You’ve Been Promoted. Now What?

First-time managers are faced with many challenges. Learn how to navigate your new role and become a more effective leader with the help of a local leadership expert.

By Juliana Goodwin | Illustration by Jim Nissen

Jan 2017

You've been promoted. Now what?

Every new work situation has its challenges, and being promoted to a managerial position for the first time is exciting and daunting. Management requires a new set of skills, but don’t be discouraged. There are ways to handle your new position and become a more effective leader.

Know Your Strengths

Gallup research suggests the most effective leaders invest in their strengths, surround themselves with the right people, maximize their team’s strengths and understand their followers’ needs, says Alina Lehnert, a leadership and strengths development expert who owns Lehnert Leadership Group LLC and has a doctorate in organizational leadership.

Don’t expect a seamless transition because that’s a way to set yourself up for failure, Lehnert says. There are going to be adjustment issues, and that is normal, she assures. 

Know who you are and who you aren’t,” she says. “Moving from being a technical expert to leading a team of experts requires new skills. You will need training and coaching on communicating change, giving feedback, coaching employees, leading productive teams and achieving goals. So be sure to ask your organizational leaders what training and resources are available to you in your new role.”

Understand Your Team

Your approach to the position should vary depending on whether you were promoted internally or hired from an outside company. If you are moving up within an organization, accept that your relationship will change with former colleagues, who might see a “power distance” between you and them, Lehnert says. Instead of denying the change, move toward acceptance. Managers who are new to an office should study the organization’s culture and find out what is sacred before making any big moves. Find out who people trust and listen to and see what you can learn from that person.

Lehnert also recommends having one-on-one meetings with your team to get to know them, access their strengths and find out what is important to them. “It will create trust,” she says. “It’s important to create team-building opportunities in this new position.”

Seek Outside Input

With input from your team and managers, set priorities and goals. “They need to be SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound,” Lehnert says. “Goal-setting theory reveals to us that the more specific the goal, the more likely we are to achieve it.”

Don’t underestimate the importance of an outside coach or sounding board. You’ll need a safe place to process your thoughts and feelings as you adjust to your new role. “Also, you are not expected to know everything,” Lehnert says. “Play on your strengths. The good news is these are learned behaviors.” Practice makes perfect, right?