Most of us recognize the value of relationship building within our organizations. Finding the time and making the investment are what make it challenging, however. As a women’s leadership coach, I often speak with women about the critical importance of building connection. It’s not enough to be a high performer; you must have strategic relationships with those around you. Unfortunately, many women fall short in one key area.

Many of the women leaders I know have excellent relationships with their direct reports. They invest deeply in understanding and connecting with their teams, which makes them excellent people managers. As a result of their efforts, they tend to experience high levels of respect and appreciation from their employees.

Similarly, many women do an effective job managing up. They communicate strategically with their leadership teams and even invest in relationships with other senior-level influencers. They understand that they need the support and advocacy of higher-level leaders to advance their careers and make investments accordingly.

Where many of the women I coach are not investing is in peer relationships. Whether they don’t see the value in or have de-prioritized these connections because of time constraints, time and time again I hear from women who are not looking at strategic relationship building from a horizontal or cross-functional perspective.

There are numerous benefits to maximizing connections with peers. Here are just a few.

You maintain a bigger picture view of the organizational landscape.

If you’re only focused vertically, you lose strategic perspective. Your work is important, but only to the extent that it influences other work within the organization.

Having strong relationships with peers can help you better understand the larger significance of your work and how to strengthen your strategic relevance.

You can do your job more effectively.

When you need to get things done, knowing who to engage is critical.

The more visibility you have into what peer groups are doing, the better you’ll understand who to turn to for support. And when those individuals already know, like, and trust you, they’ll prioritize your needs.

You will be well-positioned when the reporting structure inevitably changes.

You never know when one of these peers might become your next boss. Getting a head start on that relationship will offer you a distinct advantage.

Alternatively, you might become their boss! That transition from peer to manager will be much smoother if you’ve already built relationships with the team.

Finding time to connect with peers might feel like a luxury you can’t afford. I’d argue that you can’t afford not to create the time. Of course your deliverables are important, but the ability to maintain strategic connections to other parts of the business will influence your career trajectory.

It’s not about who you know; it’s about who knows you. So, you have to make a concerted effort to make yourself known. Here are some steps you can take to better build connections with peers.

Schedule regular alignment meetings.

Most organizations have significant cross-functional communication challenges. Silos result in redundancies and inefficiencies that undermine overall productivity. You have the opportunity to break down those barriers by proactively reaching out to peers to exchange information.

Seek out time to share your goals and focus areas and explore opportunities to collaborate more effectively. Consider how you might communicate more efficiently, better share resources, or support each other in achieving larger goals.

Look for opportunities to help.

Yes, I know that your plate is full and you hardly have enough time to tend to your own needs. But making strategic deposits in selective relationship banks can pay huge dividends.

I’m not suggesting that you add new responsibilities to your overflowing list. Instead, look for ways to use your existing work product to help those around you.

Do you have access to data that might be useful to other teams? Are there internal or external connections that you can facilitate? Consider ways to re-purpose what you’re already doing to a larger benefit.

Eat lunch with others.

You may think that regularly attending the same meetings equates to personal connection, but unless you’re engaging in deeper, more personalized conversations, you’re missing the boat. True connection comes from understanding who people are and what’s important to them.

Those depths are difficult to reach in traditional business conversations. Carve out time to get to know each other in a more social setting. Not everyone has the advantage of working in the same office, but virtual lunches and coffees are effective, too.

When you make sustainable and meaningful investments in peer relationships, you will inevitably find that your overall value to the organization increases exponentially. Start with one small step and you’ll be happy you did.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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