Going From Peer To Manager

Many organizations like and do try to promote from within, and when this happens, many times it is one of the individuals in the group who is now the manager.  My early days in banking saw this happen all the time because the branch is a unit apart from the whole.  The team is used to working together but now the dynamics have changed with a peer becoming a supervisor or manager.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking to a lot of training managers that are looking for specific help in this transition from peer to manager.  All part of the bigger succession plans that are beginning to hatch in every industry, thank goodness, and yet from the ones I’ve talked with there is a panic about this being such a different skill set.  Well, I beg to differ.

The main reasons that a new supervisor or manager that is promoted from the group has difficulties are they either don’t change their relationship with the team members, or go over the top and distance themselves too much.  For fear of alienating their friends, they want to continue to be buddies and chit chat about the same things so the team member fails to respect the change in relationship because the new manager did not change the relationship, or they become a tyrant to demonstrate authority over the staff so there is no doubt who is boss which back fires too. 

So I have to ask, is there really any difference between going from peer to manager within your intact workgroup, or by becoming a manager in a brand new environment?  Not really folks.  The same skills, traits and relationships that are built by successful managers need to be built with new managers too.  If you look at the list of skills and competencies you are building in managers within your organization today, don’t you want the same ones for all managers? 

I think that when it comes to going from peer to manager, the greatest asset of knowing your team already becomes the handy cap also.  So my best advice is to step back a bit from each relationship and allow people to understand your new responsibilities.  Ask for help from everyone, and be as humble as you can in easing into your new role.  You will find your old friends will be there to back you up as long as they know you are there to back them up too.

For the training managers that are looking for a separate workshop to teach these “unique skills”, please don’t bother.  Spend time in your classroom activities talking about how the approach is different, and strategize from the combined experience in the room.  Stop making this out to be rocket science and there will be less stress over the recent promotion for this new manager. 

Let’s face it, supervisory skills in the military are very different than in corporate America are they not?  So why don’t we have special transitional workshops for retired Generals on how to manage their new corporate team?  Because all we really need to do is teach the same communication skills and remind them of the differences in their manager-employee relationship.


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