When I was learning to ski I had a ski buddy. The benefits of having a buddy were many-fold: you could share best practice, learn from your partner, and compare general thoughts and reflections. Moreover, having a buddy kept me accountable.
In the era of remote work, having a buddy is a great idea. Just like with a ski buddy, a work buddy can help you stay focused, in the loop, and be there as a guide and friend. Many people that I have spoken with who excel at remote work have some form of buddy system in place, even if it 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.
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 re-cap we have did and why it mattered; this process of joint accountability helps us focus and greatly reduce procrastination.
Would I be as motivated or focused without a buddy? Maybe. But maybe not. I recently learned that a key variable to losing weight is to take frequent measurements and to socialize these measurements with others. This process helps you track and measure what truly matters and it forces you to talk to others about your progress and focus.
A work buddy, like a ski buddy, can help you see blindspots. Much like when trying to lose weight, excelling at work takes focus, execution, and communication. A work buddy can help accelerate your impact and teach you along the way.
I have a remote colleague who doesn’t believe in the work buddy system. He considers himself a “free spirit” (his words, not mine). He attends meetings when necessary but largely focuses on his core work and role. There is nothing urgently wrong with his approach; however, he has blindspots that are harder to detect. He struggles to get stuff off his chest which leads him to convey frustrations to the wrong stakeholders. Furthermore, he only is able to understand our business from the perspective of his vantage point. Yet we all have blindspots and others can more readily point these out.
Having a work buddy helps me do better work. It helps me learn. And of equal importance, it helps me teach. I sometimes need to find better ways to motivate my team and my work buddy provides invaluable suggestions. Other times I need to prepare for a presentation and my work buddy gives me pointers. In short, a work buddy is critical to my impact and my contributions.
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. He has 5 different coaches and people responsible for his physical health and performance. That is the number of people he believes will help him win more tennis tournaments. Now ask yourself: how many trainers, coaches, advisors, and buddies do you have?
If the answer is zero perhaps you could think about your future buddy system differently. Again, not every person needs elite coaching and guidance to perform. You are not Federer. But you still want to perform at the highest level that you can. You might not have the budget or time to hire professional career coaches. Your boss might not have the time to play an active role in your development. But a buddy can.
If you want to perform better, get yourself a work buddy. Having a ski buddy was critical to my ability to learn to ski. We all know how to work. But we can be better and do more. A work buddy will take your game to the next level.