How to go from employee to manager

aat comment

You’ve been working away, doing a great job for several years. You’re competent, technically proficient and you’ve been noticed at work for doing well.

So much so that you’ve just been promoted and will be managing a small team. How do you make the leap from employee to manager?

Recognise that you have a new job

“This sounds obvious, but countless people take on a managerial role with a view that the new role will be done on top of their usual client-facing role,” Sue Willcock, business change manager at Ellis Whittam, says. “The phrase: “How will I have time to manage people?” is a classic tell-tale saying that new managers are approaching their role from the wrong viewpoint”.

Tip: The role of manager is not just a case of adding things to your to do list, it’s learning how to manage your new role and delegate when you need to.

Take a step back

Your new role will probably involve a number of new skills, including planning, reporting, making judgement calls, presenting ideas, coaching and encouraging, performance managing and inspiring others to perform.

“Whilst some of these things are about doing ‘stuff’, many more are about how you get stuff done. Take some time to ponder the word ‘leverage’” advises Willcock.

Tip: Consider how you will achieve business goals by using your skills and new role to get the most from others.

Be crystal clear on what’s expected

In some organisations, especially if a role is brand new, expectations can be a little vague at first. In others, the role may be clearly set out, but because you are new in role, you are still working out what things mean for you.

Tip: Make sure you get hold of a job description and take time to go through it. Have a conversation with your own line manager about their personal expectation of both the role and how they like to work.

Believe in yourself

One of the biggest hurdles you might have to overcome when it comes to going from an employee to a manager is confidence, says Catherine Morgan, financial coach at The Money Panel.

“The biggest obstacles that many will have is confidence in themselves and their ability to deliver and manage,” she notes. “You may find that you have gone from doing to managing others doing the doing!

Tip: Understanding your people and getting the best from them will stand you in good stead.

Don’t micro-manage

“It is important to give the people in your team autonomy, recognition and responsibility,” says Morgan. “Get them on your side. Be personable and be interested in them more than anything else”.

Tip: Position yourself as someone who is going to help your team to achieve success because your success is dependent on their success. And don’t micromanage them.


Helen Brent, a manager at Sunflower Accounts, says communication is one of the most important things when you move into a management role.

“Make yourself available to listen to your former colleagues and to fully empathize with them as the change in structure can cause feelings of uncertainty and can be emotionally stressful,” she advises.
Discuss and understand any frustrations, expectations and their future goals. This can help gain their trust and confidence.

Tip: Hold one-on-one meetings to explain the vision for the team and allow them to have an input on the end goal.

Set boundaries

“Going from a colleague to the boss, people can make the mistake of treating everyone as ‘friends’. Whilst going for a night out can be good for team moral, maybe stay for one drink,” says Brent. “Avoid gossip and remain highly approachable. You can be friendly whilst being their manager.”

Recognise that you need to keep learning

“Some people expect to be a good manager with little investment in themselves or the consideration that they may need to learn new skills. Don’t be this person!” says Willcock. “Know that you are learning and that it takes the same effort, resilience and reflection that it took to become the technical expert that you are.

Tip: Just as you made mistakes in your technical role, you will make mistakes now, as you learn to be a manager. Accept that you are learning and do the best you can for your team but also give yourself permission to learn.

In summary

Successful management is as much about self awareness as the relationship between the manager and his or her staff. Good relationships are based on trust and engagement, and a good manager’s role is to build these relationships early on. Expect to make mistakes but if you take on your new role willing to learn and grow, then you’re on the right track.

Read more about leadership and personal growth here:

Top traits of effective managers

Emotional intelligence and why you need it

Growth and leadership – what are your personal goals

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

Related articles