The greeks established a protocol within their military structure whereby if an individual was 'promoted from the ranks' to Officer level; he was taken away from his old unit and assigned to a new one. The thinking was obvious - it's very difficult to command respect from people who knew you way back when you were all starting out.
Alexander confronts Darius III at the tender age of 23
Unfortunately, this is not so simple in the corporate framework and many people have to become an effective manager of those with whom they used to have a collegiate relationship. I well remember my manager telling me that management is a "lonely furrow that you plough alone" when I was first promoted, and I really did miss my old cronies as I could no longer confide in them the way I used to.
My learning points for baby managers:
- Deal with any resentment from people who didn't get the job you are now in, don't try to bury it. In your 1-1 conversations with your old colleagues, you bring the subject up. Get to the kernel of their resentment and, where possible/approprite, instigate action that can improve their chances of promotion the next time. Be interested, and be seen to be interested, in their careers and you will bring all but the die-hards onside.
- No favoritism and no cronyism among the old crew - no matter how tempting that might seem. You have inside knowledge of the team member's individual strengths and weaknesses. You can use that information well, to your and the organisation's benefit; or you can use it really badly.
- No gossiping or sharing information that you shouldn't be sharing. This is the point that causes the most grief among new managers. In many instances they don't want to, or don't feel they can, talk to their boss about a problem and it is now inappropriate for them to talk it through with an old colleague. Resist the urge - nothing will kill your credibility as a manager quicker than breaches of confidentiality.
- Delegating - get comfortable with letting people fail. Yes, you can do it quicker yourself than the time it would take to teach them, but you can't keep doing that forever. If you think they will fail, break the task down into smaller chunks and talk to them at each stage. This takes lots of time the first few times, but will save you from getting mired down in tiny tactical details going forward.
- What is a win? From the outset, establish really clear dialogue with your boss as to his/her expectations. Agree milestones and make sure you initiate sit-downs when those milestones are reached. The more face time you can get, the better.
- Most of all, don't come into your boss's office with poorly-defined problems. Remember what your real job is ...