I was searching through my DMs and emails the other day looking for ideas on content to share with you, I realized there was a theme.
A lot of you were reaching out asking for advice about…managing your former peers. Eeeek!
I know that making this transition into leadership can be trial-some in SO MANY WAYS.
There’s so much to learn and navigate and the expectation is high right out the gate.
Would you prefer to read rather than watch? Not to worry! You can read the blog post below.
The last thing anyone wants to deal with is the awkwardness or tension that may ensue when you’re promoted over your friends.
But it does happen, and the way it’s handled at the beginning can make all the difference in the dynamics moving forward.
This is why I wanted to address this topic on the channel.
I’ve done a video on this in the past, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper by giving you a simple framework and a couple ideas of what specifically you can say in a conversation that is a sensitive one
So let’s get started.
But first, to really help you stand out in your new role I highly recommend downloading The Ultimate Guide to Being an Effective Team Leader. A free downloadable interactive guide to help you show up and stand out and take the right action steps.
So no matter how you look at it, this transition is going to be awkward.
It can be made awkward for a variety of reasons like maybe you’re actually friends with the people on your team and there’s this unspoken expectation that now that you’re the manager they’re gonna get a pass.
Or maybe you were friendly with the people on your team and you knew they expected the promotion and now there are hurt feelings because you got the position instead.
Whatever the situation, I totally understand why you’re feeling a certain way because there’s awkwardness and tension and you have to figure out how to deal with it while still trying to absorb the new responsibilities of your new role.
So what do you do? Here are a few tips:
Tip #1 - Address the Elephant in the Room
I remember my mentor used to tell me all the time when I didn’t want to deal with something tough, usually people related. Hey would say, Mak, you have seen the best it’s going to get.
Essentially what he was trying to convey is that this problem that you are facing is not gonna get any better unless you take a different approach or do something about it.
In this situation hurt feelings or a disconnect in expectations is only going to be made worse unless you choose to address it head on.
If you choose to pretend it’s not an issue I guarantee you it will get worse.
So sit down in a room or virtually with this individual that has been affected by your promotion and address the elephant in the room.
Okay, so now you’re probably thinking – what do I say in this conversation?
Tip #2 - Acknowledge that there are Hurt Feelings
In one of my previous videos where I talked about what employees want from their managers I mentioned that all people in this world have a desire to be seen and heard and right now because this individual feels slighted, or passed over in some way they are feeling unseen and unheard.
It is now your job as a manager to help that person know that you see them and you want to give them an opportunity to be heard.
And that can be as simple as you saying:
“Hey Sally, I wanted to talk to you today about how you feel with the changes made. I know that you really wanted an opportunity to lead the team and obviously that didn’t happen – so I wanted to know how you’re feeling.”
After stating the above, you want to pause and let them speak. Now yes, you can’t change anything since the decision has already been made. However by pausing you are allowing space for them to express their feelings on the matter.
I also think it’s vital that this conversation contain two questions:
“Sally, what are your concerns about me being manager of the team?”
Sometimes when I offer this suggestion to clients – there is a tad bit of resistance to ask specifically the first question because there is a fear around what’s going to be said.
I understand but it’s important to ask.
That way you are holding space for them to express not just their feelings but also concerns which are valid. Plus you might be able to alleviate their concerns in that conversation. Or at least keep it in mind as you keep moving forward in your leadership role.
The other thing it does is it prevents gossip. If they don’t get the opportunity to tell you how they feel to your face they are bound to share it with other team members and it’s not gonna be pretty.
So rather than them expressing things to others, train them from the very beginning that if they have an issue with you that they should come to you.
Tip #3 - Hone in on their Talents
Here’s the thing: most likely if they thought they were going to get promoted then there’s a high chance that they are also highly capable and skilled.
You want to leverage that from the very beginning and get their mind thinking about what’s going well and what can improve by asking this simple question:
“Sally, what do you think in your opinion is the thing that we are the best at as a team and in your expertise what areas do you see the need for us to improve in?”
Asking this question flips their mindset from them and hurt feelings to solutions and the value that they add to the team.
This is the place where you want them to operate. You need them to feel empowered and valuable.
This question is a great set up for gently moving the conversation in a place that’s productive.
So what do you do if your friend expects “special treatment”?.
Tip #4 - Be Firm About Maintaining your Credibility
If your team members are expecting you to give them a pass because of the friendship – then again it’s imperative that you have a conversation with them around expectations. Because for whatever reasons right now they are setting the expectation of your role rather than you.
Pull them aside and let them know your credibility on this team is important to you and that requires you to be consistent and fair in all you do. This means the dynamics of the relationship will change and that you will treat them as you treat everyone else.
Be firm and clear so that there is no misunderstanding as you move forward.
Tip #5 - Build your Credibility
Right now your peers aren’t sure how you are going to be in this role.
I mean sure they know you as a colleague working side by side but they don’t know what this whole change means with you being their boss.
And so you have to work diligently at equipping yourself with the tools and resources available to you so that you are coming off as someone that is credible and deserving of their respect.
Credibility is built through your competence. Right now if you’re brand new then you are going to be lacking in this area of leadership and management – which is why it’s important particularly now to get the support you need.
Get yourself some support because like my mentor says – you’ve seen the best it’s going to get. If you’re already feeling unsteady it’s not going to change unless you make the choice to change your circumstances.
If you decide you want some support I highly suggest you check out my FREE TRAINING: HOW TO BUILD A HIGH-PERFORMANCE TEAM AS A NEW MANAGER
I know it will help you so much in your transition and get you off to a good start with a solid blueprint.