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Ask the Expert: From Peer to Boss…Help!

Moving up in the organization is an exciting time. Promotions offer more responsibilities, interesting challenges, and often a higher salary. And if you’re on that track, it’s inevitable that your peers may one day be your direct reports … which can be awkward at best, and distractingly uncomfortable at worst. The stakes get even higher with a peer who’s been with the company longer, is several years older than you, or has more technical experience. The discomfort can rise right along with those stakes.

What’s the best way to handle the peer-to-boss transition? Here are four tips that will put your mind at ease and get you off to a strong start.

1. Don’t be too quick to change things. In your previous role, you may have had some strong ideas about how things should or could be different, but you are now sitting in a new seat—give it some time for new information or perspectives to unveil themselves. 

2. Don’t apologize for getting the position. You were selected because you have earned the promotion and others believe you are the right person for the job. You likely worked hard for the recognition of a higher position, and owning that space is part of leadership. It’s not your conversation to apologize. What is your conversation is your optimism and gratitude for continuing to be part of the team in a new capacity.

3. A new manager from outside the organization would take the time to get to know their subordinates. Being promoted from within shouldn’t be any different.  Learn about the person behind each member of the team - what gets them up in the morning to come to work? What gets in the way of performing? How do they see the future? 

4. Spend time with your new boss and other key stakeholders to get crystal clear on the vision of success, both short- and long-term. Be sure that this information is communicated clearly to your team and that they are aligned with what, why, when, and how.