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Strategies for a Smooth Transition During a Promotion

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Businessman introduce excited female newcomer to team

Congratulations, all your hard work has earned you a promotion! You have proven yourself capable and have been rewarded with the responsibility of leading a team.


During this exciting time, first-time leaders tend to overlook the relationship changes that adjoin their new position. There is an adjustment in how you relate with your team, your work and even yourself.


Navigating this shift is critical to creating the proper space for your leadership role, as well as for avoiding resentment among team members. Here are smart leadership strategies for a positive transition during a promotion.




Changes in Important Relationships

The three relationships to mind during your transition during a promotion include:


Relationship with co-workers: if your promotion comes from within company ranks, expect growing pains from your former peer group. At first, they may not see you as a leader or understand your potential as higher-ups do.


Be proactive and set your vision for your leadership style. Hear them out, including their concerns and complaints, and continue to be compassionate and validate their feelings. But set your boundaries and make your expectations on work product and conduct clear.


Relationship with your work: You excel in your field partly because you love the work. Your data-crunching, code-writing, sales-closing, or other niche abilities shine above the rest. When you enter a leadership position, you will, unfortunately, do fewer of these tasks. Your work output will reduce as new responsibilities, such as business strategizing and mentoring, increase. Embrace this as part of your professional growth.


Relationship with yourself: Your profession is a significant part of your identity, so it stands that your self-identification will shift with the new position. Explore your feelings about the advancement and its effects on your self-understanding. Are you anxious, excited, hesitant, ambitious, or inquisitive? Do you feel you earned the promotion or harbour doubts about your worthiness? Are you ready to take on the role? Consider your emotional state and what you may need to support it.



Three Strategies to Smoothly Transition During a Promotion


Here are three simple steps to ease into your duties as a leader:


1. Establish Your Influence


Leadership is, in a nutshell, simply influence. How can you, as a leader, influence the behaviour of others? Remember that influence is earned, not mandated. Set the example of desired behaviour, earn your team’s trust and watch their performance rise. In other words, be a leader and not simply a task-oriented, micro-focused manager.


One way to achieve this is to exude confidence in yourself and your team. Move forward assuredly while showing your faith in their ability to contribute. Bring your talents to the table while leaning on the capabilities of others. Many of the job-specific skills that earned you advancement are no longer needed in your new role, so develop this expertise within your team.


2. Set Boundaries and Expectations


The transition during a promotion can get dicey when you continue to act like a buddy rather than a boss. Consider this initial phase as a reintroduction of yourself. You do not have to have a formal rollout, although this is a good option in certain cases. For the most part, you can reestablish yourself by setting boundaries and expectations, whether made apparent through your actions or explicitly stated.


For example, you may have been a regular at social functions like happy hours. As the team leader, your presence should be limited here. Stay for a short time or do not attend at all. Refrain from gossip or casual water cooler talk altogether. You are no longer their peer; you are their leader. Act the part.


Having group and one-on-one meetings is another effective way to set boundaries and expectations. Keep the dialogue open, transparent and authentic. Explore how your team likes to receive feedback and be coached, and vice versa - that is, how you prefer this communication from them.


During this time, discuss your vision with the team and ask for their input. Listen to their preferences, frustrations and ideas for improving the workflow and the collaborative process. You will gain their trust through this sincere interest in them and your inclusive approach. But be sure to balance this assumption of your leadership duties with being approachable and graceful, as opposed to closed-off or unnatural.


3. Build Relationships


A burgeoning leader will seek out thought partners, or people who share insights and experiences that help to navigate complex challenges. A thought partner is a less formal partnership and lacks the hierarchy of a mentor-mentee relationship. Nonetheless, a thought partner provides much-needed guidance as you transition during a promotion.


You will also want to capitalize on already existing relationships within the organization. They are your core area of influence. Although your relationship with co-workers has likely changed, there are no doubt people with whom you have a solid understanding. These people want you to succeed, so let them.


Find ways to nurture these good relationships as a leader. In this group, you are also likely to find your first follower. A follower is important. It sends the signal that others want you to lead them. Without a follower, your influence over the team will be limited. But once you land a devotee, others shortly follow suit in accepting your influence and working for you and with you.

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