Newly promoted and it’s all a bit weird? Here’s some help
The first time I got promoted I was clueless; I had a team of four and no management training whatsoever. My predecessor was widely held to have been a good manager so I decided that I would do exactly what she used to do.
One of her quirks was that at about 5pm she would go round the team, ask what they were working on and tell them they could go as soon as they had finished whatever it was they were doing. So at about 5 on my first day as supervisor I went over to the management accountant, asked what she was working on and told her she could go when she was ready. She looked at me with pure contempt, said very sarcastically, ‘Thanks Jackie, I will do’ and turned her back to me. A cold wind blew through the office, our relationship was never quite the same again and I was totally baffled as to what I had done wrong. The fact is that when you’re starting out in management people do often treat you differently and it’s very easy to make mistakes. If you’re interested in finding out what to do, read on.
Think about it from your colleagues’ point of view. It’s a big change for you; but it’s also a big change for everyone else. And while it’s a positive change for you (recognition, advancement, more money and so on) it may not be quite so good for everyone else. Nobody is sure how it will pan out so there are lots of unanswered questions. What sort of boss will you be? Will you change towards them? How will your relationship change (because it will, inevitably)? What will it mean for them? As well as the uncertainty, everyone will be experiencing different emotions. Some people will feel a sense of loss: one of the gang has moved on and that’s sad. Some people will be pleased for you and want to help in any way they can; others will be envious and do their best to undermine you. In addition to the individual responses the team as a whole may well be mourning the loss of a good boss and will take time to adjust to the idea of someone else being in charge (that was one of my problems in the example above).
As for you, start by looking at yourself. How has your behaviour changed towards your friends and colleagues? Maybe you’re being a bit distant and ‘off’, perhaps they think you’re throwing your weight around a bit too much. (I once asked everyone out for a drink to celebrate my payrise, a well-intentioned gesture but I cringe when I think how I must have come across). If your behaviour is unhelpful ask yourself why you’re acting like that and what you can do about it. Catch yourself if you’re not behaving in any way that helps the team to adjust to the new situation. Above all, don’t try too hard or, worse, try to be someone else (another of my mistakes): you have to develop your own leadership style.
At the heart of it all, as always, is communication – be clear about what you want from the team, and what your expectations are. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. A more experienced manager should be able to mentor you and provide some good advice and support; the team will also be able to help you through those difficult first few weeks if you let them. However this may well be a time whn you find it useful to work with someone outside your company. Why not start with a free coaching session us?