A previous colleague reached out to me last week asking for advice. She had recently been promoted and now was in charge of her former peers and friends. She had worked at this company for several years and because of that, had built strong friendships with her team—both inside and outside of work. She now has to struggle with not only a new job and responsibilities, but now leading her friends and peers. She asked me: How can you best manage a team of your former peers and successfully transition?
First off, this evolution is normal. With a tactful approach of setting new boundaries and shifting your behavior, you can become a successful leader among your former peers, while gaining respect with your new ones.
I’ve outlined below a few tricks of the trade to help make a seamless transition to becoming a great boss to your former peers, while understanding you’re not their happy hour partner anymore.
- Understand there is now a line. You have moved to a managerial position, perhaps even to a leadership level. While you used to gossip by the water-cooler and leave early on Summer Friday’s to grab drinks with your work friends, you now need to separate yourself a bit. Avoid conversations that are too personal and begin detaching yourself from the office happy hours and lunches. While it’s worthy to still attend sometimes– to remain informed and engaged, leave a happy hour after one drink and go to the lunches once a month vs every week. This will help you be viewed as still compassionate and engaged in your work, but distinctly separate as the manager.
- Get them engaged. You know what excited your old team best because you were a part of them not long ago. You know what they think, what they want out of the job—since you were just in their shoes and actively chatted with them about it. Now you’re a manager and are in a position to help! Reach out to them and have those conversations again. Ask them what they think and about their ideas. This will show them that you care about them and WANT to help and that you still have their best interests at heart. It will lessen the sting that you are now in charge because you are helping them create a company culture geared towards them and that you respect your former peer’s opinions.
- Don’t Play Favorites. You probably had friends closer than others when you were a part of their department. You are now in a managerial role and may also be responsible for performance management reviews of your former peers. This leads to tough decisions- especially when recommending promotions and raises throughout the year. A great way to approach this is to ensure, when processing Performance Reviews, you are using the same metrics for everyone and openly discussing what they are. Making sure you can back up decisions with facts is pertinent if someone declares you are playing favorites. In light of that, also ask your staff to give you 360 reviews of you. This shows there this is a two-way street and communication is open.
Lastly, congratulate yourself. You were selected for this managerial position because you stood out and did a fantastic job. It’s hard to separate yourself from your former peers, but in order to successfully be in a leadership position, it something that must be done. Look at your new peers for those friendships and trusting conversations. And remember, you can still go to those happy hours, just don’t be the last one to leave!