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From peer to boss

Mar

15

2010

From peer to boss

You’ve done it. You’ve received the big promotion and will now lead your department. So, how do you handle the transition from being a peer to being the boss?

Scott Eblin summarized a New York Times article on Ursula Burns’ transition to CEO at Xerox. Paraphrased, here are the main points Scott draws from the Xerox experience:

Call it out. Be up front about your agenda, priorities and what should happen next.

Go one on one. Talk directly with the former peers who aren’t on board and create a plan to make it work.

Remember that it’s different. Comments you could make as a peer are interpreted very differently when you’re the boss.

Based on our experience with peer-to-boss transitions, we offer the following additional tips:

Address the interpersonal and social aspects. While you may not be able to hang out and yuck it up at happy hour in the same way now that you’re the boss, don’t just stop showing up. Talk with your people about what you’ll be doing and not doing and why.

Understand that some relationships will change. Your closest ally as a peer may not play the same role when you’re the boss. In fact, some people may be angry, particularly if they wanted the job as well. Be patient, and realize that you must build connections with former peers based on a whole new dynamic.

Do your new job, not your old job. It might be tempting to delve into the details and try to stay as connected with your old role as you once were. Figure out what you need to  know to do your current job well. Stay out of the other day-to-day particulars that were part of your former job.

Remember that you don’t know it all. Even though you’ve moved up the ladder, maintain your humility and eagerness to gain new knowledge and skills. In particular, be willing to learn from your past peers, whose contributions are critical to your team’s and organization’s success. Seek feedback about your performance in your new role, graciously accept that feedback as the gift that it is, and act upon it.

Make expectations crystal clear. Former best buddy or not, the job needs to get done. Articulate what is expected, how people will be held accountable and what role you’ll play in supporting everyone’s success.

Keep the lines of communication open. Beyond your initial “I’m-the-boss-now” conversation, check in with people regularly to gauge how the transition is going, what issues they’re facing and how you can feed their strengths and optimize performance.

As in any transition, good planning and skillful execution are required. Even with best transitions, expect some bumps in the road. The payoff will be that while your relationships may change, you’ll achieve your goals – moving the team and the organization towards high performance and amazing results.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!

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Comments (2)

  1. Great post and very timely for me personally. Thanks for the opportunity to get some helpful insights.

  2. Hi. Circumstances alter cases. However, A new leader should talk to people at all levels first before indicating the direction they wish to take. Even if one has worked in the organisation, it is often surprising what people will tell you in the new relationship. Personal style issues can be put forward upfront so that people understand where the leader is coming from. It is wise not to take too long in indicating the direction the leader wishes to take but people will value the opportunity to have their views heard.

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