You’ve always thought about being in charge. You always wanted to be in the position to make necessary changes and do things smarter.
Now, you just got promoted to manager and have the opportunity you always wanted.
Clearly, there’s no simple “new manager’s user manual for modern supervision.”
Sure, there are lots of books, articles, seminars and consultants on leadership. But do they really understand what you’re facing?
Do all of those glossy, $30 hardback wannabes really know how difficult it is to make this transition?
In working with corporate executives and managers for many years big companies and small I can tell you with all certainty that you’ll face much of this same anxiety each time you take a step “up” the organizational food chain.
That’s right, think about it: Your CEO, when promoted to Grand Poobah, faced many of the exact same issues you face today in making the transition.
So, what to do now?
Well first thing is to realize
There Are Two HUGE Facts About Leadership That “They” Forgot to Tell You:
1. You aren’t prepared for it. News flash being a super-operator is not the same thing as being a supervisor. Doesn’t matter if you were the best thing since sliced bread as a regular worker. Leading is different.
2. It isn’t all that hard, and most importantly, it can be learned. That’s right. Like riding a bike, swinging a golf club or shooting a gun leadership is learned skill.
To help with your thinking and to give you a process with which to start, here are 5 steps for you to make your leadership transition successful and painless.
How to Go From Peer to Manager in 5 Simple Steps
1. Don’t cheapen your role. Don’t confuse the issue, by roaming around telling all your prior co-workers to “not worry” and that “you won’t change.”
Better, tell them you plan on taking your new role seriously, and that you’ll need their help in making sure you do the right things. Remind them of all the ideas “we” had prior to the big move. Above all, this is the time for them to “meet” you as a manager, not simply a co-worker or friend.
2. Make boundaries. ‘Friendly’ is good, and the compassion you have and show now will shine through in your success as a new leader.
That friendliness, however, will need to be tempered, or balanced, with boundaries. You aren’t the same “Mike” or “Wendy” that you were yesterday.
You have entirely different responsibilities. You will now be measured as a success or failure on how others do. You will now or in the foreseeable future, need to make some hard decisions.
That’s why you’ll need to maintain a degree of distance.
3. Get “out of the loop.” Previously, you were in on regular gossip, discussions about management, and maybe even some venting and/or complaints about the company. That must stop completely now. Avoid the gossip. Stay clear of coffee pot gatherings and most after-work happy hours.
4. Ask. Shut up. Listen. It really is that simple. Don’t you remember how often you and your friends would say things like, “if they would just ask us,” or “we told them, they just didn’t listen,” or even the favorite, “I told you so ?”
Ask your prior co-workers what they do, specifically. Ask what you can do to make their job better (easier, faster, more productive).
Then, the hard part: shut up and listen.
Don’t speak for a while. Give them the chance to talk. This is their first opportunity to address their “new” boss. Make it something memorable for them. Take notes. Don’t commit unless you’re sure of your authority. But certainly say “that sounds reasonable to me” if appropriate.
If you nail this down right, it’s a skill that will prove invaluable to you as a leader in the future.
5. Leverage your relationships. Stop worrying about what someone is now going to think about you, or how you’ll look to your prior co-workers now that you’ve ‘got the washroom key.’ Use those prior relationships to make success all around.
Go to prior friends and ask them do some of the things they may have proposed, or to be the ‘point-person’ because of their known skills in influencing co-workers and others. Maybe you can get them to remind you of some of the processes you both may have discussed earlier.
You don’t need to entirely jettison those prior relationships. Put them to good use going forward.
I often remind managers (both new and experienced) that leadership truly effective, successful leadership is not necessarily difficult, though we sometimes make it that way. It’s simple principles, common sense, and the ability to trust our learned instincts.
Leadership is a skill, and one that is as critical at this first juncture as it is for a Fortune 100 CEO. Yesterday, you may have talked about your boss. Today, they may be talking about you. Making the leap from co-worker to leader does not have to be difficult, but it absolutely must be a change from how you behaved before.
Simply decide you want to succeed, plot the appropriate course, and start taking those steps.