Innovation Leaders Need Peers

There’s an old saying in business. Don’t make enemies of your peers. If you do, you won’t need any more enemies. They’ll be able to do you in…just fine.
So what’s my point? Your peers are an essential resource and support network. By peers, I mean those at the same level in other departments: finance, sales, human resources, marketing, R&D, and operations. After all, innovation is an essential commercial activity. Without an effective and strong base of support from these peers, you’re going to fail at leading innovation in your firm.
So here are some key steps you can take to forge effective peer relationships as an innovation leader.
First, meet with each peer one-on-one. Do this very early in your new position. Now I know it’s tempting to jump right in and start tackling your big innovation challenges. Be careful. I’d advise you meet with your peers within the first week of your new appointment. Peers are that important.
Meet with them to assure them of one thing: that you’re a collaborator, not a competitor. You’ll see throughout this course that consulting your peers on key decisions will move you forward, reduce risk, and solidify you as a competent innovation leader.
Peers help you pressure test your assumptions. They have important information for you. When they align with you, they share the risks…and rewards of big wins. You have to make this a priority.
One very important area to collaborate with your peers is in people development. You have people reporting to you, and so do they. You’re all committed, or should be committed, to developing the most competent teams you can. So work together. Use your peers to give you feedback about individual team members, give feedback to them about their people, and look for ways to share development resources and assignments that help people grow.
If you’re seen as a collaborator, you’ll survive. If you’re seen by your peers as a lone wolf, it’s just a matter of time…
And that leads me to my final piece of advice. Practice the Rule of Reciprocity. Reciprocity is a social rule that every human society teaches its members. If someone helps you, you’re obligated to help them back. But the key is – you have to make the first move. You have to do something that helps a peer in a way that’s unexpected. They’ll not only appreciate it, but they’ll start looking for ways they can help you in return.
So meet with your peers. Look for insights on how you can make THEM successful. That’s right. Them, not you. If you help your peers first, you’ll be seen as a credible, trustworthy partner who’s trying to move the business forward. And that will help YOU succeed in the long run.

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