Moving from Colleague to Manager


It sounds great doesn’t it, your boss asks to meet with you and declares that you are to be offered the job of supervising or managing the team that you are currently a member of. It would then be very easy to get immediately lost in the excitement and anticipation about the prospect of greater responsibility, exciting challenges and (usually) more money, without giving too much serious thought as to exactly what happens next and the implications of such a seismic change in your daily working life.


However, the challenges of moving from being part of a team to now being that team’s manager soon hove sharply into view. When someone is promoted from the heart of a team, as a colleague, to being the person in charge of that team, it presents a wealth of challenges that in some cases are obvious for all to see, and others, far more subtle.


There are however, some simple strategies one can adopt to help alleviate the pain a little as long as you understand that nothing will ever be the same again. It will be impossible to be boss and best mate. You simply cannot ‘run with the fox and chase with the hounds’ and hope to be a success in your new role. Accepting that you are now no longer one of the gang, as it were, is the first step towards redefining the boundaries and asserting yourself as the leader of your team.


One of the biggest challenges you face from day one, will be to make the conscious decision to tear yourself away from all the things that you previously enjoyed as a member of the team because whether you like it or not, your colleagues will never view you in the same light again either. Conversations that take place in corridors, car parks and the pub after work (involving the inevitable grumbling that goes with it) will continue of course, however going forward, you may well be the subject matter!


So your first task is to reduce these things down immediately, that’s not to say you need to be aloof or standoffish, but for example, if your colleagues always go to the pub after work on a Thursday they will probably continue to invite you (even if only out of politeness) so consider accepting only every now and then rather than every week. Also consider leaving earlier than you would previously have done and keeping the conversation to non-work related subjects. Certainly until everyone is clear on where you stand as the team manager and where the boundaries that you are in the process of establishing are set. Quick wins such as not gossiping around the water cooler and coffee machine is a distinctly easier practise to stop doing immediately.


There are many pitfalls you would do well to avoid especially around your use of language and making questionable declarations about how things are going to be. For example, ‘I’m a manager now and they will do as I say’ is never going to be number one on the list of motivational statements ever uttered. Equally declaring that you’re still ‘you’ and nothing will change because ‘we’ve always been able to talk’ will undoubtedly present challenges for you, especially the first time you have to reprimand someone or discuss the fact that they are always late for work on your watch.


If your only strategy for dealing with your team is to be nice all the time in order to engender a ‘please like me’ based relationship, then again, this will prove a massive disadvantage when you are dealing with difficult or unreasonable behaviour. Listen to what your charges have to say even if you have to agree to disagree. Acknowledge ideas, suggestions and any notion regardless of the eventual outcome and thank them for their thoughts and initiative.


Get to know and understand the key responsibilities of a manager, specifically with regard to your new role and the impact of how learning new techniques and adopting new ways of dealing with people with affect your old relationships. Practice good organisational skills and lead by example. Remember to forgive yourself for not being perfect and others will too. Leadership, although not easy, is still a skill that can be learned and you won’t get everything right. However, practising those skills, staying honest and adapting or correcting your behaviour is the only way to get better at it.


It is often said that you aren’t a leader until someone follows you, well therein lies the rub, how exactly do you get people to do that? This piece is not addressing that question specifically, however, most business leaders agree that to be an effective leader in today’s modern business world where people will follow you, some things simply do not change, so adopting attributes such as honesty, integrity and leading by example will set you on the right path much more effectively.


Maguire Training deliver a classroom based workshop called Moving from Colleague to Manager as well as an e-learning on line module of the same title that can be viewed by clicking this link Moving from Colleague to Manager both of which provide an excellent grounding in all aspects of make the leap.

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