In my recent post on Peripheral Vision, I argued that a crucial focus for leaders new into a role is to build strong relationships with peers. Our recent research bears this out and I’d guess that many see it as common sense.

But it does beg the question: of all the peers and colleagues you might focus on, which ones are the most important? After all, it’s not like a new leader has unlimited time and energy.

This is even more challenging in today’s matrixed organizations. If I have colleagues in my office, colleagues in my business unit, colleagues in my functional or practice group, and colleagues at the company’s headquarters, where do I practically spend my time? It can be daunting. But one thing is for sure: skipping it is probably the wrong answer.

I’ve (unfortunately) seen more than one new leader burn bridges with key colleagues through neglect or, worse yet, outright disdain. More often than not, they end up regretting this decision. Often, the “political cover” they thought they had with some other person in the organization ends up evaporating under pressure from the larger peer group and they find themselves isolated.

How do you make the decision about whom to engage in the vast array of colleagues? Have you seen someone do this particularly well or poorly?