When I was learning to ski I had a ski buddy. When I learned how to speak Spanish, I had a learning buddy.
The benefits of having a buddy were many: you could share best practices, learn from your partner, spitball new ideas, and compare your thoughts and reflections. Moreover, having a buddy kept me accountable.
In the era of remote work, having a buddy is not just a great idea; it is an idea that can empower you to be better at what you do.
Having a buddy, at its core, is a nudge. It is a nudge that points you in the right direction and enables you to be more impactful because you can get real-time feedback.
Just like with a ski buddy, a work buddy can help you stay focused, stay in the loop, and be there as a guide and friend. Many people I have spoken with who excel at remote work have some form of buddy system in place, even if it is just an informal arrangement. A buddy is different from a mentor or boss. A buddy is an equal or peer who can exchange notes, swap ideas, and help you stay focused.
The buddy system is so important that many companies are now formally bringing new hires on board with a buddy in place to help with onboarding.
Let me explain how my work buddy and I interact. This will help you see the benefits of this approach and will hopefully help you cultivate a work buddy of your own.
I swap daily schedules with my work buddy. We check in every 3 hours during the workday to make sure we are on track and hitting our actionable, discrete, and focused micro-goals. At the end of each week, we recap what we did and why it mattered; this process of joint accountability helped us focus and greatly reduce procrastination.
My buddy and I strive to:
- Deliver Results with our clients and internal business stakeholders
- Earn Trust with others in the business
- Demonstrate Bias for Action to accelerate customer adoption, executing fast with good judgment
- Think Big, seeking new mechanisms to enable customer success and develop game-changing initiatives to improve our performance.
Now, you might ask: How is this different from a relationship with a boss? In reality a buddy is similar to a boss, but the zone of engagement is intended to be judgement-free. My buddy and I can speak frankly and openly about challenges, what is working well, and make fun of things off the record to keep our spirits high.
So are you excited to find a work buddy?
If you have read this far and still are not convinced – or think that the advice mentioned here doesn’t apply – let me give you one further example. Think of your favorite athlete. Perhaps you love tennis, as I do, and admire Roger Federer.
I recently learned that he has 5 different coaches and people responsible for his physical and mental health and tennis performance. He pays 5 people to help him win more tennis tournaments.
Now ask yourself: How many trainers, coaches, advisors, and buddies do you have?
If you are like many people, the answer is none. That is too bad. But the reason you likely don’t have these coaches to help you obtain elite performance is because you can’t afford them, or don’t value them the way an elite tennis player might. And that is OK.
But you can still extract the benefits of a coach, friend, mentor, and helper all in one by implementing a buddy system for yourself and your peers.
If you want to have a buddy relationship, proactively reach out to the person (or small group of people) who can best help you. Tell them that you value their perspectives and want to emulate their behavior. Most importantly, let them know you feel like you'll both be able to do a better job if you interact in a more structured way.
It is very hard to imagine a situation in which a person says “no” outright. So take the risk and push the limits. Think of yourself like Federer: get coaching (but on the cheap) and companionship in your work.
You might not win 20 Grand Slams, but you will be better prepared to tackle your day and week ahead. And that is what the Buddy System enables most of all.