You are excited and apprehensive at the same time. You are excited because at last you have been promoted into the management role you deserve. You are apprehensive because you know that this is going to be a tricky time too, after all you were once a colleague of the people you are now going to manage and all their eyes will be on you.
Your team will carefully watch and observe your every act to see if they can understand and uncover your intentions. Are you someone they can still trust or will the role change you? This is a vital point because it can be tempting to use the power associated with your new found position to make an immediate impact – to assert your positional authority over your team, make it clear to them that ‘you are now the boss’, and this is what you expect them to do. While it might be very tempting to take this approach, in the long term it will only serve to alienate them from you.
Rather than asserting your authority, it is far more effective in the long term to gain buy in from your team to you, your new role, and the new direction you wish to take your team in, and to achieve this you must demonstrate trust and respect in them first.
If you have already worked in the team for a while you will have a fair idea of the changes that could be made to improve team performance and effectiveness and how these will impact on the business. So your first task is to think through the changes you wish to make for the benefit of the business. These might be structural changes, changes to roles, responsibilities, tasks focus etc.
Once you are clear in your mind about what needs to be done, sit down on a 1 to 1 basis with each member of your team to discuss their views about the issues the team and business faces. It is important to get them to articulate to you what they feel needs to be done before you share your views.
You will probably find that many of their thoughts, views and ideas will be in close agreement with your own. After all you used to work alongside them and often discussed what your boss and business were doing wrong anyway!
Gain consensus with each of them about what needs to be done and what their role in bringing about these changes will be. This may require you to restructure your team and alter their roles and responsibilities slightly to allow each team member to play to their strengths and be motivated to do their best.
Where possible give team members more autonomy and responsibility than they had before, especially those who may have wanted your job. In this way you can recognise their desire to do more without being at odds with them over who got the top job.
Once the organisational changes are in place, and a number of improvement projects initiated, set up regular monthly catch up sessions with each team member to support them to deliver on their commitments as well as monitor progress.
By doing the above you are demonstrating trust and respect for them as professionals and as individuals and they will eventually reciprocate by buying into you as their leader.
It is important to recognise that the actions you take in your first few months can mean the difference between success and failure in your new role. As a new manager, you need to set different boundaries with former peers. While you can still have friendly relationships, you need to draw these new boundaries in order to establish your authority and credibility. However, it’s not about becoming demanding and asserting your positional authority. Rather, it’s about demonstrating trust and respect in your team members and giving them the space and support to get on with their job.
One final point – it’s not just about you, it can be hard for your former colleagues too, they have to learn to treat you as their manager, and this can be especially difficult if some of them wanted your job for themselves!