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  • Transitioning From Buddy To Boss

    By Monica Wofford - October 29, 2014

    You’ve worked hard. You’ve stayed late. You’ve been a team leader. And, finally, you’ve gotten that promotion. Now what? Build that team, train those new hires, push all the papers, and create great results. It’s significantly different than the job you used to do.

    Your job is now about them and no longer all about you.

    Now their issues are yours and they make requests that you not only don’t know how to handle, but might drive you crazy. You’re now the boss instead of their buddy. You’re supervision, not staff. You’re their partner, no longer their peer, and some now say you create fear.

    Promotions create a number of changes and when the roles are new, people will shift how they view you. It happens fast and you might have less time than you think. Opinions about you have formed by the time you’ve moved your desk.

    The key is to smoothly transition and do it with speed, preventing a strong drop in results they achieve. But, how do you do it? Here are five fast ways to transition, you and the team, so that you both still succeed.


    Clarify Your Role and Theirs

    When a role changes, some people get stuck. They either cling to the way it was or fail to see the new reality. Both managers and employees can get stuck and your goal is to avoid staying there by getting clear.

    Ask your boss for clarity on what your new role means. What do you do exactly? What does develop the team mean? Whose performance are you responsible for measuring, maintaining and improving? What are you to manage and what area should you leave alone? You might not get all the answers you need, but even half of this data is more than enough clarity to succeed.

    Do the same for those you lead. Share with them the details of your new role. Tell them which elements of your old job you no longer do and what it is they can expect of you. Will you be around more or less? Will you now write their reviews? How will you share good news and bad and what you will do if their performance is bad?

    Your goal is to let them know how things have changed and how things have remained the same. If you want to move ahead quickly, provide abundant clarity to each direct report staff member.


    Set Clear Expectations

    All is not quite smooth sailing ahead, even with clear roles for you and for them. Your next step is to share expectations of not what, but how, they do their job and to get those same expectations from your own boss.

    In the absence of clear expectations a new manager with a strong personality will pave their own way, no matter what the boss might say.

    You now have two internal customers: those to whom you report and those who report to you. What do you expect of them and what do they expect of you? You want to know what your bosses need and so do those you lead. So tell them and ask. Start with your boss and share questions about priorities, timelines, confusion and conflict. What do you do when you disagree with their direction? Is that allowed? Will you allow it from others? Does it depend and if so, when?

    Those who report to you likely want to do a good job, but you have to show or tell them what that looks like and give them guidelines. Give them a model. Give them examples. Show them where the pitfalls are and as if they were driving, show them what happens when they stop or change lanes in their “performance car.”

    Some will seek your approval for every small thing. Some will simply want to please. Some just need to know how far they can go before they are off that proverbial road. In all cases, without clear expectations, any person doing any kind of job will do and in most cases, you know that’s just not true. How do they need to do their job and what happens when they do or do not do as you expect?


    Align Expectations with Employees

    You now have a team and you’ve clarified what they do and what you need, but have you shared it in a language they understand? This is where your ability to use emotional intelligence will come in handy. Unlike what it might show on your budget, with numbers more than names, employees are people, too. So are managers, for that matter. People have their own personality, tendencies and needs. For high levels of performance and supersonic transition speed, you want to lead in the way they need. That takes looking at who they are versus just how you lead them.

    One easy way to gather this type of data is to assess the team using a profile tool. It can be quick and easy and free such as this one at CORESnapshot. It can be assessed with a DISC type of profile, a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), or many other tools. The tool is not as important as the data and your goal is not to label, but uncover authenticity so you can more effectively engage them.

    Are you expecting a laid back, easy-going person who needs your direction to demonstrate high initiative at every turn? Are you expecting your most engaging, dramatic sales person to be more introverted? Misaligned expectations can create difficult people and they won’t make your job easier at all. Find out now, who they are and how they do things naturally and then align your expectations with who you’re actually leading.


    Hire for Attitude and Teach Skill

    Upon assessing who they are and what they need, a critical skill missing from the team might appear. Yet, in your transition time, there is powerful advice to be heeded. Assess closely. Then, assess again. Observe what they do well and where they struggle. Ask what they love and consider if the expectations and needs you have are something they can ever learn. If the answer is no, then it might be time they go.

    With the full support of your human resources team, seek that missing role for the team. Use the same clarity you shared early on and apply it to the ideal person you’d like to bring on.

    Look more for right attitude and personality than experience or skill. Skills are easy to teach; attitude is much more difficult. Skills can be learned quickly. The attitude will impact the team and can lift them up or shut their performance down in a heartbeat.

    Look for a fit on the team you already have and avoid hiring your first one too fast. Consider promoting from within and at all times keep communicating with the team that already exists. They need to know what you’re doing and why or they’ll make up some stories about how you really just didn’t like “the fired guy.”


    Keep Your Shirt On

    While moving at super-sonic speed; while assessing what all the team needs; while sharing what you expect and need; and while clarifying all roles, the truth remains that some will just need time to adjust. Not all employees will embrace your new role and that’s okay. Not all employees will jump in to produce faster at first and that’s okay.

    Not all leaders exercise patience with employee acceptance and try to rush them through the change process. That’s a problem. Parts of the transition will naturally happen fast and you want to stay a step ahead, but just as with your expectations, you also want to align your pace with that of those to be led.

    Your transition isn’t a race. Small conversations held daily in the first few weeks will slow their tendency to assume things. Gentle reminders that your job is different will prevent resentment when you can’t join happy hour. A kind word about how you value their patience as things change will increase their curiosity about what exactly that means. And while “keeping your shirt on” is certainly good advice for HR, it is meant to share with you a reminder to also be patient, with you and with them, while being efficient in your transition.

    Your transition from buddy to boss can be a simple one, done at a pace that works for all. Follow these five steps and remember your new role has leadership of others as its number one goal. NPT

    Monica Wofford, CSP is CEO of Contagious Companies, Inc., a leadership training and consulting firm in Orlando, Fla. Her latest book is Make Difficult People Disappear. Go to to learn more.

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