3 Keys for Making a Smooth Transition from Peer to Manager

This week’s Coaching Tuesday post is by Denis Levesque, PCC, CEC.

Group of business people with business woman leader on foregrounThe first step in any leader’s career progression is often the most difficult: moving from the rank and file of a peer group into management. It can be a tough transition for the unprepared. Many first time managers see themselves in a split role: not only as a manager but also continuing as an expert in their former position. It’s an inner struggle that can go on for years.

As you start assuming your new manager identity, it may be easy to slip back into doing the comfortable and familiar work at which you excel. But for the good of your team and your own career progression, you need to focus primarily on your manager role.

Here are three key steps to help new managers make a smooth transition.

Don’t delay—manage

Delaying your transition to a manager or director can be the kiss of death for your career. The longer you are labeled a worker/manager, the more you will be pigeonholed for non-management production assignments. Furthermore, when an opportunity does open up at a higher level, your lack of key management abilities such as vision, budgeting, conflict resolution, delegation, team building, and strategy will be a glaring weakness when compared to other candidates.

Adapt and guide

You may at first be inclined to increase the team’s performance by telling everybody what to do and how to do it, based on your experience. Junior members of the team might appreciate this style, but seasoned experts may reject your directive approach and react with frustration and animosity.

Understanding each team member’s skill set and working within those parameters is vital to your effectiveness as a leader. Along the way, you may coach individuals to consider a different perspective or learn a new skill—this is expected in your role. But as a new manager you must remember that you are primarily responsible for the end result. Guide your talented team—but give them the ability to resolve the how.

Manage performance effectively

Managing people who were peers a few weeks ago would be a challenge for most new leaders. Some will turn into micromanagers and others will ignore poor performance in an attempt to maintain relationships. Neither too much managing, nor too little, is good for building a high performing team—or for your future career. Find the right balance to effectively manage your team’s performance. Leadership coaching in this and other areas can help a great deal with your transition into management.

Don’t Limit Your Potential

New managers struggle with workplace dynamics all the time. These issues are part of your evolution as a leader. Your first promotion into management happens because someone thinks you have leadership potential. Your job is to avoid the common mistakes that can delay your progress as a leader. You will transition into your new role with less difficulty by acquiring new skills that will help you face the future as a confident and coachable new leader.


About the Author

Denis Levesque is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and a Certified Executive Coach (CEC).  Denis is also a member of The Ken Blanchard Companies 130-member coaching network, which has coached over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

About Coaching Tuesday

Coaching Tuesday is a regular weekly feature at Blanchard LeaderChat.  Check back each week for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

4 thoughts on “3 Keys for Making a Smooth Transition from Peer to Manager

  1. So say there are two candidates that are both great for the promotion, and you chose one over the other. How should we go about talking to the candidate that did not get the promotion. What are things that can be done to make sure other employees don’t get angry that they were not promoted for the position.

  2. Bonjour Chelsea! This is such a great question, one which many of us had to deal with at one point in time. As with anything, judgement is key, there are no two identical situations. In these situations there are never quick answers, but I would always be as transparent as possible. If it’s a question of gap in competencies, that may be an easier conversation. Being as specific as possible. If it’s a question of behaviors, obviously this is a delicate subject. If it’s a question of fit, then again, being as articulate as possible would help. If it’s a tossup, well there must be a reason for the decision (you also have to think about the ‘winner’ of the position as she or he might hear about this).

    Having said this, people may be upset no matter what you say, and how well you say it! It may be a great opportunity for a career coaching conversation. There might be opportunities (present or future) in other groups. If this is the case, you could commit to the development of the individual to be the top contender for the job whenever it opens up (knowing you can never promise a job opening that is not there to begin with). The employee may become quite engaged after this conversation due to the energy and faith you are demonstrating to their development.

    You may also consider coaching the ‘winner’ of the position to help this individual with this dynamic, it’s never an easy situation to deal with. I’ve always lead by saying the truth, and the difference in many ways is how it is delivered.

    Not easy!

    Having said this, I would love to open up the conversation to hear what others may have to suggest. What worked for you and what hasn’t worked for you!

    • It seems to me, being a manager and mentor is a smart move for the reason of establishing trust in your employees. When someone is included in on idea or process, it gives them more of a sense of stability and security by having a deeper understanding of what they have to deal with and what to avoid and how to avoid certain aspects of their tasks.
      I have been in situations before when told to do something with no explanations or very little. It seemed mistakes would happen more often that way. This eventually cuts into some part of the company’s profit. But when the whole picture was explained, it became more motivation to get the work done and avoid mistakes knowing someone cares enough to take some time to invest in me.

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