Circle the Wagons

This is the first in a series of posts about the value and connections a peer or professional group - informal, semi-formal or formal - can provide to members.

 Tracie Stamm

Tracie Stamm

Here at Hopewell, we do a lot of thinking about how people connect with each other. We know peer groups and professional organizations provide an avenue for professional development, skill sharpening and interpersonal growth. Today, we’re sharing some insight from Tracie Stamm about her own informal peer groups that she says provides “inspiration and creativity,” for her work life.

Tracie meets with a few different peers several times a week, and several reasons - an open-ended nature, a sense of trust and privacy and a view to other perspectives - give this setting value for Tracie.

“I love these ‘meetings’ - they are where I get some of my best ideas and have the most fun in my work day,” she says. “So I try to have them as often as possible.”

There’s an open-ended nature that allows for a free flow of ideas and conversation.

“We don’t usually have an agenda, but these are also people who are already pretty naturally driven and goal-oriented,” Tracie explains. “Sometimes we’ll talk about something that we experienced recently that worked or didn’t work, and we brainstorm how to improve it.”

This collaboration with a close group of peers outside of her own particular industry allows for a dynamic environment to learn and evolve in her career. It’s also a way to get outside of her own bubble.

“I’m always interested in what other people are working on.” She adds, “It gives me a broader view of what’s going on around town, a view I don’t necessarily get from my work in a dedicated functional area or industry vertical.”

A Circle of Trust

A vital element of these informal peer meetups for Tracie is the sense of trust the group shares. After all, these peers are also close friends and that means she’s more willing to share career visions or challenges - and ask for advice. So, the bond that already exists has provided a natural way to discuss work and career.

Tracie also cites a one-on-one peer meetup where that sense of trust has created an accountability partnership.

“We are supporting each other’s consulting work - this has included brainstorming channels for new business, discussing ways to bid a project accurately and accountability partnership for any tasks we might find ourselves procrastinating on,” Tracie explains.

“It’s great to have someone who cares to check in with you like that,” she adds.

Tracie does participate in more formal professional development groups, where meetings involve an agenda, maybe a book to read or other actions items.

“However, the more informal peer groups that I maintain provide me with a lot more inspiration and creativity,” she explains.

Tracie has some helpful wrap-up thoughts that I’ll leave you with:

“I think people can shy away from these interactions because they’re wrapped in words like ‘networking’ and ‘peer groups’. Don’t overthink it - it can be as simple as coffee with friends. If you’re curious or stuck or bored, go get coffee with a friend in your circle. You can begin by asking them what they are working on.”

The next posts from this series will be from members of a semi-formal and formal type professional groups.