Successfully Moving from Peer (and friend) to Manager


You’ve just received a promotion, and you’re ecstatic.  You can’t wait to start your new leadership position, and the wheels are already turning with exciting ideas to implement.  But, it comes to your attention that not everyone on your team is as excited about your promotion as you are. Some of your peers-turned-direct reports feel they are more qualified for your job because they have more experience and longer tenure. Others wonder what changes you will be making, and how these changes will affect them. Still others worry about what will happen to you close friendship.


No need to panic! Countless others have been in your shoes and have left behind a tried-and-true list of steps to success. Remember, your organization demonstrated confidence in your abilities by promoting you to be the leader of your team. Take confidence in their vote of confidence and establish your credibility by implementing the following tips for success.


Be humble and honor the past. Leadership is not a position; don’t let your new title go to your head. Leadership is about being a good steward of the influence and relationships you have with others.


  • Recognize the team’s past successes
  • Demonstrate respect and appreciation for the contributions of each team member
  • Make small changes at first. Postpone major changes until you have been in your new role for a while and have had time to gather input from the team.


Establish credibility and authority. Do everything you can to build trust and confidence in your ability to lead your team.


  • Work hard and be a role model
  • Demonstrate confidence (not arrogance) in your own ability to lead the team
  • Build trust and follow through on your commitments
  • Support other people’s goals
  • Demonstrate a willingness to learn from others; seek answers and ideas from team members
  • Be willing to admit that you don’t know everything; if you suddenly act like you have all the answers you will undermine your credibility and erode trust
  • Be fair; distribute the workload equally; assign projects that are perceived as “desirable projects” equitably


Meet one-on-one with your team members. By meeting one-on-one with each employee you are establishing a personal relationship. You’ll also be able to personalize the message and be more up front than you can be in front of the entire team.


  • Communicate that you value the team member, their specific expertise, and the skills and abilities they bring to the team
  • Reinforce your commitment to the team member’s growth and development and ensure them you will provide the support and resources they need for success
  • Ask the following questions to obtain insight about what you can do to make your team even stronger than it already is:
    • What is going well and right with our team?
    • What are your areas of concern, that if improved, would make our team even more successful?
    • What are your expectations of me as your supervisor?
    • What do you need from me to be successful?
    • What are your goals and objectives and where do things stand at this moment?
    • What are your career goals and what development opportunities would you like me to provide?
  • Listen to your team members input and summarize your conversation to make sure you are getting the right message and are in alignment
  • Ask for the team member’s support


Meet as a team. Even though you have been part of the team for some time, this is an opportunity to set a new direction. Make room for team members’ comments and questions so they feel they have a role in building the plan.


  • Schedule a meeting in a special format; possibly an off-site luncheon
  • Start by discussing the purpose of the team
  • Revisit the team vision and make changes as needed
  • Establish priorities
  • Clarify goals and performance expectations
  • Work out a game plan for how you and the team can work together to achieve your objectives
  • Establish communication channels and meeting procedures
  • Communicate your personal leadership perspective and ways it may differ from the former leader’s approach
  • Explain how you like to operate; for example, inform team members that you want them to come directly to you with concerns



Recalibrate your relationships. Your relationships with former peers will be inevitably altered; this is a loss for everyone, but it comes with the change in positional leadership.

The sooner you recognize you can’t continue to have the same kind of relationships you had before you were promoted, the better leader you will be.

  • Remove yourself from non-business social interactions. We are not suggesting you become aloof, but rather that you manage your social engagements wisely.
  • Eliminate hallway gossip and venting sessions with employees
  • Meet with former peers and be open about the change in your relationship. Discuss how your relationship will be different now that you are responsible for their productivity and performance appraisal.
  • Address the team member’s questions and concerns.
  • Set expectations. Acknowledge the team member’s expertise and the importance of their role on the team. Your job as the leader is to guide the team member and support their ability to exercise their expertise, not to replace them as the expert.
  • Communicate that you care about the individual and are committed to their success.
  • Be friendly, not friends.



Build relationships with new team members, new peers, and your new “boss.” Don’t focus solely on your former peers. Be intentional about establishing relationships with new people in your sphere of influence.


  • Ask yourself how you can build confidence and trust within these new relationships.
  • Focus on their needs and responsibilities and determine how you can support them.
  • Ask questions to get to know how your work interfaces with their work.
  • Ask your new manager what you can do to support him or her.


Hold employees accountable. When you don’t hold people accountable, two bad things will happen to your new leadership career. First, the employee who isn’t accountable most likely knows they’re not doing what is expected and, therefore, isn’t respecting you. Second, you lose the respect of other team members who know that this team member isn’t doing what they are supposed to do, and know that you are not holding them accountable.


  • Give team members a brief time to adjust to you as the new leader. Four weeks is more than enough time.
  • After the fourth week, if it becomes clear that an employee is not supporting you or the team, confront that specific employee. Describe to the employee the problem behaviors you have observed and let him know that those behaviors are not acceptable because they undermine you and the team.
  • Coach and council team members to improve performance


Grow as a leader.  Leading others and building a team requires a different set of skills than the ones required of you as an individual contributor. Be intentional about learning new leadership competencies.


  • Attend a management course
  • Participate in leadership conferences
  • Read books and articles on leadership
  • Talk to your HR department about the opportunities they offer for your growth and development
  • Enlist the support of a mentor to provide guidance and feedback



Your new position is not a popularity contest; it’s about serving others to achieve results. Stay focused on the work your team needs to accomplish; demonstrate respect for everyone on the team; treat team members fairly, and appreciate individual contributions. If you do these things, respect will follow and your new job will be easier and more enjoyable.

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