Managing Change And Transition When You've Been Promoted
You’ve been promoted! Congratulations! Hard work and focus has paid off, and now you’re in your first leadership role. It truly is something to be proud of.
A lot of people want to be promoted. They want the recognition that they’ve done a good job. But a lot of challenges surface in a new leadership role.
Leading people is different from leading projects. It taps into different aspects of your capabilities. The changes are also a little more subtle. Expectations from all levels in the company will be different, as will what will be considered acceptable behavior. Relationships will be different. And no one gives you a playbook about what to expect.
A Transition Model
A good way to think of transition is through the prism of William Bridges’ Transition Model. It’s made up of three parts:
1. Accept that the status quo has changed and say goodbye to what was.
2. Expect discomfort and accept that when you start the change there will be many questions, but few answers. Understand that this is a temporary situation. It’s a period of time when you are going to be tested. Reflect, be flexible and move forward despite the uncertainty.
3. Revere the past and welcome the new.
It can be helpful to mark the end of the old chapter with some sort of ritual. Ritual helps you understand that a shift has taken place. It could be simple like going down memory lane and remembering things you did well, having a final dinner with old colleagues or taking a trip. Find a ritual to signify the end. Then you can move on to the next level.
Changes With Your Relationship With Yourself
How you see yourself must change in order to be an effective new leader.
Emotionally: Explore your emotions. As you enter this new phase are you feeling confident? Ambitious? Hesitant? Curious?
Mentally: Examine the mindsets you have about yourself. Are you feeling equal to your peer group? Are you deserving of this promotion? Are you ready? If not, what do you need to do to be?
Physically: Are you fit enough for the role? Will you be traveling? If your new role involves travel, it can be difficult to exercise while on the road. Take an inventory of your physical health and how you can improve or maintain it.
Relationship To Your Team
People are often promoted because they have shown competence on a technical or skills level. But when they get into leadership they may not have been primed for the way their old peers, as well as their news ones, may see them.
If you are promoted from within the ranks, there may be growing pains from your former peer group. You may be the one who “changed” now that you are in management. It’s a common problem.
Remember, always, that you’re supposed to be in this role. Your old peers may not see it, but there have been few promotions where everyone in the company agreed with it.
If underlings are complaining, there is likely a need buried in there. Ask them, specifically, what they want. What can you do to make it work? If you don’t call it out, the team may inadvertently sabotage the decisions that are being made. Calling it out shows that you’re in control and that you want to hear what they have to say.
Mentally: Set a vision for how you want to work with your new team. Make deliberate choices about your relationship with them. Be clear with yourself what you do and don’t want.
Feel free to join them for drinks, but establish boundaries. Leave after two drinks, for example, or limit socializing to lunches, etc. Even though you are part of the team, you can’t be one of them. It can hurt when you have to give tough feedback, etc.
Emotionally: Continue to empathize. Make sure they know you hear them. You may not agree with every suggestion they make, but validate their opinions and thoughts.
Be aware that your direct reports will share more information with you than they ever did if they were a peer. Some of it will be personal. Anticipate this aspect of leadership.
Physically: Decide how physically close you want to be to your direct reports. Even if you’re in an open office, establish boundaries. Maybe private conversations have to held outside of the open area.
Relationship To Your Work
You go into a field because you like doing the actual work. You like writing the code or recruiting candidates. In leadership, the relationship to your work changes. Your value-add shifts. The pace of work slows and it’s less about the day to day output. Use the pace to your advantage.
Mentally: Accept that you are in it for the long-haul. Embrace that your biggest contribution is to create a new set of leaders.
Emotionally: Learn more about the people on your team. Even if you came up with them and think you know them, there are likely aspects to them you don’t know. In order to manage people, you’ll have to know about their professional goals, etc.
Physically: Find a way to do what you used to do -- in small doses. You can’t lead and do the day-to-day work and do both well. Your direct reports also don’t want you doing their job, since it will make them miss out on opportunities to grow.
Relationship To Your Peers
Mentally: Expectations have changed at every level. Your new peers expect you to perform at their level. It’s not just about the quality of your work, it is also your attitude towards work. Your old peers may not confide in you anymore now that you are in management, and that’s okay. Accept that you now represent the organization as a member of the management team.
Emotionally: You may have a feeling of aloneness. Expect less feedback the higher up you go in the organization. Your direct reports will give you feedback, but your peers and your boss may not. Trust in yourself that you’re doing all right, otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are.
On that note, don’t be afraid to take risks to grow your self-confidence. You won’t lose your position over one bad move.
Physically: Remember: you represent the organization at outside associations and clubs.
The Take Away
Promotions and change are part of your professional career, and should be welcomed. Above all, it’s important to accept that they are transitions, and setting expectations for transitions is the first step to managing them. When you expect that there will be periods of uncertainty and that relationships with people may change, it’ll be easier to move through the change while still being productive.
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