One of the most difficult career moves anyone makes is that first promotion from employee to boss. The people who were your coworkers yesterday are now reporting to you. It is stressful, intimidating, and the transition is rarely easy. There are a lot of things you have to deal with.
To begin with, few companies adequately train and prepare people prior to their move into management. We just thrust people into positions and leave them to their own instincts. It’s not really fair, since it’s hard to move into a new role with confidence when you aren’t fully prepared, but it happens a lot. Then there’s the issue of how you deal with your former coworkers. Up until yesterday, these are the people you hung around with, bantered with and complained about management with. Now you have to lead them.
It’s Hard For Everyone
Finally, there’s the issue of how your new employees deal with you. Some might not easily make the transition. Some may be openly bitter about you getting a promotion instead of them. Some may not understand why suddenly you’re behaving “differently.” How do you deal with all of these issues?
Let’s start by ensuring that you have the skill to be an effective manager. Yes, your company and manager have an obligation to ensure you have the tools and skill to succeed – but don’t count on them to deliver. Take the initiative. After all, if you wait for someone else to bring you up to speed, you may not really be management material after all. One of the competencies most companies look for in their leaders is initiative.
Find a mentor, sign up for workshops, read books (Winning with the Employee from Hell – a guide to coaching & motivation, Sink or Swim, The First- Time Manager, The First 90 Days are all good books). There’s really no excuse for not taking advantage of all possible resources.
Dealing with the people around you is often the toughest challenge because you’re dealing with personalities and emotions. There is no real way to predict how people will react to your promotion, and you will have to manage situations one at a time. Here are a few rules of thumb, however, that are useful to follow:
1. Don’t wait
Don’t wait for your coworkers-turned-employees to bow down in front of you for you to begin acting like a manager. You are the one who’s role has changed, so you’re the one who’s behavior has to change first. This is your chance to set the tone for your work environment. Be positive, happy and energized. Your company has made you a manager by position, it’s up to you to be a manager by disposition.
2. Be consultative, but decisive
Get as much input from your team as you can. Let them know that you value their skill, experience and contribution as much as you always did. When it comes time to make a decision, however, be firm and confident. Don’t be wishy-washy. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, fix it and move on. Don’t look back.
3. Set your standards and stand by them
Decide early on what it is you stand for. Is it quality? Speed? Accuracy? Innovation? Results? Set minimum acceptable performance standards for your team, and ensure that you have positive and negative consequences in place to ensure they are met. (This is best done informally, with a certain degree of subtleness. You don’t want to just ‘lay down the law’). Be absolutely consistent and fair in maintaining them. Don’t make exceptions – or you run the risk of compromising your standards or being perceived as ‘playing favorites.’
Most importantly, you want to have the respect of your team. Remember that respect can’t be bought, extorted or demanded. It has to be earned. It takes time, consistency, passion and an irrepressibly positive attitude. The transition from employee to boss can be difficult, but if you deal with it properly, you’ll never look back.