1. Influencing. Peers generally do not have power over each other. That means that influence skills, understanding, and trading is the currency to use. Don’t just ask for things; find some common ground where you can provide help. What do the peers you’re contacting need? Do you really know how they see the issue? Is it even important to them? How does what you’re working on affect them? If it affects them negatively can you trade something, appeal to the common good, figure out some way to minimize the work (volunteering staff help, for example)? Go into peer relationships with a trading mentality.
2. Many times, negative personal styles get in the way of effective peer relationships. People differ in the impression they leave. Those who leave positive impressions get more things done with peers than those who leave cold, insensitive or impersonal negative impressions.
3. Sometimes the problem is in assessing peers. Do you really understand the peers you need to deal with? Which ones really want to help? Who is going to get in the way? What did they really want? What price will they ask for helping?
4. Sometimes the problem is maneuvering through the complex maze called the organization. How do you get things done sideways? Who are the movers and shakers in the organization? How do they get things done? Who do they rely on for expediting things through the maze? Who are the major gatekeepers who control the flow of resources, information and decisions? Who are the guides and the helpers? Get to know them better. Who are the major resisters and stoppers? Try to avoid or go around them.
5. If peers see you as excessively competitive, they will cut you out of the loop and may sabotage your cross border attempts. To be seen as more cooperative, always explain your thinking and invite them to explain theirs. Generate a variety of possibilities first rather than stake out positions. Be tentative, allowing them room to customize the situation. Focus on common goals, priorities and problems. Invite criticism of your ideas.
6. If peers think you lack respect for them or what they do, try to keep conflicts as small and concrete as possible. Separate the people from the problem. Don’t get personal. Don’t give peers the impression you’re trying to dominate or push something on them. Without agreeing or disagreeing, try on their views for size. Can you understand their viewpoint? When peers blow off steam, don’t react; return to facts and the problem, staying away from personal clashes. Allow others to save face; concede small points; don’t try to hit a home run every time. When a peer takes a rigid position, don’t reject it. Ask why – what are the principles behind the position, how do we know it’s fair, what’s the theory of the case, play out what would happen if his/her position was accepted.
7. Separate working smoothly with peers from personal relationships, contests, competing for incentives, one-upsmanship, not invented here, pride and ego. Working well with peers over the long term helps everyone, makes sense for the organization and builds a capacity for the organization to do greater things. Usually the least used resource in an organization is lateral exchanges of information and resources.
8. If a peer doesn’t play fair, avoid telling others all about it. This often boomerangs. What goes around comes around. Confront the peer directly, politely and privately. Describe the unfair situation; explain the impact on you. Don’t blame. Give the peer the chance to explain, ask questions, let him/her save some face and see if you can resolve the matter. Even if you don’t totally accept what is said, it’s better to solve the problem than win the argument.
9. Monitor yourself in tough situations to get a sense of how you are coming across. What’s the first thing you attend to? How often do you take a stand vs. make an accommodating gesture? What proportion of your comments deals with relationships vs. the issue to be addressed? Mentally rehearse for worst case scenarios/hard to deal with people. Anticipate what the person might say and have responses prepared so as not to be caught off guard.
10. Make sure the winning and losing is balanced. Watch out for winning concessions too often. If you win too much, how do the losers fare? Do you want them diminished or would you like them to work willingly with you again? The best tack is to balance the wins and losses. Make sure you are known in the organization as someone who is always ready to help and cooperate, and the favor will be returned.
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