In our experience, most organizations do an abysmal job of preparing “individual contributors” (the current euphemism for non-managers) for the challenges associated with moving from being a peer to being a manager. In most cases, the “preparation” consists of…well…zilch. Sort of a “welcome to management – good luck” approach.
The most important thing an organization can do in such cases is, of course, provide management training (something we know a thing or two about) in order to equip brand new managers with best-practice management skills. This will go a long way toward avoiding the Peter Principle (“People tend to get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence”).
One important area of focus and training within that preparation should be the complexities (and potential landmines) of being thrust into a role in which you’re managing the very people you’ve been working with side by side. With that in mind, here are a handful of helpful hints to guide you through your first weeks following your promotion: (Oh, and by the way, congratulations!)
1. Know that relationships are going to change
You may want to check out our podcast (episode #3) or our blog post on the Power Differential in order to get this important dynamic on your radar. Some new managers tend to err toward the “minimize” or “eliminate” end of the spectrum, doing their best to remain pals and hoping not to have to exercise any authority whatsoever (which usually results in big problems). Others tend to gravitate toward the “exaggerate” end of the spectrum, thinking that if they don’t establish a strong and authoritative presence they’ll never be respected (which also leads to trouble). What you’re going to be aiming for is that sweet spot that we call “mitigation,” in which you effectively use your power differential when necessary (decisions, corrective conversations, direction, encouragement, and so much more) and work hard to establish relationships based on trust and respect. All this to say that the relationships are going to change, like it or not, so you best be prepared for this.
2. Meet with your new group
This important team meeting should take place as soon as possible, post-promotion. Like, maybe even your first day in the new role. Change always brings anxiety, and having a new manager – even if it’s someone they know – will cause some level of concern for most employees. Use this meeting as an opportunity to express your excitement about the role; to let people know that you are in learning mode and want to hear from them; introduce the upcoming one-on-one conversations (see next item); tell them that you are open to feedback; reassure them that you’re not here to make sudden or arbitrary decisions or changes; and answer any questions they might have.
3. Meet with each individual team member
Probably one of the most effective actions you’ll take during your first week or two will be sitting down with each team member to build relationship, ask questions, listen and more.
Questions you may want to ask during these conversations:
What’s working well in this department/agency? What do you want to make sure we keep doing? What makes you happy about coming to work? What does this team do well?
What’s not going so well? What would you change if you had a magic wand? What are our challenges? What are the things that make you less excited about coming to work? In what ways does this team struggle?
What do you want/need from me as your manager? In what ways can I most support and assist you?
What do you do? What are your challenges? What are you most proud of? How do you spend your time?
We have several other ideas and tips for you on this topic – please check out episode #9 (“Peer Pressure: How to Go from Peer to Boss”) on our Managing with Mind and Heart Podcast, in which Ethan and Mike wax eloquent on this topic. You’ll hear us discuss the above ideas, plus things to keep in mind before you’re promoted, how to deal with that person who also applied for your job but didn’t get it (awkward!), and how to navigate friendships in the workplace.
And again, congratulations on your promotion! Our number one piece of advice? Be a listener – make sure your new employees know that they have your ear.
If you'd like for us to send you a free resource on great questions to ask during one-on-one meetings with your employees, email us at email@example.com.