3 Tips For Moving from ‘Peer’ to ‘Boss’

Got Promoted to Manage Your Former Team? Here are 3 Tips For Moving from ‘Peer’ to ‘Boss’

Good news! You just got the promotion you were hoping for: your supervisor moved on…leaving you the opportunity to get promoted and manage the team you once belonged to.

Sweet. Everything seems great…until you are running your first department meeting.

Your first order of business: get everyone to turn in their timecards and TPS reports on time. Not a big deal, right?

As you start talking about the new deadline requirements, one of your team members looks at you, rolls their eyes, and says, “you know we’re not actually going to do this, right?”

Being a leader is full of rewards and a significant amount of challenges. Here are 3 pitfalls to avoid when you are managing a team of your once-peers:

Tip #1: Figure out how your availability is going to be different. Be specific.

There’s a pretty good chance that you and your team used to visit and catch up during office hours. You may have taken long(er) lunches, had inside jokes, did some friendly razzing (remember the time when you made 1000 copies of the wrong form…and we saved them to wallpaper your cube on your birthday? Or wrapped everything on your desk in tinfoil?).

I wouldn’t go as far as saying you ‘wasted time’ together, but perhaps the better way to describe this is that you ‘weren’t always 100% efficient’.

That’s ok. It’s part of cultivating a meaningful relationship and team dynamic. You have to experience some challenging and fun things together to bond.

However, now you are going to be the leader of your team. And you likely aren’t going to have the same flexibility in your schedule now that you are the leader.

Make a list of the time and people that you value most on your team, and the activities that you used to do together.

Pick one or two of the top things that mean the most to you. Can you still participate given your new role? If not, are there ways to still get the same experience but in a different way? For example, having dinner after hours with some key people? Or having lunch together on a Friday once a month — rather than every Wednesday?

It might take some time, but work to find creative ways to maintain your friendships while also giving your new role the time and attention it needs.

Tip #2: Figure out how your responsibilities are going to be different. Tell your team the specifics.

You know the seemingly-ridiculous monthly reports that you all used to make fun of? Now it’s your job, as the leader, to make sure the data is collected on-time, is accurate, and that the team is meeting certain benchmarks.

It’s not such a ridiculous report now, is it?

Remember that your colleagues aren’t necessarily going to have the same “ah-ha!” moment as you…but you’re still going to have to get them to do the work.

And, you might feel like a hypocrite for now enforcing the very report that you once used to mock behind closed doors or on instant messenger.

What to do? Let your team know why the report matters to your department/organization.

Be up front about the fact that you 1) didn’t get how important this was before, but 2) your perspective has changed. And 3) you’re hoping and counting on your team to ask questions and help you out.

Leaders often forget that being honest and open, especially when your opinion has changed or you mess up, goes SO FAR in getting your team on board to help you out. Pretending to be infallible as a leader is a sure way to create tension and division on your team.

Tip #3: Be ready to communicate — repeatedly — how things have to be different.

Have you ever tried to learn a new skill before? I remember the first time I learned how to downhill ski. It was difficult and awkward to get used to all the equipment, the lift, etc….and then try to remember everything I had been taught in the 30 minute crash course while sliding down a hill at increasing speeds. As you can imagine, I fell. A lot. And in order to get better, I had to keep trying.

Changing your responsibilities at work is a lot like this, especially when you are leading the team you once belonged to. It’s going to take 1) learning all the new things about your role and 2) reminding yourself and your team what these new roles are. Over and over (and probably over…) again.

And, the longer that you have worked as a part of the team, the longer it might take for this transition to happen.

That’s ok. It’s a whole lot easier to work through this if you recognize the challenge for what it is, and know that you’ll get through it by being patient. And persistent. And probably patient some more.

The key piece here: communicate the changes to your team, specifically and repeatedly.

It’s worth saying this again: communicate the changes to your team, specifically and repeatedly.

For example: “I know we used to have lunch every week, but my new role is going to make that more difficult. I’ve got the leadership meeting every week, and it rotates days over the lunch hour. Can we have a standing lunch on the last Friday of the month? This is one of my favorite times and I don’t want to lose it completely.”

Then, before the lunch, anticipate the topics that might come up that you can’t talk about anymore — either because you now have insider information, or you can’t say because you are now someone’s supervisor. Have a couple of things in mind the group could talk about so that there’s not an awkward moment when you have to change the subject:

”I know this stinks, but that’s a topic that I can’t talk about right now. How about those _____[couples on Temptation Island/fill in the blank/etc.]_____?”


Let people know you still care about them.

And that business might have to be separate from your personal relationships now.

Remember that change is freakin’ hard…especially when you have deep connections to other people and are now changing the relationship’s dynamics.

Try your best.

Be authentic.



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