Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Movin' Up

The great reward for all your years of hard work and talent is the eventual promotion to manager.

For some folks, that means managing their peers. Can y'all say ugh?

This has happened to me and from experience it is not an easy road to navigate. People who were your buddies, who lunched with you, who listened to your boss-griping are now your subordinates. Kinda awkward.

I recently coached a group of new managers, a few of whom are now managing former co-workers. These are the four tips I shared:

1. Establish a safe distance.
You definitely don't want to snub your past co-workers, but you must establish some managerial distance however major or minor you need it to be. Think of it this way, you can no longer gossip with these folks. You can no longer bitch about the company. You can't laugh as they snake office supplies or ignore their spent hours online shopping. Yes, you can still grab lunch together but maybe now not every day. Your allegiance shifted when you became a manager, you are now a representative of the company more so than a worker bee. Just a bit of social space will serve you well, especially when tough issues come up - like layoffs.

2. Firing always sucks.
There is no way around feeling like shit when you have to lay off or fire a past co-worker. It feels bad. It will always feel bad. No two ways around it. Accept that and then do the best you can when faced with reducing staff. My trick is to cut their head off. Not literally :), but mentally. It works for me if I look at them as a headless worker that may require removal from the company for whatever reason. When their head isn't attached (in my mental picture), I can be less personal and more objective about the business decisions that need to be made. May sound harsh, but this remedy came about after crying alongside folks I had laid off because I felt so bad about doing it. Boss crying = not good.

3. Be consistent.
Most people want to know what to expect from a manager. Being consistent in your methods, your style, your conversations is a good thing. Yelling one minute, coaching another is the kind of psychotic manager stuff that leads good people to quit.

4. Be you.
Authenticity reigns. I manage people with the same style I do most everything else in life. Straight-forward, to the point and quick with a dose of teaching and mentoring. Staying true to my human nature helps to make the relationships with my employees more real and easier to maintain. I am not faking anything. And you know they can see right through any behaviors that don't seem like "my style." Your style may be a whole different collection of adjectives, but the goal is the same: be you.

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