That may seem inconsequential, until you reach a point where your colleagues' support, good will or help in building out a cross functional program is essential. Here are three ways that you can help recover when you have previously ignored relationship building with your peers.
Acknowledge the Problem
First, you need to own up to the problem. Let your colleague know that you're aware that you haven't built a close relationship up to this point and that you would like to change that moving forward. When you use this tactic, remember that a face to face conversation is crucial. Writing an email or using another form of technology will lose the effect you want. This strategy is about owning the problem in person and stating that you're sorry.
For example, one client I worked with had burned bridges with a couple of his peers because he was so protective of his team. While he thought this was an admirable leadership trait, unfortunately, this approach limited his ability and traction within the company.
As a result, we sat down and decided on an action plan of where to start repairing relationships He created a prioritized matrix of where to start first and rebuild. Over time this small action helped him to open the door to restarting conversations.
Explain How Collaboration Benefits the Team
Your peers may rightly be skeptical and think, "Now that he needs me, he finally wants to reach out to me." Your peers look for you to act and behave in the manner that they are accustomed to over time. The key behavior shift is for you to move the conversation so that it is not about you, but how this will create value for the company. This shared goal in most cases can shift the action.
An example of a conversation might look like, "James, I know that we haven't worked together recently. I also know that it is my job to reach out to you. You might feel a bit skeptical, but if we share responsibility on the budgeting exercise, we can help our departments focus on incremental revenue."
Tap into Existing Allies for Help
Another method to help build back your relationships with peers is to tap into other existing positive relationships. One way to leverage your good will is to have someone like your manager or another senior leader vouch for you with the colleague.
There's a fine balance, though, to make sure this doesn't feel heavy handed or like an order. Having a vote of confidence can be just the right message to send because in many cases we are all a bit reluctant to start working with someone that we haven't built a relationship with over time.
A conversation from your manager might look like,"Amanda, I wanted to come and talk to you about the upcoming planning meetings. I know that you haven't worked with Jess yet. She is a great resource and might add some new thinking to your programs. You should consider inviting her to the next brainstorming session."
While you are pulled in so many directions, there is sometimes a need to take a step back and reassess where you need to focus your time. Part of that means focusing not just on your immediate work and team but looking more horizontally across the organization.
By looking horizontally, you will naturally look at how you manage your peer relationships. These relationships are important because you will need their support in planning, initiatives or team management. By using these tactics, you will find that successful peer relationships can be built over time.