peer to boss


Congratulations!  You’ve just gotten that promotion you’ve wanted for a while, but you are moving into a position where you will be managing your former peers.  Yikes, that can be tricky!  Here’s how to manage your move from peer to boss.

Hold One-on-one Meetings

Being transparent about the awkwardness of changing from peer to boss goes a long way.  Acknowledge the shift with each person and talk about how to move forward.  Ask them what are the opportunities they see for the team?  What are the challenges?  As their manager, how can you be helpful?

People want to be heard.  “Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room,” said Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook about handling tough conversations with her team after her husband’s death.

Maintain the Status Quo

Fight the urge to shake things up until you’ve settled in.  Hold off on making any changes for 60-90 days.  This allows you time to figure out the best rhythm for you and for your team.  Observe performance for a while from your new perspective. Moving too fast rocks the boat and makes everyone feel insecure.

Use Having Been a Peer to Your Advantage

In Gallup’s research on the State of the American Manager they found when people have the chance to work on their strengths daily, they’re significantly more engaged.  Deloitte research found “almost all the variation between high and lower performing teams was explained by a very small group of items.  The most powerful one proved to be ‘At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.’”

You know the strengths and weaknesses of your former peers and you can set them up for success.  Delegate work to them you know they can do well and give them the autonomy to do it.  No, they didn’t get the promotion you received but you can give them a great project or responsibility they can be excited about and make the transition from peer to boss that much easier.

Develop a New Peer Network

You will need a trusted advisor or two to get you through the coming challenges.  This might be your first management position and getting advice from those who have been there, done that will be invaluable.  Unfortunately, you will probably need someone new to go to lunch with.

Set a New Socializing Paradigm

Roy Cohen, a career counselor and executive coach, says, “What may have made you an attractive peer may make you a less attractive leader.  Leaders often need to be seen as mature and decisive.  Colleagues are often appreciated because they’re fun.”  You will need to treat everyone on your team the same so lunch with the same two people you used to lunch with can’t happen.  Skip the inside jokes.  Make sure you hear everyone’s voice, and give everyone an equal chance.  Embrace your new role, you earned it!

Transitions from peer to boss can make or break a career.  Do everything you can to become a better leader and it will pay dividends for you long-term.  Interested in discussing your career?  Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Executive Recruiter, Eda Zullo at [email protected].


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