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From Colleague to C-Suite – Navigating your Promotion

Michael Clegg | 01/25/2024

So, you’ve been promoted from a role you held for years into a management-level position.  

While it is exciting, it will also take an adjustment period, especially when navigating the relationships between you and your now-direct-reports. 

It’s certainly a challenge, especially if you have developed friendships with some of your colleagues over the years.  

Striking a balance between being liked and earning respect becomes a delicate dance. Otherwise, you’re going to set yourself up for failure.  

One of my employees told me about her last role and how she was promoted to a management position after two years with the company. They chose her over others because of her expertise, professionalism, and commitment to the company. The problem was that she wasn’t ready to manage people and wasn’t equipped to step into a role where she would have to put her friendships aside and manage her coworkers, not just work alongside them. She struggled with getting the team to respect her in her new role because she sought to be liked. 

That’s the FIRST mistake that many new leaders make, and it can be detrimental to the dynamics and success of the organization.  

Another thing to note is that some of your peers likely also interviewed for the same position. Their disappointment can create a sensitive environment. Here are some tips to avoid making that mistake when you step into your new leadership role: 

Schedule Individual Meetings (1x1s):  

Initiate one-on-one sessions with your direct reports. Focus on establishing a new rapport, emphasizing partnership over dictatorship. Demonstrate a genuine interest in their career goals and expectations. Remember, leaders should ask the right questions, not have all the answers. 

Have a Team Meeting:  

Conduct a team meeting, preferably less formal, followed by a social interaction. Align the meeting’s purpose with your predecessor’s direction and introduce changes aligning with your vision. This establishes credibility and guides the team toward shared goals. 

Swiftly Address Dissent:  

Deal promptly with any dissenters. A single dissenter can disrupt the entire team. Encourage course correction, ensuring everyone is aligned with the team’s vision and objectives. 

Lead with the Leadership Squared Model:  

You might have heard me mention the Leadership Squared Model quite often if you’ve followed along. The basis of this is culture and connection. Here’s how it works: 

  • Connect: Engage with your direct reports, fostering trust and engagement. Inspire through connection. 
  • Culture: Shape the beliefs and values that set expectations for the organization. Culture drives behaviors and outcomes. 
  • Beliefs and Values: Define your core beliefs and values. Culture is measured by what you tolerate, so be clear about your expectations. 

This framework guides you through the initial steps and helps identify dissenters early. Make it your first step if you haven’t defined your beliefs and values. Clarity in these aspects is crucial for effective leadership. 

Balancing the desire to be liked with the need to earn respect is a nuanced dance, and the pitfalls are evident, as illustrated by the experience of a colleague promoted prematurely. The first crucial mistake new leaders often make is seeking popularity over respect, a choice with far-reaching implications for organizational dynamics. As you step into your leadership role, recognizing and addressing the disappointment of peers, scheduling individual meetings, conducting purposeful team meetings, and swiftly handling dissent is paramount. Embracing the Leadership Squared Model, rooted in connection, culture, beliefs, and values, is a reliable guide through these initial challenges. Remember, clarity in your values is the cornerstone of effective leadership, fostering a workplace where respect, collaboration, and success can flourish. 


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