Being given a leadership role is a reflection of your value to your employer, a testament to your hard work and a sign that you're respected by peers and superiors.
But what happens when you're promoted and your closest work friends are left behind? You could suddenly be overseeing someone who trained you. Or perhaps you bested a buddy in a competition for the promotion. Some of your most important relationships on the job may be threatened by the transition.
In the new book, From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership, co-authors Kevin Eikenberry, who runs the Kevin Eikenberry Group, an Indianapolis-based leadership consulting company, and Guy Harris, a career coach who also works at the Kevin Eikenberry Group, detail how to make the transition with grace.
The book, released in February by Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley Books, highlights some of the biggest concerns on the minds of rookie leaders when they're entering a new position. Here are answers to questions new leaders commonly ask:
How do I make discipline stick with my "friends"?
New leaders are often "freaked out" at the prospect of giving performance evaluations, negative feedback or discipline to their former peers, which, Eikenberry says, might make them go about it the wrong way altogether.
The first thing you should do after you get promoted is to have a "boundary" discussion with your work friends, says Eikenberry. "You need to explain that sometimes, you'll wear the friend hat, but at other times, you're their boss."
The rule of thumb here is to discipline your friends the same way you'd discipline anyone else, but to come at it in a way that shows you're there to help, rather than hurt them. "If someone isn't taking [discipline] seriously, recognize that it might not be any different if it's a friend or not," Eikenberry said. "People get worried about it, but you have a lot of things in your favor in this regard."
When you're reprimanding a friend, you're working with a level of trust you might not have with other staff members. If you ensure from the get-go that you have their best interests at heart, they will understand your intentions are positive and that you're just trying to do your job.
How can I best delegate to my former peers?
Delegating is not about lightening your own workload. Instead of shoveling menial tasks off your plate, give a subordinate an opportunity to learn a new skill, talent or task that will serve as a developmental opportunity.
When it's delegating to a friend, you're in an even better position. "You know their strengths better, and you'll be able to make it clear that you really do have their best interest at heart" when assigning work, says Eikenberry. "You delegate to them the same way you delegate to anyone -- it should be more about the other person than about you."
What am I supposed to say to an employee who says: "Your job should have been mine?"
The worst response to this scenario? Sweeping it under the rug.
"You're much better off talking about it," says Eikenberry. Approach it cautiously but honestly, he advises.
Say something along the lines of: "I understand you're disappointed, I understand you think you are as (qualified), if not more qualified for the job, and I'm not going to try to change your perspective or deny you of any of your relationships, but the reality is, I got the job."
Acknowledging the situation, rather than ignoring it, keeps the problem from taking on a life of its own -- which is when it could begin to disrupt the workplace for everyone involved.
How do I separate my personal relationship with my team from my professional relationship with them?
First things first: You need to distinguish which parts of your relationship with colleagues are personal, and which are professional. When a professional relationship has elements of a personal one, it's important you look at it in a way that's black-and-white -- there's no room for gray area.
"If you previously talked or gossiped about management or someone in the organization or a customer, you're probably not going to engage in conversations about them anymore," says Eikenberry. Regardless of your opinions and how they have (or haven't) changed since your promotion, you need to be the leader in this situation, not the friend, he advises.
Talk with your former peers and explain how things are going to have to change in your relationship, says Eikenberry. You don't want to be perceived as playing favorites, so cutting down on the daily lunches with your work friends and giving all of your staff the opportunity to prove themselves to you will help you develop and keep relationships -- both professional and personal ones.
How do I communicate with my new peers, managers that have been at this longer than me?
There are two types of people in this instance -- the people who think they know more than you, and the people who actually do, Eikenberry says; making this distinction is crucial.
"Being promoted says you have a perspective that's valued, but it doesn't mean you should profess to know all of it -- or that you do," says Eikenberry. He suggests making sure that you recognize what your new peers bring to the table, but explain that any feedback you're giving is only to inject a different perspective.
Write to Kelly Eggers