BY ROWENA CROSBIE, president, Tero International

Do you know who you are as a leader? The changes we experienced in 2020 continue as we regroup and recalibrate where we work and how we work from 2021 onward. Changes in staff assignments and reorgs will dominate as we work our way out of the pandemic. Why is it important to know who you are as a leader?

It does pose some interpersonal problems when we go from peer to manager — especially if that means managing our former peers. How can you handle it gracefully?

How many new leaders will find themselves in new reporting relationships, managing former peers? An HBR article by Amy Gallo says that if you take a typical group of executives and ask if they were promoted to lead their peers, 90% will say yes, according to Michael Watkins, author of “The First 90 Days.”

If you find yourself in this category of manager, clarity on how best to transition will require your thought and consideration. Like everything else, it is best to get ahead of change if possible. Here are three tips for the new manager who now has former peers and friends reporting to them.

  • Remember leadership is about developing others. You know your peers, what they are good at and what their challenges are. Use this knowledge to set them on the road to success. Discussing their strengths and what they have to contribute can dissuade the idea they are left behind as you rise in your responsibilities. Acknowledging what they bring to the team and organization can help you find the best tasks and responsibilities to showcase their skills. Realizing the areas where they lack and upskilling them to compensate in these areas is an advantage to them.
  • Don’t be put off if things feel strange. They will. Remember one of the best tools leaders have is open-ended questions. Use them. Ask your former peers open-ended questions to garner how they feel about the new situation. People like to be heard. You, now in a position of authority, need to listen and communicate that what people think and how they feel is important to you. Don’t let your new position be the “elephant in the room.”
  • Your relationship with your new direct reports is two-way. They have a responsibility to it as much as you do. A leader cannot do it all; it takes cooperation and collaboration. If after attempting to develop and listen to your former peers your being the leader still doesn’t feel right to them, face it. The conversation might then need to turn to why and to explore if they would be more content to find a different opportunity elsewhere.
rowena_outsideRowena Crosbie View Bio