Workplace friendships are a natural byproduct of spending a lot of time working and chatting with the same peers. However, these relationships have a completely different dynamic than a relationship between a boss and an employee. So when you land that promotion and realize you will now have to manage your current office buddies, you might feel more overwhelmed than excited.
Although your relationship with your former peers will inevitably change, you don’t have to completely compromise the bonds you’ve built. We asked Forbes Coaches Council members to share some steps new managers can take to ensure a smooth transition from peer to leader.
Forbes Coaches Council members share what to do when you've been promoted to manage your former teammates.
1. Clear The Air
Given the sensitivity of the situation, my advice is to clear the air in advance to the extent possible. Have those one-on-one conversations and show that you are a leader by doing what great leaders do: address the elephant in the room. Tell them how much you respect them as your colleagues and what this promotion will mean in terms of the way you work together. Listen to them. Then go lead! - Marina Cvetkovic, The Peak Alliance
2. Remind Them You're In It Together
Starting any new position can feel overwhelming as you push out of your comfort zone. Adjusting your relationships can be necessary as the dynamic between you and the people you manage changes. The key is to remain authentically you. That consistency allows employees to feel they can trust you. Plus, the sentiment that "you're in it together" reinforces positive team morale. - Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching
3. Believe In Your Own Leadership Capabilities
Remember you have been chosen for a reason. People higher up in the organization have noticed something in you that makes you leadership material. Often we are too closely attached to our limiting beliefs that it’s hard for us to trust ourselves. Yes, you are a leader and that’s why you got the promotion. If your leaders believe it, enhance your skills and start believing it too. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
4. Help Your Team Earn A Win
Bring in a win for your team. Solve a problem where they've felt neglected or frustrated. Bring in resources that have been missing. Help them accomplish a goal. You are a manager now, and roles have changed. But show them that your emphasis is on working with them, not on them working for you. - Christian Muntean, Vantage Consulting
5. Listen To Your New Team
Circumstances of your promotion will determine a specific plan of assimilation. However, whether the scenario you are entering is a turnaround, growth or another type of scenario, to ensure everyone is heard for their perspective and assessed for their skills is always a good step. When individuals are heard, even if you disagree, it's a stronger basis for building respect. - Lisa Rangel, Chameleon Resumes LLC
6. Offer To Mentor Someone
You may get the title, but the emotional and mental perspective, skill level and more take time to develop. Ask for assignments that develop and test your leadership mentality and skills. Ask to lead a project and ensure you have feedback mechanisms set up. Try holding a career conversation with a peer and help them in their development. See if you can mentor or coach someone. - Brad Federman, F&H Solutions Group
7. Set Your Assumptions Aside
Spend time to cultivate the new relationship. Have a conversation that acknowledges the transition. Table your assumptions and get curious. Ask questions that can set clear agreements on how best to relate to one another: "What concerns, if any, do you have about this transition? How do I best support you? How would you like me to share any concerns I see or acknowledge you for a job well done?" - Sheeba Varghese, Coach Sheeba
8. Shift Your Mindset From 'Doing' To 'Empowering'
You were likely promoted because you showed functional expertise. Now, you need to shift your mindset from technical expert and doer to empowering leader. Stifle the urge to tell others what to do or do things yourself. Instead, communicate the vision and show trust in your former peers' expertise by allowing them to execute using their own approach. Remind yourself daily to empower instead of do. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC
9. Ask For Their Help
Instead of wondering how to change the dynamic, or whether your team will respect the new structure, discuss it with them. Explain that you know it's awkward for them and share how it is for you too. Tell them the truth—that you realize reporting to you is weird having been peers. And recruit their partnership in building a new relationship for all of you. It will take some muddling through. - Amie Devero, Amie Devero Coaching & Consulting
10. Model The Behavior You Want To See
It's critical that you, the new manager, model the behavior you expect to see in your new team to establish credibility. Your relationship will change with your former peers. Leaders aren't 'pals' of their teams, they are mentors and supporters. Build a new network of fellow colleagues and connect with an executive mentor to support your growth. Never stop investing in building leadership skills. - Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC
11. Respect Everyone's Contributions
It is easy when you are promoted to be a supervisor or manager to begin directing everyone. This is often counterproductive since you haven't established yourself as their manager yet. Begin as more of a team leader, asking for their input on issues and discussing changes. Understand that everyone else has as many ideas as you do. Respect their contributions and build a team environment. - Stephen Ford, Fitzgerald, Stevens & Ford, Inc.
12. Clearly Articulate Your Plans And Goals
When you have your first one-on-one with a direct report who was a peer, call out the shift in the reporting structure and acknowledge that it may take a little getting used to on both sides. Then be clear about your plans and goals for the working relationship and ask your direct report about theirs. If you “call it out” and set clear goals, the transition will be smooth. - Alexandra Phillips, Alexandra Phillips Consulting LLC
13. Take A Listen And Learn Tour
Graduating from peer to a boss is anxiety-inducing for everyone. One thing influential managers do is go on a “Listen and Learn” tour as soon as they get promoted. This initiative is intentional and is designed to intake the good, bad and ugly. It works really well, as it gives employees the chance to voice their opinions freely, and it gives the manager the liberty to poke around and get curious. - Ali Merchant, Ali Merchant
14. Stay Connected
Connection and authenticity are vital to maintaining respect, collaboration, and results when you're no longer "one of the gang." Plan a casual meeting with food to speak your truth: Things will change for all and you appreciate their support. You're on their side because there's only one team. Then, invite feedback and unveil a system to receive their honest input. - Leeza Carlone Steindorf, Leeza Steindorf Coaching
15. Be Humble
Humility is an essential leadership trait. It might be the most important trait when a person is promoted to manage their peers. The promotion should stand as enough for the leader so the leader is wise to go to their peers in humility and seek input, ask questions and listen to ideas about what their peers think about the organization and how to succeed. - Ken Gosnell, CEO Experience