Project Management

Top 10 Tips for Managing Your Peers

From the PMO Setup T3 - Tips, Tools, and Techniques Blog
Bringing you PMO Setup Tips, Tools, and Techniques for PMOs of all shapes and sizes.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

PowerPoint Presentation Tips

Planning tips from a mouse..!

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me..!

Project Manager Knowledge Areas

Who is to blame when a project fails?

Categories: PMO Tips

Peer (noun) / a person who is of equal rank and standing with another.
PMO Comics, by Mark Perry

Top 10 Tips for Managing Your Peers

Tip 1: Assume a leadership role. Leadership is not something that comes with title and that can be given. You must assume it. Take command. Don’t be concerned with formal titles or reporting structures and relationships. When seeking to manage peers, don’t look for and wait on a formal permission to act; assume a leadership role.

Tip 2: Be courageous. Most people are understandably a little nervous about being too assertive in working with and communicating to peers. After all, seeming to manage or to direct a peer might not be received well. It may come back to you later in the form of resentment. These feelings are natural for both you and your peer. To help with the possible tension and stress, consider the worst thing that your peer can say to you which is likely to be just a no to your request. If needed, make a contingency plan for dealing with a negative response or attitude, but don’t be worried about hurt feelings. Leadership is part of business and in many situations peers have to work together without benefit of a direct report. Peer leadership is much preferred than having to have management involvement for every little thing.

Tip 3: Peer to peer feedback. Situational leadership is situational. One thing peers often do not get is regular, honest, peer to peer feedback. Seek to deliver this in a respectful, positive way it will often be much appreciated and earn you some respect in return.

Tip 4: Kind in mind that you need each other. Just as you rely on your peer worker for support, your peer worker also relies on you. Managing your peers involves a healthy give and take relationship. The more that you are able to support your peer in time of their need, the more that they will be able to support you and be managed by you in time of your need. You can bank on the favors that you have deposited.

Tip 5: Manage your peer’s time respectfully. Management peers are very busy people and anything you can do to show that you understand this will work to your advantage. Your peer won’t have time to deal with every issue you’d like to bring to their attention, so prioritize and be selective with your requests. Also, be prepared and have facts, figures and examples ready. Any vagueness on your part will lengthen the conversation and represents time wasted. Also, don’t just drop in. Book time with your peer in advance by making an appointment.

Tip 6: Use the right words. Every conversation you have with your peer is important. And, you don’t have the luxury of a direct reporting employee to manager relationship to fall back on. Choose your words carefully and don’t beat around the bush. Be open, honest, and non-confrontation from a personal point of view. It is perfect fine to be confrontation for the purposes of confronting an important business issue or problem in which there may be a lack of understanding of differing points of view on account of differing levels of perspective and information that is available. But don’t fall into the personal attack trap where questioning your peer's abilities or intelligence may compromise your ability to work together. Take the lead in complex dialog, take the highest of high roads, and use good, unambiguous language.

Tip 7: Use the right style of communication. How does your peer like to communicate? Does your peer prefer formal by the book style communications and working relationships or does your peer prefer informal style communications and more personal relationships such as discussing issues and problems over lunch or even over a beer after work. Ensure that you match your situational leadership and peer management techniques to the style appropriate for your peer.

Tip 8: Frame your requests. In managing your peers, seek to always frame your requests. Find the win-win angle that benefits your peer and protects your peer interests. And, if there is not a win-win angle, then create one. Find a way to make it worth it for your peer to follow your lead, take your direction, and perform the work that you need to be performed.

Tip 9: Know your peer. As all good leaders, managers, negotiators know, reaching win-win outcomes requires understanding the interests of both parties. To fully engage with your peer you need to mentally take a moment and walk in their shoes. What is your peer’s reputation in the organization? What is your peer expected to achieve? To whom does your peer answer to and owe their allegiance to? What are your peer’s goals and ambitions? What stands in your peer’s way? The more answers to these questions that you know, the more likely you can effectively manage your peer.

Tip 10: Recognize your peer. How many times have we heard the saying, “there is no limit to what a person can achieve if they don’t care who gets the credit.” This is especially true in peer relationships and when you have to lead and, in essence, manage your peer. Spread the credit around, don’t hoard it or claim it all for yourself. For one, not recognizing the peer that you have just lead and managed in a successful achievement is the surest way to sour them on ever helping you again. For another, it’s just bad form.

Posted on: April 03, 2009 09:37 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Thanks Mark - These are all great points. I would say that trust is a huge factor in effectively leading, whether the leadership is formal or situational. Often the win-win is in getting things right and having things go well in general. I think that somewhere in the "frame your requests" part, you need to justify your decisions to some degree - showing how they will move things forward in a positive way. You can use proof points like "Here is what happened last time I did this". Alternatively you can brainstorm and lead people to a decision that you ultimately shape, then deliver - which is captured above in "peer feedback". In any case, trust happens when you guide people to a conclusion (in an honest, collaborative way) rather than dictate actions.

Hi Mark

I have read the 10 tips for managing peers a couple of times - sound advice and makes much sense. Dont want to come across as negative cause this is not my intention at all. The 10 tips listed sound easy to apply in theory. I would like to comment on the first 3 tips as there are also pitfalls:

Tip 1 to ''Assume a Leadership role'' ..... totally agree, however, there are peers that will not welcome the leadership approach even when it is in the best interest of the business - the organisational culture that is old school will not let you - A leader can be crushed down by certain individuals as titles and formal structures are far more important ''need to play the game and learn new games to survive''

Tip 2 ''Be Courageous'' ... managing or directing a peer in most cases it is not received well and will harm ones career prospects - as you stated it will come to you as a resentment. The worst thing that can happen is to be by passed for that promotion - you will no longer be viewed as favourable.

Tip 3. Peer to Peer feedback... being too honest is not always the best policy when giving peer to peer feedback, as it will be remembered - good executives will take it in their stride others unfortunately will not and the impact long term can lead you into a gradual isolation.

Great article. my favorites are Tip 1 - 3. This is a great coaching article for a new PM on how to be assertive and gain insight into situational leadership, conflict management, time management and communication skills.

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.


"I am not young enough to know everything."

- Oscar Wilde