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The ultimate 15-point road map to guide you into a new manager position

From seeking support to understanding team challenges, these strategies will equip you to build a thriving team and become a new manager your former peers will respect and admire.

The ultimate 15-point road map to guide you into a new manager position
[Source photo: Matheus Natan/Pexels]

So you’ve excelled as an individual contributor, and now it’s time to level up. The exciting (and sometimes daunting) leap from peer to a new manager position requires a strategic shift in how you approach your team. Get ready to explore 15 key steps to keep your team on board and relationships thriving as you enter your new manager role. From seeking support to understanding team challenges, these strategies will equip you to build a thriving team and become a manager your former peers will respect and admire.


One key step to transition smoothly from being a peer to a manager is to invoke your curiosity. Get curious. Venture out on a listening tour. Talk to people. Ask what’s working for them, what’s not working for them, what they need to be successful in their role, and how you can best support them. Ask what key changes would be most helpful to them or the team.

Maintain positive relationships by letting people know that you are listening and learning. If people feel seen and heard, they are much more likely to buy into what comes next with you as their manager.

Being a manager is tricky business, and I strongly suggest managers don’t “go it alone.” Get into a training and support program. Get empowered to be the best boss possible.

Kate Walker, founder and CEO, Kate Walker Consulting, INC


A year ago, I transitioned from being a peer to a manager within my team. I believe what helped me in this situation was to embrace empathy and try to understand how my peers would feel. I met with my new direct report and former peer, and she shared that she was excited about the change, but I still chose to tread cautiously, in case of any hidden feelings.

I shared my vision for the team, how we will work together, and that I will be a very supportive role in their careers. I choose to empower my team so they will own their work and get things done exceptionally, then create spaces for them to showcase their work to teammates and leadership.

Danielle Bailey, senior manager and talent acquisition, Altria


One key step to ensure a smooth transition from being a peer to a manager within a team is consistency. The preparation for a leadership position does not start on promotion day. Leaders need to prepare well before in meetings with colleagues, on work trips, on assignments, and at industry conferences. Good leaders have respect for their colleagues, lead projects to a conclusion, and set an example for others. They don’t conceal their aspirations.

If one changes when promoted, it is too late, and relationships could be at risk. When I sought a leadership role earlier in my career, I began to take on the role of the leader. I took the initiative to schedule meetings, hold colleagues accountable, and encourage them when needed—actions all managers do. Once I received the promotion, I continued those behaviors, and my peers, now directs, accepted my promotion, and we continued to have positive interactions and relationships.

Andrew Lee, HR Director, Raytheon


Human beings are very sensitive to status changes because we’re always seeking how to gain social capital within our groups. So, when someone from our peer group moves up, it can feel like a threat to our social status, and envy and resentment are a couple of the powerful emotions that arise from this new “threat.”

I find that providing clear insights into what’s in it for them is the best way to frame the transition and move the experience from threatening to motivating.

When I faced a new promotion, I felt a bit intimidated by the thought of how my likeability would “transfer” within the group because of this natural human sensitivity to status change.

I asked myself, “How can I help them see the good in this and be happy for me?”

So, I dedicated time to crafting a message to each person describing how I planned to use my new role to positively impact their career goals and how I would help advocate for their growth within the company. Then, I followed each note up with a simple action to prove my commitment to my intentions. Being real about my intentions to be an advocate and leader for my peers has helped me to keep and even strengthen my relationships at work.

Ivanna Casado, wellness executive coach, Your Go-To Coach


As I transitioned from being a peer to a manager, I gave myself permission to be truly candid about the experience I was having. While I was excited about the new opportunity, I was also very scared! Rather than try to hide this, I made it explicitly known.

I led with vulnerability, trust, and respect. While a number of moments and conversations that followed were pretty uncomfortable, they were some of the most meaningful opportunities to learn and grow—for all of us.

Marc Dickstein, leadership and career coach, Plus Marc


One key step I took to transition smoothly from being a peer to a manager within my team was to involve team members in creating small projects aimed at achieving organizational goals. This approach helped keep the team engaged and demonstrated my acceptance of their expertise and value.

To maintain positive relationships during this change, I ensured that team members felt empowered to contribute ideas and solutions. I encouraged them to take ownership of their projects while providing guidance and support as needed. This collaborative approach allowed team members to adjust to the new dynamic where their former peer now held a managerial role.

