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Recalibrating Peer Relationships When Transitioning to Management

Katie Guzman

Product Management Lead at Asana

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Problem

Transitioning from IC to manager is very common and thus shifting from the role of peer to manager is also quite common. I would say most managers have experienced this role shift during their careers. It has happened to me twice, but that doesn't make it any less tricky. For example, on one occasion I began managing my friend who made it clear that they weren't too excited about the transition. It's a hard spot because you're managing a new role and having to recalibrate relationships. I needed to figure out a way to earn trust, set the right expectations, and build value during this transitory period.

Actions taken

The most important thing I did to build trust was to make sure relationships were kicked off right and really invest in how I set the table-- you don't get many restarts. There are a couple elements to this.

  • The first, and this may seem obvious, but plan out how the change will be communicated. This is not something to do in a 'oh, by the way' situation in the hallway. The team also shouldn't find out with the rest of the company in a formal memo. Enlist your manager, the outgoing manager (if it's not your manager), and even HR to help. In my case, my manager and I did something called a "pitch-catch". He went first and basically set me up, delivered the news, listened and built me up a bit. Then, when I went in for my first 1:1, I had context on how the news was received, I could prepare a bit, and know what I'm getting myself into.

  • The second is to really deliver value to the relationship in the first 30 days. I like to start with the positive. Some tactics here:

    • When you notice they've done an excellent job in a meeting follow up with a quick Slack message on that feedback - the more specific the better. This helps reinforce the behaviors you want to see them repeat, lets them know you're watching, and that you are dedicated to the relationship.

    • Find out what they're craving to grow in (this is a great 1:1 topic) and then be out on the lookout for opportunities to help them get there. Is there an article or conference that would be enriching for them? Proactively suggest it! Or is there a project coming up that would help them develop in this area? Be their advocate.

Lessons learned

Be confident and really honor your new role and relationships. These transitions can be tough, and while you may slip up a few times don't let that make you second guess yourself. When we lack confidence, it can really hurt the team. 'Maybe could you, do this' is not how you set clear expectations or respect. Be clear and upfront with what success looks like, hold your team accountable for that, and also have the confidence and humility to ask them for feedback so you can grow as a new manager too.

"Transitioning from IC to manager is very common and thus shifting from the role of peer to manager is also quite common."

"Be confident and really honor your new role and relationships."


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Katie Guzman

Product Management Lead at Asana


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