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How to Smoothly Transition from Peer to Manager

Updated: May 5, 2023

Businessperson with glasses standing at the head of a table of colleagues in a conference room smiling at them in a meeting.

There are few events more exciting and motivating in our careers than a promotion. That said, making a successful transition from the position of peer to manager has a unique set of challenges and opportunities. While taking on the responsibilities of leadership is exciting and rewarding, awkwardness, resistance, or even animosity and jealousy from former peers can make the process more difficult. Fortunately, there are positive ways to navigate the complexities of changing roles from coworker to supervisor that can help you build a cohesive, thriving, and productive team.

There is an inevitable awkwardness when you become the boss of your peers. Arguably the most important thing is to show your commitment to making the process as smooth as possible. One of the best ways to address this is to face it head-on. Schedule one-on-one meetings and acknowledge the change in the relationship dynamic. Also, take the opportunity to ask what you can do to ease the transition and discuss goals and direction. Good communication and active listening skills are key here, as it not only shows the team that you respect and value feedback but also it helps convey another important point - that you trust and value their contributions.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that in a period of change, adding more chaos and unsurety to the mix can make things worse rather than better. While the move from peer to manager might seem like a great opportunity to start implementing all the changes you have in mind to optimize and improve the team, this can be a source of great stress for your teammates. No matter how excellent your ideas are, trying to change the paradigm of the group immediately is likely to cause more strife than success. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t make any improvements. Implement adjustments slowly, focusing on the most critical first. Be very cautious about any personnel changes because these types of decisions can shift your team’s attitude towards you as a leader. It is useful to remember that you were recently a peer and to think about how you and your coworkers would have reacted to the changes you are considering implementing.

While confidence is important in order to lead, it’s critical to be true to yourself in order to preserve and build upon the relationships that already exist within the team. We’ve all known a colleague who has taken on a position of authority and become someone we didn’t recognize anymore. That kind of shift can be detrimental to developing trust as a leader and diminishes the benefits you can capitalize on from having been a part of the team you now lead. Remember that leadership requires you to motivate and empower your team, and the personal connections that you already have can go a long way in that process. Additionally, setting a precedent of authenticity and humility is a great way to role model the behavior that you expect of your team.

Smoothly transitioning from peer to manager requires thoughtful planning and implementation. A solid foundation begins with a belief in both your own capabilities as a new leader and those of your team. Emphasizing good communication patterns and setting expectations, actively seeking and providing feedback, and engaging and empowering former coworkers will set the tone for the success of your group. These strategies can have a profound impact on your new relationship dynamic and help build your credibility as an effective manager.


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