Managing Friends: Part 2

How to navigate from co-worker and friend to supervisor and boss – Part 2.

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.

Beacon on a hill

“As a people leader, you are a beacon on a hill”

I recall one of the best managers I have ever had saying that to me. I remember it clearly and use it today when I talk to new leaders.

Merriam-webster offer this as one definition of beacon:

Definition of beacon

a signal fire commonly on a hill, tower, or pole

What has that got to do with managing friends?

As a new leader, everyone is watching you. Your team members, your new boss and your peers.

You want to make the right impression and start strong therefore it’s important to keep this in mind.

I am not talking about this to scare you. It is about having a sense of awareness. Awareness that others will –

  • watch what you do
  • listen and hang onto your words, and
  • see how you mix it up within your new team

Keep in mind that you are new and learning and this is also new for the team. If you have won a promotion, remember that there are possibly others in the team who applied however were not successful – they could be upset or angry or both! My advice is to give it time.

Try these tips for success –

  • smile
  • learn everyone’s name (I sketched the office desk plan with people’s name on it – it was very low tech but hey, it worked!)
  • break the ice with others by seeking them out to say hi
  • be humble and share your story
  • set the team at ease
  • join into appropriate team conversation, and
  • find someone you trust (a peer is a great option) in case you need to let of some steam or talk it out.

Remember – you are a beacon on a hill…

Talk to your boss

You might be the new leader or manager but you a most likely to also have a boss. It’s important to reach out to them as early as you can – even if you haven’t started yet.

I once phoned my new boss and asked if I could meet the team before I even started. She said yes and it was great and really helped me (and others no doubt) feel a bit more relaxed when day 1 arrived. It helped everyone take a bit of pressure off the new situation.

It can also be a bit lonely in leadership. It goes with the territory and requires courage, discipline and energy.

You should talk to your new boss and ask what they want. What do they expect of you in the first 90 days? What is there current pain-point right now?

Asking these questions will cement your relationship with your new boss but also give you a focus that you can share with the team.

Read leadership and emotional intelligence books

Continue your leadership learning journey

Leadership is a journey. A journey where you are always learning and developing. If your development has some gaps in it or you’re keen to move things along a bit faster, try these methods out –

  • follow a blog (yes, this one of course but others too 😊)
  • read books on leadership and books on emotional intelligence
  • find a mentor – making sure you are both a good fit
  • complete some internal or external online training
  • talk to your Human Resources (HR) team about any leadership training they recommend (they might even pay for it – cool)

One final tip –

Seek out other leaders and leadership groups in your company. It’s likely that, like you, they would have had to manage friends.

Their stories of success and failures can really accelerate your learning and you might even make a new friend yourself – bonus!


Well, that’s it for Managing Friends. I hope you enjoyed Part 2 and have some real take-aways from both Part 1 and Part 2. I’m sure you will be great transitioning from friend to boss.

Keep on learning,



  1. Amanda Shepherd April 24, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Loving these practical, easy-to-connect-to ideas and thoughts. Your ideas are authentic and fun, and set a professional but friendly and encouraging tone. Thank you, Rex!

    1. Rex April 24, 2019 at 10:07 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Amanda, you’re very welcome.


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