Managing former peers can be a tough situation for any manager. If this is also your first managerial experience then it is probably going to be even tougher. There may be skepticism about your ability to lead because you have no track record to show as a manager and for the same reason you might also feel a little insecure and intimated by the task ahead of you. On top of that you might now be managing people who have applied for that same job and are now disappointed or even bitter about it, which adds another layer of complexity to the situation.
So, how to deal with all this?
Individual meetings to personalize the message
Because you are now managing your peers you are already familiar with the company, the product offered or the services provided and what the team does. So, because you don’t have to worry about learning all that, your primary focus at the beginning can be on establishing new and solid dynamics with your team.
In your initial 1 on 1 conversations with the different members of the team, clarify expectations and encourage them to let you know what they feel they need support with and what their aspirations for the future are.
If you know that some of the members of your team have also applied for the same role as you did, then you can safely assume that they will be disappointed. While you can only hope that everyone takes ‘bad news’ graciously, reality is that some of the disappointed competitors might show some resistance, at least in the beginning. The initial conversation may even be unpleasant, so let them know that you do understand their disappointment, that you value them as an important part of the team and that you will support them and enable them to succeed.
A team meeting to discuss the purpose of the team and your vision
This can occur in the office or off-site. An off-site location will ensure fewer distractions and more focus as well as a bonding opportunity if you plan an activity at the end of the day.
In this meeting it is important to discuss and get consensus on the purpose of team, to share your vision for the future and clarify how you expect the team to operate. For instance if you want people to talk to each other instead of sending e-mails to the person sitting next to them or if you value openness, this is a good time to let the team know.
The purpose of the team should hopefully be clear already, however if still unclear for some this is a great opportunity to redefine and align everyone in the team towards common objectives.
In sharing your vision for the future you might not necessarily want to start a revolution in your first week as a manager but focus on and highlight those aspects you want to keep and which new aspects you would like to introduce.
Recurring meetings to stay aligned and monitor progress towards goals
Agree on a meeting cadence and set-up recurring meetings. What are the different situations that require you to come together as a team? How often and when will you meet and what is the objective of each recurring meeting?
A Business Plan review can occur on a quarterly basis, while operational or project updates might need to be reviewed as a team and addressed weekly. Depending on the situation you can even decide to have a morning huddle of a few minutes to discuss priorities and assign tasks for the day. The important thing is that a meeting serves the right purpose and that the right business decisions can be made.
Have therefore clear in your mind what you want to get out of the different meetings and be prepared to clearly articulate why it is important to have these meetings.
Ask for and provide feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. You are new and you are not expected to have all the answers but you can learn a lot if you ask for and listen to honest feedback on a regular basis.
If you are true about getting honest feedback then you can offer your team to provide feedback about you to your manager. Your manager will then channel the feedback back to you anonymously.
Equally important to receiving feedback is giving feedback to your team. Remember, you have been selected as the best candidate for this role and providing feedback is definitely part of your role as a manager. It is important that you timely address situations that could otherwise become bigger issues and in doing so you also allow your team to grow.
Feedback can be given in individual dedicated conversations or for instance at the end of a presentation that one of your team members gave. The important thing is to give feedback, allow the other person to react and agree on concrete next steps.
Managing former peers is not an easy task for anyone but if you follow these steps you are setting yourself and your team up for success.