Getting promoted shouldn’t feel like being the new person at the office again, but a lot of the time, it does. Being promoted means that you have to redefine your place in the social environment at work and start operating with new people on new teams with new expectations.
Just like your first day at work, you’re going to be left wondering which new coworkers are going to be your friends, which ones will be your teammates, and what exactly they all think about you too.
In order to navigate the new landscape that comes with your promotion, there are a number of factors you’ll need to address. When you take a look at your new work landscape, take some time to evaluate the people around you so that you can begin to form strategic relationships and make early progress.
There are a number of factors to consider that we’ll go over this this post, and of course, you can’t necessarily do them all on your first day of being promoted. However, if these are at the front of your mind, you will be able to make progress on establishing yourself in your new work environment through strategic relationships and alignment.
Who is on your level?
In order to define *your* place at work, you need to determine where you fall in the employee hierarchy. The best way to do this is to simply figure out who your coworkers are. Who reports to the same boss or supervisor as you? Who has the same title as you in your department? These are the people that are on the same level as you, and they are your new peer group.
There is less structure when it comes to dealing with your peers, which means you will have to be more proactive about getting to know them and managing those relationships.
Who are the key players?
Once you know where you fit into the big picture of your company’s hierarchy, it is time to focus in on the people at your level who stand out. You want to form relationships with your peers that will create new opportunities for you. This means that you need strong relationships with peers who can attest to your valuable role on the team, leadership capabilities, and ability to excel.
It can be comforting to fade into the background at first when you’re new to a role. However, you actually need to do the opposite.
When you are new, you need to align yourself with the best people in your new setting and that means you have to proactively pursue those relationships. Don’t settle for being just a team player, even on day one of your new job. You put in an immense amount of work into earning a promotion, now it is time to focus on opening the new doors that come with it.
A new playing field means that in order to stand out, you have to excel even more than before you got your promotion. It’s like moving from playing in the minor leagues to the majors. You have to find new people to look up to and learn what makes them great, so that you can do the same and more.
- Who are the best people on your level? Who do others on the team look up to?
- What makes the best people on your level the best?
- What qualities do they exhibit that make them standout?
Pay particular attention to this final question. These qualities that make some of your coworkers stand out are probably qualities you already possess but could cultivate more. Make a physical or electronic list of these qualities and plan to revisit it regularly.
Then, pick one item from the list to start working on today.
Think about how the person you noticed this quality in exhibits it. What *specifically* makes them seem so _____ (reliable, organized, innovative, etc)? Now try to find ways to implement those behaviors in your own life for a week or two.
You can even try to mimic some of their behaviors. For example, if they impressed you with their ability to lead meetings, try to identify some of the ways they did that well and emulate those tactics. Maybe they asked lots of questions to help people refine points and innovate great ideas. Make a point to try a few different things every week to bring you up to their level, and then move on to improving another skill.
Always compare yourself to the best
When you are in any work setting, you should always be looking upward for ways to improve, not comparing yourself to those that you are better than. You never want to think, “Oh, I’m better than some of my coworkers, so that means I’m fine.” Comparing yourself to mediocre people will lead you to remain mediocre instead of excelling!
Compare yourself to the best people at each level if you want to advance.
When you are identifying the qualities that make people successful at your level, don’t just look for things you already do or the things that most people do. You want to try to capture the secret superpowers that the real superstars have. Always be striving to be improving a skill you don’t have yet, rather than patting yourself on the back for the things you are doing well already.
Play to your strengths
While it’s great to consciously cultivate qualities that you find admirable in others, you also have strengths of your own. Those strengths probably contributed to your promotion in the first place, so keep using them to your advantage to excel in your new role!
Identify the three strengths you exhibited most clearly in your last job. What did you do extremely well? Think back to job reviews, one-on-ones with your boss, qualities people complimented you for, and appreciated you for. How did you use these qualities in your previous job?
Now, think of the tasks that you’ll be asked to accomplish in your role. How can you highlight and utilize those same strengths in this role?
Cultivate your network
If you really want to hit the ball out of the field, you can’t just model yourself after the best people and hope they notice how awesome you are. You have to be proactive about getting to know them and building relationships with them.
It is by building trust and forming friendships that you’ll be able to get the maximum value out of relationships with people on your level. This means it’s not just enough to say hi to them in meetings or around the office. You need to really invest in these people so that they’ll invest back in you.
How well do you really know the people you now work with? Do they know you? Do the people you aspire to be like know who you are?
Make a list of the best people on and above your level. Once you’re in your new role, make it a priority to schedule a one-on-one with at least one person on your list every week. Be courteous when extending the invitation (whether in person, or via email), offer to treat them to lunch or coffee, and suggest several time openings in your schedule so that the other person can select a slot that works for them.
A few tips for networking effectively in your new peer group:
- Do some research ahead of time so you can ask personalized questions. Find out what they do, where they worked before, and anything else you can so that you can ask smart questions that make the most of what they have to offer.
- Ask them about their current role. What is the best part of their job? Who do they work most closely with? Get tactical information so that you can work effectively with this person. The more you know about how they feel about their role and how they do their job, the easier it will be to communicate well.
- Find out about their goals, hopes, pain points, etc. It can help to express your own hopes, goals, and fears too so that the other person feels comfortable sharing. They may have helpful advice for you, and they will likely reciprocate with their own experiences and stories too which can help bring you closer together.
- Touch on personal topics too. People like to be seen as whole people, so don’t be afraid to ask general questions about the person’s life too. You can ask about things they like to do outside of work, and share some of your favorite activities too. Of course you don’t want to pry into details, but you can help build trust by getting to know someone outside of simply talking about work.
Though you want every meeting to go well, this first meeting is just the foundation of your relationship though, so be sure to follow up with a thank you and keep in touch afterwards to cement what you have started. You can even set up recurring reminders to connect with people every month, every 6 months, or whatever makes sense.
Your peers can serve as especially helpful mentors if they’ve been in this role for a period of time and you’re just starting out, so nurture these relationships.
Actively address relationships with former peers
Your promotion might have put you in charge of people who you previously worked alongside. This can create tension or awkwardness on both sides. It is important to address that relationship and redefine it as soon as possible.
Be conscious of not gloating about your new role or severing the relationship. You never know when that person will be critical to solving a problem or getting another promotion, or even may be your boss someday.
Don’t try to be a friends with the people on your team like you were before, if you are now their manager; even though you may still feel like you’re all the same people, dynamics naturally change when one person is in a leadership role. You can’t commiserate with your former peers like you used to or take sides in coworker arguments. Instead, you need to nurture relationships in a professional way.
Connect with them on the level of being a manager: get to know them in a way that will make you a better leader to them.
Schedule one-on-ones with the people on your team to establish this new dynamic. Facilitate a conversation where you can get to know them as a manager and find out what they need from you to be amazing at their jobs.
- What is important to them?
- What are their biggest goals?
- How can you help them reach their personal and professional goals?
Make it clear that you want to be their ally, and that your biggest goal is to be the best leader to the team that you can. If the people on your team knew you before, it might take some time for them to see you as a manager, but stay the course and don’t fall into the trap of trying to keep things how they were. The more you can show the people on your team that your main focus at work is their success, the easier it will be for them to see you as a manager they want to work with.
Finally, have patience!
Navigating a new landscape is no easy task. Building relationships at each level is important, so do put your best foot forward but remember: relationships take time, trust, and patience. Focus on your job alongside cultivating relationships and over time, you’ll succeed at both!