You Got Promoted to Be the Boss of Your Former Team. Now What?
Here's how to navigate the transition from peer to boss.
In a perfect world, promotions would come with congratulations and acceptance from new employees ready to follow your every decision and hang on your every word. These employees, once previous peers, would wholeheartedly believe you were the obvious choice for the leadership role you've acquired.
In the real world, promotions often come with challenges leaders don't expect. Being promoted from a position of equality to one of leadership can challenge, even threaten, the influence previously established between colleagues.
According to Genesis Advisers Chairman Michael Watkins, 90 percent of mid-level executives have been promoted to lead their peers. The hardest part of management is learning to supervise former peers and friends, 20 percent of 2,200 CFOs surveyed indicate.
Communication is key to easing the transition as you step into your new role. These eight communication skills ensure promoted leaders will maintain and grow influence among those they now manage:
1. Have confidence.
You worked hard for a promotion and do not owe an apology to anyone for accomplishing your goal. Be confident in your new position and the decision your leaders made to promote you. If former peers sense any degree of uncertainty or wavering confidence, they will lack trust in your decisions and your ability to tackle your new responsibilities.
2. Remain humble.
While confidence is necessary to inspire others to follow, humility is equally important. Acknowledge that your former peers are going through a massive change and their way of connecting with you previously will be different moving forward. Robert Sutton, Stanford University professor and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, told the Harvard Business Review, "The dynamics completely change. People start to watch you more than ever before." Listen carefully to their concerns, and even their disappointment, about organizational changes. Be prepared to support them, no matter their concerns. Understand that others may have been interested in the role you've now acquired and may experience hard feelings over the decision.
3. Communicate frequently.
Share your vision with your former peers and ask for their feedback. Let them know you respect their opinions as much now as their leader as you did when you were colleagues. Frequently share goals and priorities. Be clear on what you need everyone to focus on achieving. Establish one-on-one meetings with each employee to discuss their personal and professional development goals. Commit to prioritizing their needs and understand what motivates them.
Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader
4. Be authentic.
Chances are you created personal working relationships with one or more of your former colleagues. They know what motivates you, what you succeed at doing and where your weaknesses lie. Credibility and trust will be challenged if you rise to a position of leadership and begin trying to change the fundamental aspects for which you were previously known. Remain yourself, authentic and transparent. Openly share with employees the areas you wish to improve and how you plan to do it. Let them know you're willing to undergo professional development as their new leader.
5. Remain consistent.
Influence isn't something given; it's earned. Having influence requires consistency in your leadership style and communication skills. Consistent communication is key to every interaction, every day, Monday to Monday. Be clear and concise with others. Demonstrate a consistent leadership style that others grow to trust and expect from you.
6. Avoid gossip.
Now that you're in a position of authority, your credibility will undergo scrutiny unlike before. Maintain personal relationships previously developed, but work to establish boundaries that help you rise above the noise. Maintain your approachability while avoiding gossip at all costs. There is a difference in employees seeking your advice or input privately within the scope of the workplace dynamics, but office gossip has no place in the day of a leader seeking to influence others. Ensure everyone knows anything confided in you is within the scope of your new position and will be handled accordingly.
7. Remember your roots.
As a previous insider, you know what makes your peers tick. You have a unique insight into what motivates them and what was previously considered unpopular. Remember this information and use it to help create a better workplace and team dynamic than your predecessor. Empower employees to make decisions. Give them the authority to influence decisions and make team collaboration king.
8. Consider a coach.
Now that you've been promoted to a new position, the game has changed. Expectations others have of you -- both leadership and employees -- will rise. What made you successful before will no longer work in a role of authority. If you want to increase your influence, navigate the framework of changing peer-to-employee relationships and set yourself up for future promotional considerations, get a coach.
Related Video: 5 Different Leadership Styles Every Good Boss Needs to Have