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Peer Management February 22, 2011

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics.
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I’m fairly certain that managers spend most of their time trying to figure out how to more effectively manage subordinates. That’s not surprising given that the distinguishing characteristic of management (as opposed to the non-manager) is responsibility for the performance of others. What gets overlooked is the management of peers and superiors, in spite of the fact that the organizational effectiveness of a manager depends as much, if not more so, on people who are not direct reports.

By the way, I’m sure that hundreds of management guides are published every year, but I don’t recall ever seeing a book that focuses on the topic of peer management. If someone out there knows of one, please comment to this post. I just did a Google search and struck out; everything seems to be about “peer review management” or “peer data management.”

Managing your peers probably sounds manipulative, and I’ll freely admit that management is all about manipulation to some degree. Let’s admit it: management and leadership is all about getting work done through others, using power and influence to get other people to follow your lead to achieve overall business success, regardless of how that may be defined. I’m not saying that the end justifies the means, and certainly the honorable manager who expects to remain effective must respect ethical boundaries.

Subordinates follow your lead because you’re the manager and the organization has granted you positional power to control compensation and work assignments. Why should peers follow your lead? Peers are typically your competition, whether competing for the next rung on the ladder or competing for resources. Maybe the better question is: Why do you need your peers to follow your lead? Overall business success isn’t a zero-sum game between managers, it requires collaboration between departments and functions, and that means finding ways to work effectively across organizational boundaries.

I believe peer management starts with a shared understanding of the “senior purpose” of the business unit as a whole. The “senior purpose” is the higher-level objective that the management team is collectively trying to accomplish. What role does your department play in achieving that goal, and what role do other departments play? What are the built-in organizational dependencies between departments and functions that require managers to work together? A manager can influence their peers by explicitly aligning with the “senior purpose” and reinforcing the messages communicated by superiors. Collaboration also requires being open-minded about how to achieve those goals, sharing the spotlight, and sharing responsibility if things don’t work out. After all, peer management is an ongoing exercise, not a one-time transaction.

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Comments»

1. Ofelia - April 5, 2013

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2. gary hamel - November 14, 2013

Nothing new here.

Advise: that habano picture does not help you very much as an authority figure.

Feedback: Although you´re right on one thing, theres nothing written about feedback between peers managers, that would be useful. And I liked that you were truthful about managment and manipulation, but it is not a bad thing though.

Good luck


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