The higher-ups have just promoted you to manage the team you once belonged to. Congratulations. Now you need to go out and get elected by your former peers. Our advice? Start campaigning.
The transition from peer to manager is one of the most delicate and complicated organizational situations you will ever experience. For months, or even years, you have been in the trenches with your co-workers as a friend, confidant, and (probably) fellow grouser. You’ve heard secrets and told a few.
You know about every little feud and grudge. You’ve sat around in airport waiting rooms and at weekend barbecues and ranked everyone else on the team. You’ve pontificated about who would go, who would stay, and generally what you would do if you ran the group. And now you do.
Surely, some of your former peers are cheering your promotion and are eager to fall in line. That will feel good, but don’t let their support lead you to do something disastrous—namely, gallop into town with guns blazing.
Why? Because just as surely as some are cheering, others are uncomfortable with your promotion. A couple may have thought they deserved the job themselves. So they’re feeling anything from hurt to bitter. Still others will simply have some level of anxiety about your going from “one of us” to “one of them.” Either way, these former peers are in a holding pattern now, checking you out.
Which is why you need to start the campaign to win them over by creating an atmosphere of stability and cohesion where sound judgments about the future can be made—by everyone. Look, the last thing you want in your new role is an exodus or even low-level disgruntlement. You want people to settle down and function. The reason is straightforward enough. When and if there are changes down the road, you want to make them on your terms. You want a team of engaged supporters who buy in to your vision, not the resistance and nattering of a confused or chaotic crew.
But here’s the rub: You have to campaign without compromising your new authority. That’s right. You have to run for office while holding office. It’s a critical component in moving from peer to manager, and all effective managers go through it, often several times in their careers.
Getting this transition right is all about timing. Your kinder, gentler election drive can’t last forever. Give it three months. Six at most. If you haven’t won over the skeptics by then, you never will. In fact, after a certain point, the softer you are, the less effective you will become. And you’ll be fighting battles that do nothing but wear you down. Save your energy for bigger things and begin the process of moving out steadfast resisters and bringing in people who accept the changes that you and your core of supporters deem necessary.
Fortunately, the transition period doesn’t last forever, and if you handle it right—with a campaign and not chaos—you’ll be in a position to do what’s best for the organization and yourself: lead from strength. – Jack and Suzy Welch