5 Ways to Make a Smooth Transition to a Management Role


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Congratulations -- you're moving up a rung on the office ladder. The title change and bump in salary are great, but how do you manage people who used to be your contemporaries? Even though you're the boss now, you were a friend first, and a botched transition can quickly inspire enemies. We checked in with experts who weigh in on the best ways to navigate a new management role.

1. Communicate on a personal level with every member of your team.

Your ability to make this transition effectively can propel your career in a very positive way, but failure to do so can really hinder it, says Chad Oakley, president and COO of Charles Aris, a global executive search firm.

"The only way you can move up is if other people want to follow you and are positive about you and your leadership," Oakley says. "You've got to sit down and listen to them and make your agenda a joint agenda."

The truth is, your new role represents change and uncertainty to the people who work for you -- even your allies may feel unsure of what to expect from you now that you're the boss, says Morag Barrett, CEO of SkyeTeam, an international HR and leadership development firm.

"Sit down with people one on one and address their concerns. What will be different? What will stay the same? What will they expect from you? Get those elephants and stinky fish out onto the table where you can address them," she says.


Also, never underestimate the power of letting people know you are still a team -- even if you've moved up.

"Say to them, 'I want to be our joint champion for doing all the things we could have done better, I want us together to improve things for our company and our team,'" suggests Oakley.

2. Remember -- it's the job that changed -- not you.

You are taking on a whole other level of representation of the company, and you have to be consistent, but you don't have to be a different person, says Shawnice Meador, director of career management and leadership development for MBA@UNC.

"Let your former peers who are now your subordinates know what your expectations are, but also let them know you're still a friend. You may need to separate yourself from water cooler gossip, but you're still the same person you always were," Meador says.

The worst thing you can do is go into the role with an immediate directive -- an "I am going to tell you what to do" platform, Oakley says.

"You're going to ruin your friendships with people if you take that approach, and they're not going to support you as a manager," he says.

Keep in mind that because you moved up and your friends didn't, it's almost inevitable that there will be some hurt feelings, Meador says. They need to know they can still count on you, even though you've taken on a new set of responsibilities that you're taking seriously.

3. Focus on what you can accomplish -- not social pressures.

Instead of worrying about hurt feelings or how friendships may be strained, focus on the job at hand, Meador says. Make a plan for what you hope to accomplish in your new role over the next one to three months.

"Try to nail down what it means to be a leader of this group," she says. "What do you need to be attacking right away? When you show you're dedicated to the role, you're going to get a lot more respect from your peers and direct reports."

Keep in mind the goals you set could be personal, related to your team, or for the company as a whole, says Janet Flewelling, managing director of service operations at human resources firm Insperity.

"Set long-term and short-term goals, and convey them to colleagues," she says. "It's also a good idea for a manager to update the team on all progress, and commend employees when milestones are achieved."

4. Establish enough distance and authority that you're taken seriously.

A promotion typically involves more authority, which should be established as quickly as possible. But it is important for a manager to be careful with the new power, and remember to respect and treat employees the way they would want to be treated by superiors, Flewelling says.

Unfortunately, the relationship you had with colleagues is not the same.

"It is not appropriate management behavior to gossip about other employees, or to share privileged information. While a new manager certainly should not abandon friends, there must be a heightened awareness of one's behavior and types of discussions, both at work and at social functions outside of work," Flewelling says.

Also, don't forget that sometimes words aren't necessary to convey your leadership status, says Jill Swanson, image consultant and author of Out the Door in 15 Minutes.

"Dress the part. Go up a notch with the quality of your clothing," she says. "The essence of authority is what you want to convey without having to speak it, and your clothes will do it for you."

5. Focus on where you're going in your career -- not where you came from.

At the risk of sounding cliche, every layer of promotion up the management chain presents a certain amount of "what got you here won't get you there," says Kourtney Whitehead, principal at Korn Ferry and a member of the firm's Global Human Resources Center of Expertise.

"In our experience, poor people-management skills are often what stand in the way of some very talented people taking their careers to the next level," she says. "To continue to grow, a person needs to gain more and more self-awareness and emotional intelligence."

Unfortunately, many people focus solely on becoming a better leader of their team, and while this is important, it's not the only thing that's important, she says.

"Management roles require interaction with those above you, your peers, and your team. Building deep peer relationships and promoting yourself and your team's impact to your bosses are important skills to grow as well," Whitehead explains.

Smart candidates continually do a "self study" to ensure they improve and adapt with each promotion.

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