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Making the transition from teammate to manager can be fraught with pitfalls, but not if you go in with your eyes open.

There is a wealth of information and advice out there for new managers, though it can be harder to find solid guidance for those making the transition into an internal management role.

While there’s much crossover, Google returns just 1% of the amount of search results for transitioning managers compared to a search for new managers. Organisations that provide good support do so in the form of structured development, mentoring and progress reviews, but all too often managers making ‘the leap’ are left to fend for themselves.

It’s a time of great change, both for the manager and their new team. Here are some practical steps you can take in the early days that can have a huge impact longer term.

Start as you mean to go on

Firstly, understand that the people who were previously your peers will see you differently and they will be waiting for you to make your first move, so consider it carefully. Don’t make any rash decisions or changes and instead sit down with each of the team individually. Talk openly about the change that has happened, ask them how they feel about it and explain that you’re going to need their help to get the team to where they need to get to. Discuss and agree expectations of each other; what do they need from you and vice versa. Get to know their strengths and consider how these could be leveraged (if they’re not already).

Be a role model

It’s just as important for you to have a natural relationship with the team but there is now the added element of professionalism (not that when we’re teammates we don’t need to be professional of course). Not having a clear professional divide with the team just muddies the waters when the time comes – and it will come – for making tough decisions, managing poor performance or giving difficult feedback. Have fun with the team and don’t underestimate the value of spending time together outside of work, but always keep in mind that you are their manager and leader. It’s now down to you to be the role model, rather than risk your inappropriate behaviour being used as a defence when you come to address theirs.

Identify your quick wins

Try and get a couple of quick wins under your belt to show that you are on the same side and fighting their corner. As a teammate you had a unique insight into the wants and needs of the team; what winds them up, frustrates them, drives them crazy? It might be something as simple as introducing some flexibility into the routine or more complex like making a commitment to change a convoluted process or procedure that ties the team up in knots.

Create your reason for being

Make sure that as a team, you have a common goal and purpose. What is your raison d’être; your reason for existing and spending more time together than you each probably do with friends and family? Get the team involved in identifying this so that you create something you can all commit to. Once you know where you’re going as a team, keep checking against this to review progress and provide enough development for you and the team to help your vision become a reality.

Author: Chris Mooney, Co-founder, Right Trax Training,| [email protected]
Right Trax Training works with managers and their teams to help them interact and communicate more effectively, giving people the skills and mindset they need to better deal with change and conflict and lead effectively.

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