Updated: May 23, 2020
You’ve worked hard. You’ve done your time. You’ve put your hand up for every professional development opportunity. You’ve displayed more than once that you’re ready for more. And finally, it's happened.
You’ve been promoted to a leadership role.
You are so excited when you receive the news. You high five yourself. Take your partner out for dinner. Buy yourself a new “first day as the boss outfit”. All the hard work and dedication has finally paid off.
Then it hits you! You are the leader. The manager. The supervisor. Of the team you’ve been a part of for years. You are unsure how to make the transition from colleague to boss.
Whether this path is rocky or golden-smooth is up to you, but here are 12 tips I’ve compiled to help you navigate your way from gal pal to beloved boss.
1. Continue to be yourself. You have received this promotion because your superiors saw something in you, which most likely included natural leadership skills. Now is not the time to prance around the office and send everyone an email saying you will only answer to “Boss Lady” from now on. Yes, you want their respect, but it must be earned. Take your time.
2. Be respectful of the person and work that was done before you. Chances are members of your team worked hard for their old supervisor. Do not criticise decisions and actions that were made prior to your appointment.
3. Gather your team together to discuss the change. Change, either negative or positive, can be unsettling for some people. Define your vision, aligned with the organisation’s goals, and clearly communicate it to your team.
4. Ask for feedback and LISTEN. Converse with the members of your team either individually, in a group or both. You are now their leader. Ask them what they would change if they were in your position. Ask them what would make their job easier or more productive. This is your first opportunity to address them as a leader, but even more importantly, it’s theirs. Really listen and take notes. Do not promise anything if you are not yet sure of your authority, but if it sounds fair and reasonable to you; tell them you’ll explore the option.
5. Treat everyone in your team fairly. You may have built better relationships with some (than others) whilst you were colleagues but you are now the leader. Your role is to lead a team towards the organisation's goals and coach individuals to their best performance. You cannot play favourites.
6. As uncomfortable as it may seem, you will have to set boundaries. You now have new responsibilities and will most likely have to make some tough decisions. There are many ways to set boundaries, and you will need to feel into what is natural and best for you.
7. You won’t be able to please everyone all of the time, so let go of any need to be liked. Don’t say yes to every request or idea unless you are sure you can deliver. Saying yes to something which never appears will not win you any favours.
8. Follow up. If you do receive a request, idea or suggestion from a member of your team that you cannot handle on the spot, get back to them with the answer. If you don’t have the answer within a day or two, let them know you will in due time.
9. Get out of their way. You are no longer in the loop. You have to give your team space to re-bond and re-form with you in your new role. Is it lonely at the top? Sometimes.
10. Learn how to have courageous conversations, with empathy. You'll revel in spreading the good news to your team; increased budget, offering a promotion, telling them lunchtime's pizza is on you! How will you handle the not so positive news? Employee feedback, under-performance, cut hours, redundancies? Courageous, honest, authentic conversations take skill and practice. Empathy can be learned. Be clear. Be kind.
11. Develop your emotional intelligence. All the greatest leaders I've worked for, indirectly or directly, have displayed buckets of emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence has been defined as "the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict". In other words, it's how aware you are of the impact your emotions, words, attitude and actions have on other people. It is also one of the Number 1 skills top organisations now search for when appointing leaders.
12. Level-Up your most valuable asset - YOU. You may have been the most productive employee in your team, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a good leader. Leadership is not something you may have been born with, but it is a skill that can be learned. Ask your friends and (new) peers who are in leadership roles for advice, including actions they regret or learned from. Find a mentor. Hire a professional and qualified coach. Read books. Attend reputable leadership courses.
Janelle Ryan is a Global Personal Coach who helps her clients EXPAND their thinking so they can CREATE whatever it is they wish in their lives; then LEAD and inspire others.
When you are ready to take the next step to expansion, creation and leadership there are a couple of ways we can work together. 1. There are limited places currently available in the BRAND NEW Sky High Coaching Level-Up Your Leadership Lounge. Ongoing group coaching for new and emerging leaders, via Zoom (so you can be anywhere in the world). To find out more about The Leadership Lounge