Managing your former peers takes extra effort

Every successful manager has had to overcome difficult challenges

It sounds like the ideal promotion: a management position in which you get to oversee your former peers, people with whom you already have a rapport and whose work habits you already know. But if you're not careful, the transition can be anything but easy or smooth, according to career coach Sherri Thomas.

Your first 90 days:

Beware the two extremes

New managers often fall into one of two categories: overbearing and power-happy, or unable to step up to the plate and manage even the simplest projects. "Some managers jump into their new role using a more forceful and bullying style to show that they have more 'power' within the department and the company. They tend to dominate meetings, make key decisions without asking team members for input, and even micromanage the smallest projects," explains Thomas. "While they are eager to accomplish goals and impress senior managers, they usually create feelings of resentment, withdrawal and even hostility among key team members." This results in an unproductive team whose members are more likely to leave the department or, in the worst case, try to sabotage the manager in his or her new position. Your former friends can easily turn on you if you adopt either persona.

Don't undermine your new position

On the other end are the new managers who spend all of their time worried about losing the friendship of the former peers they now manage. "Some new managers implement a softer, more collaborative management style because they want to preserve friendships," says Thomas. Do that, and you could end up having a hard time making decisions, resolving conflicts and leading through difficult situations, she says. You also won't be able to gain the respect you need to lead the team if you fall into this trap. Instead, make sure you quell problems quickly rather than letting them languish. Take a softer approach when appropriate, but if you need to take charge, do so.

Strengthen your credibility

As a new manager, you need to fully understand senior management's expectations of you -- and your team as a whole. "You need to be able to clearly articulate and role-model the company's vision as well as the team's role and goals," says Thomas. Go to your supervisor first and come up with an outline for what's expected of you. Call a meeting with your staff to give an overview so there's less chance they'll feel left in the dark.

Align your expectations with those of your team

It is also imperative to understand your team members' needs and to help them realize their unique contributions to the team. Take the time to meet one-on-one with them and discuss their roles and responsibilities, align on expectations and address any issues. "Specifically, you should share how you plan to manage the program and team, including your own personal management style, how decisions will be made and how conflicts will be resolved," says Thomas. "It's critical that the manager asks if the employee has any concerns and really listens to the answer." And it's even more important in a situation where you're managing people you sat shoulder-to-shoulder with just days before.

Establish a support network

One area new managers often overlook is establishing a strong network of mentors and coaches who can provide strategies, support and the inspiration needed to succeed. "Network with those who have been successful managers, and those who you admire as a leader," Thomas says. Those managers can also point out mistakes they made when they were in the same shoes.

Realize that mistakes are OK

Everyone makes mistakes, especially in those first few months. But that's OK. "It takes time and experience to become a good manager. Every successful manager has had to overcome difficult challenges," says Thomas. "But having a network in place to help coach you through these situations can help you ramp up quickly into your new role and set yourself up for success."

Write to Elizabeth Garone at

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