I was recently promoted to head the department I've worked in for three years, which means I am now supervising people who have been my colleagues. How do I make the transition without alienating my peers?
That you were chosen for a job with supervisory authority over your peers says that your organization sees you as a leader. If you haven’t already, take time to get to know yourself in this role. Consider your vision for the organization (or your part of it). Consider the kind of interaction you want to see among the people who report to you so that you can model it. Consider that you can inspire loyalty, but you can’t command it
I recommend team leadership principles for guidance on how to balance authority with collegiality. You’re in a position to leverage key factors of team architecture: trust, inclusiveness, and a sense of ownership. Successful friendships are based on trust and a willingness to include each other; it sounds like you have a long track record on which to draw. Your knowledge of what motivates your friends provides tools for engaging them in the shared purpose of the team. It’s an excellent starting point.
As the team’s leader, your job is to create the environment (vision, direction, behavior) and then manage the processes within it (setting goals, evaluating progress).
Start from the dialogue you and your peers have built over time. Acknowledge that your position has changed but that your appreciation for them as professionals and friends has not. Affirm their value to the team and the degree to which you rely on it. Then demonstrate your readiness to work collaboratively with them and to recognize their contributions.
If you hit a rough patch, focus on the organizational goals you all serve as members of a team. If you get stuck, consider getting help from someone who can see you in your new position with an unbiased eye.
Publisned in Associations Now, April 2006