Going from employee to manager is an exciting time in our career. It means we’ve mastered a certain level of our work and are ready for a new challenge! And since our careers tend to be a combination of moving both up the corporate ladder and across a corporate lattice, we might make the switch from manager to employee a few times in our career. Whether you’re a first time manager or getting back into a team leadership role, there are a few things to remember.
Start Building a Transition Plan as Soon as Possible
You’re likely to have a bit of leeway in getting up to speed on your new role. Once you know you’ll be starting a management position, begin building your transition plan. Who will pick up your existing work? Should your first few projects be aligned to the previous managers’ goals? Or, is the team going a new strategic direction? Who needs to buy into your plan for your first 90 days? Instead of showing up in the job and then thinking through these questions, give yourself as much time as possible to show up prepared.
Reset Peer Relationships
If you’re becoming the manager of a team you were previously on, resetting peer relationships can be challenging. Even if it feels awkward, it’s the most professional and kind thing to face those conversations head-on. Sit down with your close friends or work colleagues to talk through how your relationship will change and discuss any potential new boundaries. Those might include needing to switch up your daily lunch routine or cutting down on personal chit chat at the office.
Even if you’re joining a completely a new team, start to think about the new network you need to be successful. You’ll likely have an entirely new set of peers and manager colleagues at a more senior level. It’s important to start doing the same small, social gestures that you did among your former teams. Invite people for coffee, make a lunch run, and learn from those already in the seat. You might also find that a new mentor at a more senior level can give you better perspective on your transition.
Go On a Listening Tour
You received this promotion because you have great ideas and are up for the challenge of leading people. It can be tempting to jump into the role and start running ahead with those amazing ideas. Instead, take a beat and remember that managing starts with listening.
Everything that you’ve come to the table with up to this point has come from your perspective as an employee. Now, you need a different perspective to problem solve.
Those solutions become more powerful with the input of others who know you’re in a position to do something about moving an agenda forward. Take the first 30 days and schedule a “listening tour” to sit down with each one of your direct reports as well as any other business partners that affect your team’s success. What’s working? What should the team start doing differently?
Embrace Your New Tasks
New roles are uncomfortable and scary. On those days you feel a little lost, it can be easy to hang on to previous tasks or some of your employees’ work that you used to do — and be great at! Unfortunately even with good intentions, this can come off as micromanagement to your new team. (We all know what it feels like when a boss doesn’t let go of really detailed work that shouldn’t be their daily concern!)
When you recognize that you’re doing this, reframe your objective to be “embracing new tasks” instead of the potentially overwhelming “being the boss.” Tempted to just make the call to a vendor that you used to manage? Bring in an employee to have that call together and coach them through your relationship management strategy. Now your work is about mentoring, guiding, removing roadblocks, and organizing people to achieve a collective goal.
Focus on Learning “Up”
Moving from employee to manager requires a new skill set. Those skills will actually differ dramatically even if you’ve been a manager before, so get to work defining exactly what capabilities you need to add to your toolkit to start “upskilling” into your new role. Would an online course round out your knowledge of a technical area your team covers? Should you consider practicing your public speaking?
Moving to management also means you need a greater awareness of the 360 degrees of people around you. As an employee you can usually be pretty in the loop by just knowing the goals and goings on of your peers and immediate manager. As a manager yourself, you’ve got to learn up quite a bit further. You are representing a team and part of a division’s leadership structure. What do your peer teams work on? How does that fit in the larger company strategy? What are the financial and client goals company-wide? You’ll need a better understanding of all of these topics than before to help lead your team to success.