By fostering a sense of ownership and autonomy among team members, I facilitated a smooth transition while emphasizing mutual respect and trust. This approach not only strengthened our working relationships but also contributed to achieving our organizational objectives effectively.

Nageen Riffat, leadership development and training specialist, Nyn’s Dreams


I went through the switch from a team member to a manager almost 10 years ago for the first time. It was very challenging—more challenging than I expected. My problem wasn’t that my colleagues were jealous or that our relationships shifted negatively. I had the exact opposite problem! Suddenly, I had to command my friends. And they didn’t take it seriously. Most of them were extremely supportive, congratulating me, and celebrating with me, but when it came to getting the job done, some pressure was off their backs.

Or at least they believed so. At first, they were working as always: following daily schedules, completing tasks, and communicating well. But from week to week, I could see their efficiency depleting. It started with details. Some of them would stop coming to team meetings, giving me personal excuses they would have never used with our previous manager. Some of them would come in to work late or leave early. It started with two to three people, but over the course of a month, it transferred to the whole team, like the flu.

After a month, the majority of my team wasn’t focusing at work at all. They were taking almost two-hour-long lunch breaks, would go out for a cigarette break every 30 minutes, and have a coffee break chat for 40 minutes every other day. We weren’t delivering as a team. Until I put an end to it. In one week, I noted down how much time each of them had wasted over the week on too long and additional breaks, being late, or leaving early. It amounted to a sum that was unacceptable.

Each of them was almost missing a whole day of work each week. I left the printed summaries of my calculations for each person on their desks, and I called them in for a meeting. I told them that they had a month for correction, or I would have to find new, more efficient workers. They were shocked but mostly very humble.

Needless to say, my problem disappeared within a week. I have to say that thanks to explaining my point of view and gathering an actual summary of how much time we were losing, my team trusted me and felt responsible for their work again. We reached an understanding—I was no longer their friend in a sense. And they couldn’t be over-relaxed around me anymore. But they did respect me, and they did enjoy working with me.

Friendship was replaced with respect and a sense of authority. The most important part of switching from being a peer to being a manager is to set up very straight boundaries of what you are going to tolerate.

Martin Kanaan, head of Marketing and Business Development, Makolab


In order to successfully manage the transition from peer to manager, it is critical that you take the time to self-reflect and understand your own blind spots in the relationship with your peers.

Take inventory of the different relationships you have across the organization, and honestly assess if those relationships will be impacted by the change in role. Ask yourself if you’ve set proper boundaries even before taking on a management role, and if not, you may need to be honest with yourself—and those coworkers—about having to build or reestablish boundaries in order to successfully manage the transition to a management role.

Also, rely on the resources you have in the organization to understand how others perceive the shift into management may alter your relationships. Avail yourself of feedback from your managers to hear how they think you may need to adjust to successfully manage the transition. Engage with them on actionable items you can take to make sure that the promotion is effective and productive and doesn’t impact company morale.

And finally, realize you cannot please everyone. There will be people who struggle with the change in role and relationship, and ultimately, if you’ve done everything you can to maintain professionalism and manage the transition, you can’t let others’ impressions or lack of acceptance affect your performance in your new role.

Eric Mochnacz, director of operations, Red Clover


First things first: It is vital to really get to know your people. Set one-on-ones with everyone on your team within the first week to understand what’s important to them, and what their goals and motivations are. Level-set on expectations related to how they want to be coached.

Through this process, you should also be cognizant as to where your individuals stand amongst their peers. You can categorize your reps based on historical performance and their potential upside. This helps new managers better understand their team and who to spend their time with. How you communicate to the team as a whole, and how you communicate to individual reps, is important for any manager.

You should be focused on communicating in a way that all people understand, rather than just the style that comes most naturally to you. People also learn and retain information very differently; that is something you should dig in on during your one-on-one conversations. Focus on the “why,” “how,” “who,” and “what” in communication.

Scott Leese, founder, Scott Leese Consulting


I addressed the elephant in the room head-on, that I am a new manager. Not that I am “their manager,” rather, that I am a “new manager.” And being new means I would bring energy, enthusiasm, and a desire to support them.

