Let’s say you learn that your best employee is thinking of leaving the company for a rival firm. Or maybe you don’t want her to retire at the end of the year. Or maybe you’ve promised her a move or a new assignment, and now you’ve changed your mind – you believe it’s best that she stay in her current role. Here’s the question – should you be leveraging her peers to help you influence her decisions?
A fascinating example of positive peer pressure played out this week when the Minnesota Vikings (my team) dispatched three players to Mississippi to beg Brett Favre to return for a 20th NFL season. That’s right, management asked three team leaders to skip practice and fly down on a private jet to twist the arm of the legendary 40-year old QB, with a very clear message – we need you, man. Do it for the team. We want you back. Favre apparently couldn’t say no to his friends and teammates, so he’s back under center and ready to lead the Vikes to a Super Bowl. (By the way, when that happens, and it will, I’ll be writing the mother of all leadership columns – I’m just saying, is all. Just wanted to warn you).
So, is this a charming story of brotherhood and friendship, or a shrewd move by management? I suppose it’s a little of both, but it raises an interesting question in my mind about whether we as leaders can and should be leveraging peers more often as a strategy for getting people to develop, change behavior, make decisions, etc. It certainly seems counter to the direct approach that I favor – building a strong relationship with your direct reports, where you can say anything you need to on any topic. But I wonder… especially as it relates to trying to neutralize a potential career derailer, I can see the power of asking trusted peers to reinforce your messages, after you’ve had a frank discussion with the employee.
I’m going to think about this some more – the idea of leveraging peers to get what you want as a manager seems like a high wire act to me… you better be living in a glass house of integrity and trust if you’re going to deploy this strategy. But let’s say you are on that level – what interesting possibilities does this open up for you as a leader? Where do you use this tactic, and why? What does it do to your credibility as the leader, and what are the ramifications down the road? What power does this assign to the team, and is that a bad thing? Can you do it more than once with the same employee? Do the peers then expect to be consulted and leveraged again and again? Fascinating questions, really.
What do you think? Have you ever used this strategy, and did it work? Drop in a comment, and let us know!