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4 Responses to So I Got Promoted, Now What? Get To Know Your Peers

  1. Pingback: Dew Drop – October 7, 2010 | Alvin Ashcraft's Morning Dew

  2. Pingback: The Importance Of Managing Expectations « WebbTech Solutions

  3. Pingback: SQLPeople: An Interview With Andy Leonard « WebbTech Solutions

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