It also meant I might make some mistakes along the way, and that I would love the feedback, so I can continue to grow as well.

Through these conversations with the team and in one-on-one meetings, I set the tone for everyone as we all had to make some adjustments. Leading with vulnerability helps set the culture; people will buy into your leadership and trust you.

Richard Harris, founder, The Harris Consulting Group


There were three times in my career when I was promoted and found myself now leading my teammates. In these circumstances, weak leaders will overly assert themselves in the work of their now direct reports. All this does is create distance and mistrust right out of the gate. Some managers will engage their now direct reports to get their ideas. This is never a bad idea, but it doesn’t set a strong new course for the team.

In my experience, I found conversations and debates about areas of disagreement to be hugely productive. By putting disagreement on the table, a manager and direct report who used to be peers can now clear the air of some old battle scars, find moments of agreement that set a new course, and get into the details of how people THINK. This is the critical part—engage in thinking together as it always garners respect and inclusion, even if it’s uncomfortable at times.

David Gunn, founder and president, The David Gunn Group


This transition from a peer to a manager of my team came at a critical time in my career. I not only went through the transition of becoming the leader of my peers, but it was also the first time that I had ever led a team. This change was so much bigger for me because I had to shift the paradigm in my head to get things done through others, instead of doing them myself.

I knew I needed to set the tone as a leader of this team from the beginning so they could respect me in this new role. I wanted them to trust me as their leader versus being their peer and friend. I thought about how I would want someone to handle the situation if the roles were reversed. I decided that I would want that person to acknowledge that this change had happened and discuss it, not just sweep it under the carpet.

As I met with each team member about the transition, I was transparent and honest with them. I told them that I was excited about this new role, but I would need their help so that we could all succeed as a team. I asked them what their concerns were so that we could discuss how to work through them to move forward. I also asked them what they needed from me to succeed in their role. I listened and focused on them so they would feel heard. From that moment forward, I made sure that my words and actions matched. I delivered on what I said I would and helped them to succeed wherever I could.

The decision to be transparent and honest during that transition served me well and became the model I followed throughout every other leadership change that I had in my career. These experiences that I went through and the lessons I learned are what I now share with leaders as I coach and mentor them through their own transitions.

Susan M. Barber, president, Susan M Barber Coaching & Consulting, LLC


The transition from peer to manager starts well before it ever happens, and this is something many first-time managers or directors miss. If you have leadership aspirations, you need to start thinking, acting, and executing as a leader long before the promotion happens. In fact, by the time it does happen, it should be very anticlimactic because your peers not only know it should happen, but they want it to happen.

So before it happens, you should be helping those around you improve, you should be proactively solving problems/removing roadblocks, and you should be helping create the systems and processes needed to succeed.

Because if you do all that before the transition, the transition is easy. If you wait to lead until you actually have the title, you’re too late. This also means holding yourself to a higher standard. Avoid the rep gossip. Avoid negatively speaking about leadership/company, because otherwise, you have no credibility when you step into leadership.

Kevin Dorsey, chief revenue officer, Sales Leadership Accelerator


When I first transitioned from sales rep to sales manager, I was scared. Now my peers were my employees.

But then I started learning “servant leadership” and had a clearer vision of transitioning into this new role.

When you’re in an individual-contributor role, you think mostly of yourself; your needs, and your goals.

The servant leader thinks mostly of their team members.

If you can become a servant leader, your team will trust and respect you, which in turn will help you attract more high-quality employees, which will allow you to hit your goals.

Kevin Gaither, CRO and founder, Inside Sales Expert


One key step I took to transition from being a peer to a manager within the team was spending the first 30 days seeking to understand the exact challenges, frustrations, and desires of each person on the team. This was a combination of discussions in a one-on-one setting and also team discussions.

The goal was to establish trust and also to identify what the common problems were and the potential root causes. This allowed me to ensure each person had a voice and felt respected, and heard in the transition, which created psychological safety.

In addition to that, this helped me formulate an accurate and effective strategy based on the data and feedback I gathered to make the right long-term changes or shifts after the 30 days. And because the team was involved in the process of providing feedback and ideas, the buy-in and adoption of the plans were much easier as a result.

Marcus Chan, president, Venli Consulting Group LLC

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