Managing Friends: Part 1

How to navigate from co-worker and friend to supervisor and boss.

Yesterday you worked with peers and friends… today, you’re their leader!

This can be complicated and is cited as one of the biggest hurdles for new leaders to overcome.

Perhaps you have just won a promotion or were ‘tapped on the shoulder’ and now find yourself supervising your peers and unsure what to do next.


The first step is to rethink your approach and style and start acting like a boss!

The good news is that you can navigate the, sometimes awkward, transition from friend to boss quickly and smoothly – whilst keeping your current relationships intact.

Establishing your authority

This is important – hence why it’s first on the list.

Establishing your authority helps team members recognise there is a change and move in their relationship with you from peer to manager. Once established, they see you as a decision maker who provides guidance. You must establish your authority soon and in the right way.

What establishing your authority is not:

  • being authoritarian
  • telling others what to do
  • micro-managing, and
  • being bossy….

To establish your authority well, do these things:

  • Meet with all of your direct reports one-on-one
  • Make the meeting all about them and ask questions like:

“What parts of your work do you like the most?”


“What does a good leader look like to you?”

This will give you a good picture of how everyone operates, what’s a pain-point for them and what motivates them.

The best part is – you are now in the position to actually help them!

Walk them through your broad plan for the next 6 months and how they can help the team to achieve those plans. If nothing is going to change in the short-term – tell them.

Support, motivate and empower your team like this and I promise that you will instantly establish your authority – the right way.

Communicate the obvious

Openly acknowledge that things will be different by:

  • stating that the working environment and relationships have changed
  • admitting it’s a bit weird for everyone, including you, and
  • asking for their support during this change

When you do this it’s important that you leave your personal biases behind and treat everyone equally and fairly.

“What do you think?”

When you use these four words – this will happen:

  • You earn points for respect
  • You empower others, and
  • It shows that you’re still personable and human

Try it! You will be amazed how much it will make a positive difference.

Stop doing your old tasks  

As employee your focus was to accomplish tasks. Your focus now is to help others to achieve their tasks.

It’s okay to start slowly as this may take time to change. Share the knowledge of your old tasks and then walk away by offering support from a distance.

Shift your mindset to take on this new approach –

“How can I support you with your work?”

As the new leader you will put others ahead of yourself and place supporting the team as your priority. This will require you to be courageous and disciplined and might, in the short-term, be uncomfortable.

Follow through with any requests for support and be available to your team.

Your team needs a leader, not a friend.

Thanks to everyone who requested I write a post about this challenge. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to help you navigate your pathway into leading others.

Have a go at asking – “What do you think?” – and let me know, in the comments section below, how it has assisted your transition from friend to boss?

Want more? Part 2 of  Managing Friends offers more food for thought and ideas to make your transition from friend to boss successful.

Keep on learning,


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