How to transition from peer to leader painlessly

“Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says ‘Go!’ … a leader says ‘Let’s go!’– E.M. Kelly

Depositphotos_3389258_xsYou go to school, you get your first job, you work hard and demonstrate that you can handle more responsibility; and finally, you get your first promotion—congratulations! It’s a great feeling to be recognised by your talent and contributions, and of course, the pay increase is not bad either. But what happens when you become your colleagues’ boss? Some of your former peers may be really happy for you, but some may feel like they should have been the one to get promoted or that they can do the job better. Nothing can overshadow a great accomplishment like the awkwardness created when team members are unhappy about your good fortune. Don’t fret—this is a common reaction that, many times, can be avoided or corrected.

Here are several tips to curb ill-will and smooth your transition into a management position.

Start being a leader before you’re a leader. If you start demonstrating your capacity to lead and manage before you are promoted, it will be a lot easier for your peers to see you in that light once you take on a leadership role. Consistently volunteer to spearhead initiatives that will enhance tools or resources necessary for you and your peers to do your jobs effectively. Be proactive about creating opportunities to share ideas and collaborate with your peers. Become the go-to person for things related to your department and offer yourself as a resource to your co-workers. Once you establish yourself as a leader, your peers will see your career progression as a natural and organic next step.

Don’t play favourites. You may have developed strong working relationships or even friendships with some of your colleagues prior to being promoted. When you become a manager, it is important that you are not perceived by your team as giving preferential treatment to your buddies. If your other team members think that you favour some of their peers they will become resentful and lose respect for you and your position. Perhaps you can set some “ground rules” with team members with which you have personal relationships to establish that they will be playing by the same rules as everyone else.

Tackle concerns head on. One of the most challenging things new leaders face is managing performance rigorously. Make sure you provide timely feedback, whether it’s positive or constructive. Having open and honest conversations is what gains you respect from your team as long as you’re being fair, logical and constructive. Sweeping things under the carpet can be very damaging to morale and create even more conflict.

Make things better. Don’t make radical changes to the way things work just to show your “muscle” or newfound power. Take time to analyse the way things are currently being done and be thoughtful about how you make changes. Be inclusive and collaborative. Allow all team members to have input and take their recommendations seriously. Demonstrate your commitment to their success by identifying and offering opportunities that develop or showcase their talent.

Read our blog! Continued learning is an important part of harnessing your leadership skills. We have written many posts on just about every topic you need to develop yourself and your team. Use our posts as a resource to understand how to best navigate your new position and be successful.

The key is to try to become the leader you always wished you had. Ask yourself what kinds of things or behaviours would have enabled you to succeed or respect your manager, and then put those things into practise every day. Be consistent, supportive and overall, don’t forget that your peers deserve a good leader too.

Do you know someone going through a transition to be a leader? What advice would you give them? Contribute to the conversation below and contact us to learn more about our bespoke solutions to common leadership challenges. 

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