Becoming the Boss – A Guide

August 25, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

This article is for the happy newly promoted hard working people that got that well-earned promotion. The ones that scratch their head and thinks; “now what?” Becoming the boss – a guide for you to help you thru the transaction from employee to management.

What you say and do

Words are no longer just chit chat around the water cooler. One of the first experiences you’ll make is that your words are now being analyzed. “What did he really mean now?” – Your body language is also important. Are you paying attention, do you listen? And anything you do set the stage for what is appropriate at the office.

True Story: Just after my first promotion I told an employee that he dressed inappropriate, and told him to never dress like that again, or he would be fired. – He had a soccer jersey on, the hardest competitor and sworn enemy to my favorite team in white and black, while my team colors are blue and white. – I meant it as a joke, since they just beat “my” team the day before. Two days later I was called in to the director of customer service to explain what the fuzz was all about. He thought I was serious and could almost not sleep, and feared for his job for days. This was my lesson, my words are not just conversation anymore.

Walk the talk

Your employees will ignore what you ignore. Don’t want your staff to be late? Show up on time yourself. Do you want it to be clean? Pick up garbage as you pass thru the areas. I had a boss that did not like that people have their feet on the desk. I don’t mind personally, but this became important to me, because that should not happen in my department, so when I saw feet on a desk, I gently grabbed them and put them to the floor. Top lever management at a Norwegian train company is very strict on neatness. It has to be clean. They pick up cigarettes butts, paper and anything else all over the train stations, and trains or anywhere. “I almost clean up the main street of Oslo” – the HR manager once said in a speech to illustrate how strong these values were within the group. – Lesson learned: Where you put your focus, things will happen.

Align your map with management

Make sure to understand where your boss want you to go. Talk with her about expectations, follow ups, progress, goals and values. You can succeed doing the opposite, but that is risky business. Try to make action points that you will follow up until next meeting. These regular stand offs will assure you that you are on the right track, no need to feel bad because you just don’t know?

Make time to plan and reflect

To travel from A to Z require planning. You need to make sure you have time to plan. Why, should you do this, How are you going to do it? What determines success? How can you measure progress? Planning is just a hammer with no nails, unless you find time to reflect, how are you doing? Are we according to plans? What actions need to be taken? Make a time schedule if you need to.

Promote your head

This is the hard part. Let’s face it you are no longer equal to your former co-workers. You are not above them, and this is not an excuse to “be better” than them. The change is not in you, it happens in the people around you, because you just got some influence and power. By promoting your head, you will free yourself from your previous job. This job is no longer your direct responsibility. You need to let your former job go and trust your replacement. One of my biggest challenges in management is that I like to know the systems. I like to know how employees do stuff. So when asked by customers or other employees I know how to perform. But that is not my job. I am not supposed to ha fingertip knowledge about systems and products. – It will eventually drown you in mundane tasks that your employees should do. You should understand how things work, but you are now supposed to have a more elevated role.

Get into helicopter view

You can no longer complain about the guys in the warehouse or the impossible salesmen, and you can no longer blame customer service or accounting. You are in leadership and should try to stay positive. But you MUST get to know the organization. You should know how faults in your department will affect another and vice versa. You need to get a better understanding of your company, because you will soon interact with other managers around the company, and if you know how stuff are connected you will be able to bring good solutions to the table.

Give more than you take

To get your employees engaged and showing the same enthusiasm as you might be a challenge. I want you to remember one basic psychological trick. People tend to like those that help them. I have met people able to change my life and I am very grateful. If people respect and like you they will do what you need them to do. We could write a book about this subject, but I will try to boil it down to a few lines. You are dealing with people, treat them like people and you will get good people in return. Believe in their skills and praise more than you whip.

You play chess

You need to think ahead. Remember you might be in “politics” right now. There is budgets and resources. You might now that you need more employees at your team. But if this is your first statement you might get none. If you keep complaining about to few members in your team you will lose respect. You need to think ahead. What information is important to your boss? How will new employees affect business? You need to document the effects and tell them WHY you need more employees, and what your boss will get in return. And you should try all other options first, like changing routines or move people to new tasks. You don’t want to get yourself in a position where you ask before you think.

Don’t take it personally

You will be criticized from your employees to your management. But it is not you, it is something you DO, and that can change. Make sure that high temperatures are allowed, then cool down and become friends. This is a professional disagreement don’t let this change your table at lunchtime. Make sure that you differ between who you are and what you do.

Read books

Make sure to educate yourself. I had two promotions in two years. I read about 50 books in five years about management, coaching, motivation, psychology, change management and so on. Being a leader is an evolving job, and you will never be good enough. You will always learn new things and become better.


I am trying hard to keep this short, but there have been written books about each paragraph here, and I recommend getting a book budget from your boss and start looking.

But here is in short what you need to do:

  • Think about what you say and do
  • Walk the talk, and be a good example
  • Align with management and make sure you are on the right track
  • Make time to plan and reflect
  • Get into your new job, forget about your old one and promote your head
  • Get to know your company: Get into helicopter view
  • Give more than you take
  • Play your game of chess well – what does it take to get what you want?
  • It’s nothing personal… listen and adjust.
  • Read book, learn and share

Oh.. and your goal should be to create people better than you. Remember your success depends on your employee’s ability to succeed and a good boss build people.

Thank you for reading.

This is written exclusive for by Frode Heimen, the author behind Never Mind the Manager – a blog about leadership, motivation, customer service, coaching and fun at work. Please visit for more relevant reading.

Twitter: @frodeheimen

PS! If you need some good book recommendations, please contact me and I will be happy to help.

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