Below is a recent letter that I wrote to Kivi Leroux Miller about my experience in one of her online classes. My biggest take-away from Kivi’s class was that there are people out there that are struggling with the same issues that I am, and that we really should find ways to ‘share the space‘.

Here are three suggestions for including peer-to-peer support in your daily work routine:

  • Pick up the phone and talk to a fellow businesswoman about a challenge you are having. Better yet, invite them out for lunch to talk in person.
  • Use a conference, or a learning opportunity to connect with a fellow businesswoman – someone with whom you would like to build a relationship. The fact that you like their energy, or their perspective is as good a reason as any to start a conversation.
  • Formalize any of the above-mentioned relationships into a bi-weekly or monthly call with your new colleague. Use skype, or google hangout – so that you can actually see each other – and create a peer-to-peer safe environment where you can articulate short-term tasks or professional goals that you want to accomplish before the next peer coaching session.

Go ahead – try sharing your space with a peer! You don’t have to have all the answers. Sometimes all you need to do is ask the right questions.

Dear Kivi-

On paper we make the most unusual of colleagues – she is from Dayton, Ohio, and I live in Ottawa, Canada. She gets excited by the prospect of space travel, while I am an avid cross-country skier.

But Kivi, I had to write to tell you about our friendship. It will be 2 years this November that we met – online – in your 2010 writing for not-for-profits course.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course. But for me, I also really appreciated the sense of connection with my fellow students. In particular, Maureen caught my attention because during our discussions, I heard her struggling with similar issues. After the class was over, I asked Maureen if she’d like to continue meeting informally over the phone. To my great surprise, she said yes. Actually, what she said was ‘Great, how about we meet over Google webcam.’ Gulp. What was Google chat, I thought, and what have I gotten myself into!

Maureen and I have similar businesses. She is a savvy online not-for-profit marketer with a head for emerging technology, and I am a fundraising consultant who is equally comfortable as a writer and strategist. Originally, when we struck up a friendship in your class, we collaborated first as ‘life coaches’ for each other, always challenging the other to try something new – she taught me twitter and blogging, and I was happy to be a sounding board for all her new client ideas.

As a small shop consulting firm, I am always seeking out ways to collaborate.Thank goodness that 2 years ago I reached out to a fellow classmate to strike up a new relationship. And you know what the best part is? She’s not like me; she is a great ‘ying’ to my ‘yang.’

A final thought, Kivi, and a reminder to those out there considering taking your classes: get to know your fellow classmates. By being open to new relationships, and how other organizations do things, you can expand your networks, learn a lot, and if you’re as lucky as me, gain a true friend.

Thank you Kivi!

Jenny Mitchell