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Becoming the boss of your teammates

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Ensure your new management position gets off to a good start by separating your roles as manager and friend

If you are taking over a team on which you have been a member, it is likely you may have formed some friendships. Sometimes the friendship predates the working relationship. Either way, it can be hard to separate your role as the boss from your role as friend. But that’s what you have to do.

Why not say this: “I’ve been honoured to be part of this team. Now I’m honoured to be the team manager. We all have existing relationships. Those relationships will change to greater and lesser degrees now that I’m your manager. I take this responsibility seriously. I am committed to being really good at it. I am hoping you will help me.”

Then it’s time for a discussion about how you are going to manage the team. Explain you are going to build a high-substance regular one-on-one dialogue with every direct-report; every day or every other day or once a week, depending on what works best. Then schedule your next team meeting and schedule your first one-on-ones with all of your new direct-reports.

That would be a very strong start indeed.

Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader, and author. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc and RainmakerThinking.Training


Tips on what to do when you become the manager of your friend

● Decide which is more important to you. If the friendship is more important, maybe you shouldn’t be the boss. Accept the fact that your role as the new boss might compromise or damage the friendship. Maybe you’ll decide that you cannot risk your friendship and therefore you don’t want to be the boss. But this is an unlikely course of action.

● Establishing ground rules that keep the roles separate. Say: “Our friendship is very important to me. My job is also very important to me, and around here I am the boss. When we are at work, I need to be the boss. When we are outside work, we try to leave that behind.”

● Be a good manager. Protect the friendship by making sure things go really well at work. Minimise the number of problems, and you will minimise the number of potential conflicts in your personal relationship.

● Accept that the parameters of your friendship have changed. Recognise and embrace the fact that the work you and your friend have in common will become more and more the terrain of your friendship. That’s OK. With any luck, you both find the work you share to be interesting and important.

● Beware of coming on like a ton of bricks. Next to soft-pedalling authority, the most common mistake made by new managers promoted from within the team is coming on too strong. Start out strong, for sure, but also with maturity and balance.

This article is adapted from The 27 Challenges Managers Face (Wiley/Jossey-Bass, 2014)

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