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In the first class of our management training programs, we ask what each participant’s goals are. How to manage time, how to delegate, how to motivate, and how to develop employees are common requests. But the lucky few slated for promotion also ask, “How do I manage my peers? I used to be their co-worker but I’m about to become their boss!”
Managing people you previously commiserated with (and likely about “the management”) can be tricky. They may have more experience or have been with the company longer than you. Maybe they are frustrated about being passed over or maybe some of these now former co-workers are your friends or worse, your frenemies. They could perceive your newfound power in a negative light.
First impressions are important. Successfully negotiating the minefield that can be your first few weeks as a new manager will set a precedent for the future. We have four strategies that will help you establish your position and develop effective relationships with your former co-workers:
While your new title provides some legitimate authority, you won’t be effective long term attempting to force people to do what you want. In moving from a place of minimal power to one where you rule the roost, it is tempting to set your foot down firmly. Avoid this at first. Your former peers will feel betrayed and those who are unsure or are outright opposed to your promotion will quickly make up their minds that you are the new office bully.
One of the key characteristics of a great manager is a healthy level of self-awareness. Those who have a higher EQ better understand the needs and wants of others. A new manager must consider how their position impacts from their points of view. To start this process, write down the names of everyone who reports to you and, one-by-one, think about what their position is, a few things about them personally, and how you think your new position might affect them. Be careful though – you still must call the shots, so don’t get too lost in how they might feel. Instead, take their viewpoints and feelings into consideration and let them know it is your intention to do so. Ask them how they feel to test your assumptions. Remember, people appreciate being heard.
Sit down with each person that reports to you and let them have their say. This works on two fronts: employees get to voice their excitement and concerns about the change in reporting. In addition, they provide you with a clear picture of what issues need to be addressed going forward. Actively listen and take notes. Don’t advise, just take it all in and book a follow up meeting to discuss their feedback once you have had some time to consider it. The message you want to convey is that you have their and the company’s best interests in mind and that whatever mistakes you will inevitably make in this new role, they come from a place of good intentions. Also, make sure your 1:1 isn’t a one-off: make them regularly scheduled and rarely missed.
The organization has changed, and you want to make sure that your fears regarding your new role aren’t realized. While your instinct may be to avoid these issues and hope for the best, a better strategy is to be upfront about those concerns and develop clear expectations with your direct reports. An upfront verbal contract is like a business pre-nuptial. Decide how each of you will behave if the thing you are afraid of happens. There are four steps to an upfront verbal contract – learn more here.
Becoming a new manager can be a tricky transition but with planning and intention, you’ve got this. Don’t be a tyrant, listen to and empathize with your staff, and gain commitment on how you’d like everyone to behave. Your promotion might go over so well you’ll think you’ve forgotten something!