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A common criticism of C-level executives is that they don’t spend enough time building relationships with their peers on the ELT. Shared services leaders (CFO, CHRO, Marketing, for example) complain that their peers in operating units don’t understand the value that could be gained by involving them more frequently in decision making.

In a transactional relationship, the only time you engage is when you need something. For example, you have a performance issue with one of your employees, so you call HR to find out about the discipline policy. Or you are working on your budget and call finance with questions about expense allocations.

Imagine if the only time you talked to your significant other or a friend was to ask for something. How might they feel about that? How would you feel if you were the one being asked?

If you only have transactional needs from your peers, this sort of relationship is not ideal but probably meets your day to day needs for the relationship. Unfortunately, there are at least three risks to consider:

  • Over time, transactional relationships tend to breed resentment. No one likes to feel used.
  • People who feel angry or resentful towards you are not eager to respond to your requests, particularly if the request is unusual or requires a stretch.
  • In the absence of a mutual, personal relationship, peers are more likely to believe and act on negative opinions expressed by others about you.

The opposite of a transactional relationship is a mutual, personal relationship. Characteristics of a mutual, personal relationship include:

  • Knowing something about the other as a person
  • Knowing about the other person’s values and trusting their good intentions
  • Understanding each other’s priorities and challenges
  • A regular cadence of communication, even if there is no “urgent” topic to discuss.
  • Sincere curiosity and interest in the other’s well-being.
  • High trust and high commitment to each other’s success

Since it is so important, how do you go about building mutual, personal relationships with peers? Here are some suggestions:

  • Schedule a regular meeting (once a month is about right)
  • Demonstrate interest and curiosity in the other person’s world by asking open ended questions like:
    • Tell me about some successes since our last meeting?
    • What are your big priorities right now and over the next month?
    • What are some challenges that you are concerned about?
    • How can I be helpful?
    • What could I and my team do to be easier to work with?

You might be thinking, I don’t have time for this. But remember, this is not just to make your peers feel good. You will be surprised by what you learn in these conversations and how your peer might just be more helpful than you thought.

If you are having challenges building peer relationships, a TBG consultant can help. Fill out this form for a free consultation from an experienced member of our team!

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