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The responsibility to manage your peers is one of the most difficult encounters in any leader’s career. Suddenly, you have been promoted at work, now you have to manage your peers. Help is at hand – explore 12 tried and tested ways to successfully manage your peers.

12 Ways to Manage Your Peers

By Catherine Adenle

90% of mid-level managers have been promoted to manage their peers at one point or another. With any promotion, there are challenges. The main one is knowing how to successfully manage your peers.

My friend was chuffed when she got a call to confirm that she has been promoted at work. Proudly, she shrieked as she shared the news with me. With a euphoric scream while her eyes sparkled, she yelled, ‘I am now a manager!’ She danced and celebrated her growth in a company that she’s worked in for over a decade. This is a time of jubilation for her – one that builds a sense of increasing and evolving self-worth and value.

My friend sees the promise of a brighter future and I couldn’t be happier for her as we both danced round her plush lounge. Then, suddenly she stopped, panicked and turned to me, ‘Gosh, it’s just occurred to me that I now have to manage my peers in this new role.’ Her demeanour changed, ‘I don’t know if I can manage them,’ she said as she flopped on the nearest couch and looked at me. ‘Help! How do I manage them? Stammering, I asked, ‘Ways to manage your peers?’ Anxiously, she answered back, ‘Yes, are there ways to manage one’s peers successfully?’
Well, my friend’s question got me thinking. So, I decided to blog about the subject.

One of the unparalleled sensations for anyone in the workplace is the realization that their hard work has prevailed through difficult bureaucratic hurdles and an overwhelming impediment to finally be recognized and be given a promotion. However, with any promotion come other challenges.

As a newly promoted manager, the responsibility of managing your peers is one of the most difficult encounters in any leader’s career. All of a sudden, not only has my friend been given various new responsibilities, she also has to lead the group that she’s been a part of for over a decade. Her peers know her and have their own individual perception of how good or bad she is at certain aspects of her work. In addition, suddenly she can’t have the same relationship with her former peers because she has to manage and lead them which makes it a little awkward for both parties.

These are the 12 tried and tested ways to manage your peers:

1. Prepare for leadership transition: First, before you can manage your peers, you have to assume the leadership position. As you prepare to manage your peers, tread lightly to demonstrate your new authority so that you do not damage the relationship that you have built with your former peers.

First, read about being an effective manager. There are tons of books on the subject. Read any two of these most well-known books:

With the information and tools you gather from the books, it’s time for you to assume a leadership role and manage your peers.

2. Assume leadership role and take control: You are now in a position of authority, embrace it with both hands but never abuse it. Meet with your former peers and consider bringing up the fact that the situation is awkward for you and for them. Then, proceed and explain what the expectations are and finish off by asking for their support and pledge your own support to them.
As should be expected, the dynamics will change. Don’t expect to be liked by everyone; it is one of the prices you will pay as leadership.

3. Identify your goals and that of your peers: To manage your peers successfully, you must know exactly what your measured goals are in the new role? Do you have targets your peers must meet? What sort of productivity is expected from your peers? Write down everything and then craft the communication that will help you to disseminate the information to your new team of former peers. Undoubtedly, your goal will change over time; it is important that you stress this when you meet with your peers. Some things may stay the same but other things may change depending on the strategies cascaded down to you from upper management. Review your goals with your peers frequently and revise as necessary.

4. Be present and visible: You cannot manage your peers by isolating yourself. You must not be a leader that isolates himself or herself from the team. However, be warned that the initial workload for you will seem overpowering and it’s easy to want to stay away in your office to keep up with the work but do not. Let your team of former peers see you, their new leader so that there is reassurance. Even if you’re managing some of your peers remotely, you still need to make sure that they feel your presence.

5. Be prepared to motivate and engage: In order to manage your peers to succeed, you have to get them engaged so that they are motivated. People get engaged and motivated by different things. As a manager, you have to find ways to motivate your team, so that they do their work well with enthusiasm. Arrange one on one face to face meeting with each former peer and use the sessions to find out what motivates them and use that feedback to improve their contribution to the team and to develop them.

See 5 Easiest Ways to Develop Your Staff

6. Know your team: Although you already know your former peers, you’re going to be a bit out of touch now that you are their manager, you must realize that. The only way to keep track of issues that affect their performance is to encourage them during both ad hoc and planned discussions, and always listen to them.
Moreover, you need to know how to make use of their individual strengths and help to manage their weaknesses. Further knowledge of their attributes will help you to balance the productivity of your team and the attributes in your team. You may also use your individual one on one meeting to find out each person’s strengths and areas of improvement.

“If you take a typical group of mid-level executives and ask if they’ve ever been promoted to lead their peers, 90% of them will say yes.” – Michael Watkins, Chairman Genesis Advisers , author of The First 90 Days and Your Next Move.

7. Regular meetings and updates: When you manage your peers, regular one-on-one meetings are critical to good teamwork and team management. These meetings have several key purposes.
They allow you to give feedback on work in progress, job performance and regular updates: Discuss what went well, areas they might improve next time and how improvements might be attained. Outline action points for the next meeting to each staff as these will form the basis for the next meeting agenda.

8. Remember, you don’t know it all, so ask for your peers’ ideas: Although you may have just been promoted, that does not mean you it all. Your peers want to feel engaged under your leadership. As proven by various researches, the number one motivating factor behind people leaving a job is poor management and that stems from feeling ignored. Remember that when your superiors check your record as a manager of people, you will be scored not only on your team’s performance but also on your staff attrition rate.

What Makes a Good Manager?

9. Match tasks with strengths and make individuals responsible: Use the information you gleaned from the above steps to match people with work. This is termed a skill-based work assignment. You want to play into each person’s strengths and minimize work assignments that would target his or her weaknesses. If you have the opportunity, put people together that have complementary skill sets.

See Managing Your Previous Peers (Infographic) by Hemsley Fraser.

Managing Your Previous Peers

10. Communication is key: As the people you will manage used to be your peers, make no mistake, this will cause resentment or possibly envy and friction from a few of them. Never mind, you cannot prevent this from happening but if you keep the lines of communication open it will lessen issues. Although you don’t want to flaunt your new management role, regardless, you can’t let your former peers take advantage of your previous relationship with them. Remember that even if they are not your peers, having a new manager is always a tad distressing for everyone. Communicate with your former peers and let them know your plans. Establish an ongoing manager and staff relationship early. Do this by following the steps outlined in this article, be yourself and be genuine.

11. You need a mentor: This is when you should seek out an experienced mentor who can coach you to manage your peers effectively. Find another manager with lots of experience and ask the manager to help you transition by coaching and mentoring you. Set up a re-occurring meeting with your mentor and be proactive at managing the relationship. This will gain you considerable esteem and boost your confidence in the new role.

See Need to Soar? Get a Mentor

12. Join a good leadership networking group: There are lots of leadership groups and courses available online that can give you the tools you need to manage your peers. Through any of these groups, you can connect with thought leaders, learn best practice and have access to tons of tools and information. There, you can ask experienced managers and executives about how they deal with complicated leadership issues.

See Become a Superstar Networker: See 8 Tips

Managing your peers can be daunting and be a bittersweet experience. However, as a manager, the focus and goals of the organisation must trump any personal team buddy history that exists between you and your peers. If you work in a positive environment, your former peers will be excited about the opportunity you have and will be willing to support you in your new position.

For further information on how to manage your peers, see Amy Gallo’s brilliant piece for the Harvard Business Review on How to Manage Your Former Peers

Now that you have explored ways to manage your peers, are there any other ways to add? Let’s hear from you, leave your comment below.

Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle
Catherine Adenle

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