The Benefits and Challenges of Transitioning from Co-Worker to Leader

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Leader Helping Tech in NOC | Collabrance

Sep 17, 2019

Picture Above: Erik Bussey (left) assists Alex (right) with an navigating a new tool in the NOC.

Transitioning from Co-Worker to Leader

Your co-workers are now your direct reports.

This is the statement that went through my mind nearly a year ago when I moved into a leadership position. I’d been with Collabrance for almost 3 years at that point. I had built a very good relationship and often hung out with co-workers outside of the office. How was this transition supposed to work? Should I stop hanging out with my friends because they’re now my direct reports? How do I shift from working next to someone to leading them? I don’t have all of the answers yet, but maybe I can share some insights that I’ve learned along the way.

What Kind of Leader do You Want to Be?

I’ve heard both schools of thought when it comes to seeing your reports socially.

  • The first being that as a leader you should socially separate yourself from your team. The idea being that you will be more effectively seen as an authority when you are not seen as a friend.
  • The second being that you should be as close socially with your team as possible. This will help clue you into all the different aspects of your team that could affect them in the work place.

I fall closer to the latter end of the spectrum. While I did remove myself from a group chat or 2, I still hang out occasionally with the same people that I did before entering a leader role. Every situation is going to be different, but if you trust your instinct and don’t force yourself into either, you’ll find that you fall somewhere in between. If you correctly manage your relationship with your reports, it will help greatly when you when you need to make an “ask” of them later on.

Learn to Delegate & Empower

One of the largest mind shifts I needed when moving from individual contributor to leader was delegation. As a leader there are going to be many situations that you’re called upon to address or give input. As an individual contributor, you would address these situations yourself, and even as a leader there will be times that you do this.

As a leader, it’s about recognizing talent on your team, picking the best person for that task and empowering them to deliver.

I’ve found that for me, this is much easier due to the relationships I’ve built prior to becoming a leader. My team trusts me because they know me and I reciprocate the same. They understand that if I ask them to take on a challenging task, it’s because I believe they’re the best person for the job.

Image Above: NOC Team Leaders Erik and Tim hold a stand up meeting with Triage Technicians.

Set the Right Example

Another lesson I’ve come to learn taking on this new leadership role, is that you are always under the spotlight to some effect and can lead by example. Your team will be looking to you to set the tone and be confident. A positive upbeat attitude will make a world of difference in keeping up the morale of those around you. I’m an optimist by nature, so it’s not too hard for me to look on the bright side. Even if this isn’t you, don’t let your cynical side show, it can be contagious.

The best friend to a positive attitude is showing confidence in your decisions.

As a mentor, you’ll be asked constantly how to approach a situation. Try to remember that you were chosen for leadership because others trust your judgement. Don’t undermine that by second guessing every decision you’re asked to make. Go with what makes sense to you for the situation, if circumstances change, you can always tweak your direction.

Leadership can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Seeing those that report to you succeed in their goals is a great feeling. Every situation you come across is going to be different and you’ll have to be ready to adapt and do what works best for you and your team. Build relationships with your reports and don’t try to take on every task by yourself. Set the tone for your team by keeping a positive outlook and be confident in the choices that you make, and trust your instincts. Embrace the fact that you’re a leader now and use that to help those whom you worked alongside reach their career goals as well.

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About The Author

Erik Bussey

Erik Bussey, Service Desk Team Leader, is responsible for ensuring that the service desk provides a consistently exceptional experience for our customers and partners. This is done through providing Collabrance techs all the training and resources needed to support our clients and their customers with an unmatched level of service. He started at Collabrance in 2016 as a Service Desk Triage Technician expanding his skill set and rising to Service Desk Team Lead. Erik earned his degree in Liberal Arts from Kirkwood Community College.