Moving from Mate to Manager Successfully

Internal promotions – learning from others mistakes


A word of caution: it is often difficult to transition from being a mate into a managerial role successfully, and I write this through experience.

In a previous role I started as a manager of two individuals and was soon promoted to become a manager of 30+. Very naively I thought that I could make changes quickly. Some might say (and I’m in complete agreement) that those changes were detrimental to team motivation.

My first task was to make my mark as a manager.  To make a managerial decision that would stand me out from the others.  And it was goal achieved, for all the wrong reasons.
One of the first changes I made was to formalise a lunch hour and get individuals on a rota to cover lunch. I thought that the fact I was friends with some of the 30+ individuals meant that this transition would be seamless – my, was I wrong! The idea was good; the execution was shocking; the outcome was horrendous.

I had created a situation which involved inviting other managers to support it and help with the uproar that I had caused.

Never, ever overestimate peer loyalty when it comes to management. Your mate to manager transition must be carried out with understanding and empathy for the team that you are now managing, and this could mean starting from the beginning again in getting to know them. Strange as this may seem, you are their manager now. There are different dynamics and a different mindset in place for you and, I suspect, for them.

As well as assertively delivering processes and procedures, giving instructions, delegating, telling, etc., you must now deliver communications that your team may not like, without getting caught up in the gossip and whinging.

I would highly recommend that you don’t do as I did and go in with a bull-in-a-china-shop mindset. I made my mark; it was not a good one.

I was unclear of my role and goal.  I didn’t stop to think through what I wanted from my promotion, what the team would like from my promotion and the return on investment for the business. My initial response was to please my manager and this resulted in a knee-jerk response. I didn’t consider the repercussions of my actions. I didn’t consider the impact on my team. All of the above is a big mistake. However, what I can take away from it is, it was one of the best learning moments in my professional career


7 steps for a successful transition

Stop, breathe and ask yourself…


1. What is my goal?

Having a clear understanding of what the goal is will assist you on the actions that you take. If your goal is to turn around an underperforming team then your focus will be on outcomes. If your goal is to use this promotion as a stepping stone to further your career quickly then your focus may very well be on networking. That is not to say that you do not put any focus on outcomes. After all, it is generally the outcomes that you will be judged upon.

2. What is the win for me and the win for the team members?

When looking to engage others a great approach is to not only understand and think about what you would like from the engagement, it is also to consider what the other party would like from the engagement. Never make assumptions when looking to engage others. Confirm their actual wins by asking.

3. How best to deliver this message to the team?

Now you have a clear understanding of what your goal is, what’s in it for you and the other party, now is the best time to consider how to get buy in from the beginning. This will generally help towards success if carried out correctly, and will absolutely lead to failure if carried out incorrectly. Consider for a moment, is it best to deliver the message at a team meeting? Or one to ones? By email? There are many options and choosing the right one is the challenge. Delivering in the team meeting will give you the opportunity to gauge the team response. Delivering in one-to-one meetings will allow individuals to ask questions relevant to them, however, this method can often create a melting pot of gossip.

4. Can I engage the team to assist with defining the goal?

Knowing the direction you want to take your goal is a great start. You don’t have to work out the logistics of this on your own. Often the team has a better understanding of the history and the processes that are in place. Use the knowledge and expertise you have within the team, at the very least it will grow a culture of trust.

5. Can I engage the team to assist with the how (process) we can meet this goal?

Your goal has been defined, now look at your team members. They are possibly better placed to consider what the process should look like for success.

Consider your end position and you’re starting position. Ignoring resource issues, what would be the ideal process? Once you determine the ideal process you can then revert back to fit in with current resources and skill-sets. By understanding the ideal process your team may be able to assist in filling the gap between ideal and reality.

6. Have I considered and authorised the team to use their initiative where change is required?

Having engaged your team through the process, understanding the goals, getting the teams buy-in, it is now time to execute. In an ideal world, your team would be carrying out the majority of the execution. However, let’s be honest we don’t always live in an ideal world and will be times when you as a manager, will need to be heavily involved. However, heavily involved does not mean micromanaging! Be sure to authorise your team to use their initiative when changes are required. This will speed up the process and will instil a culture of trust amongst yourself and the team.

A win-win for everyone.

7. Have I allowed enough time?

When making a mark with internal promotions, be realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I suspect your team will not be firing on all cylinders within the day. Allow for the unexpected, the expected and, of course, the inevitable. A good rule of thumb when goal setting is to add on a 20% buffer. It’s easier to release 20% of your time than trying to find 20% more time. It also bodes well for your reputation and brand when you’re seen to deliver on or before agreed deadlines, rather than being known as someone who is always late.