Making the transition from one of the team to manager of the team can be fraught with pitfalls, but not if you go in with your eyes open.
There is a wealth of information and advice out there for new managers (some of it on our own site!), although it can be harder to find solid guidance for those making the transition into an internal management role. Whilst there is much crossover, Google returns just 1% of the amount of search results for transitioning managers compared to a search for new managers. Organisations that provide good support do so in the form of structured development, mentoring and progress reviews, but all too often managers making ‘the leap’ are left to fend for themselves.
First off, understand that the people who were previously your peers will see you differently and they will be waiting for you to make your first move, so consider it carefully. Don’t make any rash decisions or changes and instead sit down with each of the team individually. Talk openly about the change that has happened, ask them how the news sits with them and explain that you’re going to need their help to get the team to wherever they need to get to. Discuss and agree expectations of each other; what do they need from you and vice versa. Get to know their strengths and consider how these could be leveraged (if they’re not already).
It’s just as important for you to have a natural relationship with the team although you must keep it professional. Whereas before it might have been fine to get up to all sorts of hijinks on a Friday night, now you need to consider the impact on a Monday morning! Not having a clear professional divide with the team just muddies the waters when the time comes – and it will come – to making tough decisions or giving difficult feedback. Have fun with the team and don’t underestimate the value of spending time together outside of work, but always keep in mind that you are their manager and leader. It’s now down to you to be the role model, otherwise you can expect them to use your inappropriate behaviour as a defence when you come to address theirs.
Try and get a couple of quick wins under your belt to show that you are on the same side and fighting their corner. As a previous teammate you have a unique insight into what the wants and needs of the team are; what winds them up, frustrates them, drives them crazy? It might be something as simple as introducing ‘Hump-Day Doughnuts’ on a Wednesday or as complex as making a commitment to change a convoluted process or procedure that ties the team up in knots.
Make sure that as a team, you have a common goal and purpose. What is your raison d’être; your reason for existing and spending more time together than you each probably do with friends and family? Get the team involved in identifying this so that you create something you can all commit towards. Once you know where you’re going as a team, take pit stops to review progress and provide enough development for you and the team to help your vision become a reality.
What are your tips for those transitioning into a management role? Let us know in the comments below!