Congratulations! You’ve just received the news that you’re getting a promotion to supervisor! You’re excited, thrilled, eager to get going…and scared out of your mind! You don’t have a clue about where to start and you’re nervous about how your team members will react to you now being the boss. You’ve worked all these years to build great relationships and friendships as a team member and colleague and now you’re faced with the prospect of having to be tough, lay down the law, hold people accountable, enforce the rules, and all that other mean boss stuff. You’re starting to question yourself before you even get started: Do I really want to be a manager?
Well, before you get too riled up and freak yourself out, or worse, go on a power trip and start making enemies, take a deep breath and put a plan together. Remember, someone promoted you because he/she has confidence in you. You’ve also proven yourself as a high performer and that track record of success will give you credibility as you transition into a managerial role.
However, if you’re like most people in most organizations, you haven’t received any kind of specific leadership training to prepare you to move into the role of leading people. Success as an individual contributor does not guarantee success as a manager. Leading people is a whole new ballgame.
That’s why you need a plan. Far from being a complete treatise on the subject, here are a few key steps you should consider taking as you move from peer to boss:
1. Acknowledge the awkwardness – There’s no two ways about it; moving from a friend and peer to being the boss is an awkward transition for everyone involved. That’s why it’s best to acknowledge it up front. Lay the cards on the table by having open conversations with your colleagues about the transition. Communicate your desire to be open and authentic during the process, all the while recognizing that some things will definitely change about your relationship. You won’t be able to be “one of the guys/girls” in the same way you were before, but you will settle into new norms that will add depth and dimension to your relationship that didn’t exist before.
2. Focus on building trust – The number 1 priority…number 1…should be building trust with your team members. Every person on your team is eagerly watching your every move to see what kind of leader you will be now that you have access to more power and control. Your primary focus the first few weeks/months in your new role should be to show your team that you mean them no harm and you have their best interests at heart. That doesn’t mean you let the inmates run the asylum or let them run roughshod over you. Keep enforcing the rules as needed but make it a point to not go on any power trips. Focus on acting with integrity, learning the basics of your supervisory role, building relationships with people, and keeping your commitments. If you have your team’s trust, you open the doors to all kinds of possibilities. Without it, you’re dead in the water.
3. Get leadership training – Leading and managing people requires a specific set of skills and abilities that is likely quite different from those you mastered as an individual contributor. If your organization offers formal leadership training then take advantage of it. If not, find your own through books, online courses, You Tube videos, or blog articles. There is no shortage of leadership content out there to help you become a better leader. Part of your leadership training should also be to get a mentor. Find someone you respect with a track record of success as a leader and ask if he/she would be willing to offer you insight and advice. There’s nothing quite as valuable as wisdom from those who have walked the path before us.
4. Clarify expectations and intentions – If performance expectations aren’t clear with your team members, spend some time making sure goals are clear and people know what’s expected of them. As a general rule, I think it’s easier to start a little “tighter” with your team in terms of clarifying expectations and holding people accountable and then loosening up over time, versus starting too loose, have things get out of control, and then have to tighten the reins. Having said that, it’s important you make sure your good intentions are expressed as well. Let your team members know that you believe your role is to serve them and help them succeed and you’ll do whatever it takes to support them. Most importantly, make sure your actions align with your words. If you say one thing and do another you will quickly erode trust with your team.
5. Catch people doing something right – Ken Blanchard has said that if he had to choose one thing to remembered by as a leadership guru, it would be the value of catching people doing something right. So many positive things happen as a result of the leader reinforcing good performance: trust is built, people’s self-esteem grows, team morale is improved, and good performance becomes contagious. It’s a virtuous cycle – people who perform well feel good about themselves and people who feel good about themselves perform well. Catching people doing something right should be a primary focus of your leadership.
Moving from peer to boss is a career milestone for most people. It’s a time of growth and opportunity and it’s important to start off on the right foot. These five steps can get you going in the right direction.
For those of you who have already made this move into the ranks of leadership, be sure to leave a comment with words of advice about other things a new manager should consider.