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Transitioning from Peer to Leader

July 16th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

Kudos to the companies that promote from within. Leveraging internal talent is a great way to keep employees engaged and to prevent a vast and valuable source of company knowledge from walking out the door.

Yet all too often employees are promoted internally to leadership roles without the benefit of the leadership training to help them succeed. This is critical. Especially for those employees who transition from coworker to team leader. Not only do they have to learn their new responsibilities as a people leader, they may have to deal with resentment from their former teammates who didn’t get the job.

Sound familiar? If this is something you’re experiencing, here are some tips.

Start by building trust. You may be following in the footsteps of someone everyone loved, in which case the expectation will be that things remain the same. Or you may be following someone who wasn’t popular (or got fired) and the expectation will be that things will change immediately. Give yourself some time to assess the team and get established in your new role before making any changes (or not!)

Meet one-on-one with each direct report. Spend the majority of your time listening – to their updates, their concerns, their ideas. Ask about specific areas where they need your support. Summarize what they’ve said so they know you were really listening. Keep it positive. Express a particular contribution that that individual makes to the team. Share how you want to lead. Ask about their career aspirations. Help them see you in a new light – as a leader, coach, visionary.

Hold an initial team meeting. Reintroduce yourself in your new role. Share your values, how you like to operate, and the best way to communicate with you. Convey confidence. Address ideas that came up in the one-on-one meetings (again, demonstrating that you were really listening). Enlist the team’s support in collaboratively creating guiding principles for how you will work together effectively.

Address any resentment – swiftly and privately. If you sense resentment from a team member, meet with them privately to discuss the issue. Acknowledge their feelings, and…be clear that you are counting on them to continue to be a contributor to the team effort. Mutually define the best way to work together effectively going forward.

Be prepared not to be liked by everyone. Your relationships have shifted. You are now in a position of writing a review for someone who may be a personal friend. Their lax attitude toward work may not have mattered when you were “buddies,” but it will definitely matter when you are responsible for the team. Just sayin’.

Be a leader more than a manager. It’s tempting to go overboard in “managing” at the beginning to differentiate yourself from the team. Don’t. You have the advantage of, having worked with them, knowing their strengths. Empower them to use those strengths. Let them know you are there to help when they need it. Coach them. Make sure every team member feels valued, connected, challenged and recognized.

And most of all, communicate, communicate, communicate!

Till next time,



Leadership, leadership development, New leaders, Professional development


Ignite Team Performance with Rules of Engagement

October 16th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

What is it that differentiates a high performing team from a team that never gets beyond the “storming” stage in the forming/storming/norming/performing (The Tuckman Model) journey? How does a high performing team continue to achieve milestones and meet deadlines even as dynamics change due to a new or departing member? How do they manage to overcome the inevitable differences of opinion or even conflict to stay on track?

They establish and adhere to Rules of Engagement.

Think back, for a minute, to when you were in school. No, not college. Think waaay back to kindergarten or elementary school. Most likely on the first day of class your teacher shared with you “the rules.” No talking in class. Raise you hand to go to the bathroom. No fighting. Turn your homework in on time. You knew what the expectations were upfront, and you knew (and, yes, perhaps even experienced) what the consequences were if you didn’t meet those expectations. The goal of the rules was to create a harmonious and productive environment for learning. Without establishing and enforcing those rules, the classroom could have been chaos.

And so it goes with teams. In fact, we’ve seen (or at least read about) that chaos on a nearly daily basis with one very, very visible team. Don’t let that happen to your team.

Allocate some time – as a team – to establish your team Rules of Engagement. These should align with your company values and culture. As you think about what to include, consider things that have been an issue for the team in the past – what guideline can you put in place that will prevent that issue in the future? Here are some topics your rules can address:

Communication. What is the preferred method – email, phone, in person – for sharing information vs. decision making vs. resolving conflict?

Meetings. Is there a limit on length? How will you handle chronic late-comers? How will you ensure that everyone is heard (at the meeting rather than post-meeting in a hallway discussion)?

Decisions. How will you make them? A vote? Who’s the tie breaker?

Conflict. What’s your process for managing it? What will you do when it escalates?

Other potential topics are prioritization, accountability, coordinating task hand off, reviewing each other’s work. And certainly don’t forget to include a general rule about good behavior – kindness, respect, integrity.

Diversity of ideas, opinions, skill sets, experience and background enhances a team’s ability to innovate, and to provide the full complement of capabilities to achieve desired results. The best way to leverage those capabilities and to increase your team’s performance is by defining and maintaining your Rules of Engagement.

Till next time,


Accountability, Communication, Professional and team leadership, Teams


Oh, the dreaded team event.

Am I really going to have to balance six feet in the air and trust that my partner will ‘have my back?’ What if they’re as freaked out by the exercise as I am?

Really? Another must-attend dinner? On a Friday night when I’d much rather be at home with my family, relaxing and watching a movie?

Sound familiar? I thought so. With the holidays approaching and planning for 2015 on the horizon, you can almost hear the calendars crunching with team lunches, team dinners, team outings, team challenges and of course, team work. While there may be some value in these activities and get-togethers, they often feel forced and may even be counterproductive.

Why not let team relationships develop more naturally, in a way that is meaningful and supported by the team? Here are some ideas.

Let the team decide. Instead of HR or an events person selecting an activity or scheduling a lunch, put the task to the team. Give them a budget and a timeframe and let them exercise their creativity and collaborative skills. You may be amazed at what they come up with.

Embrace diversity. Recognize that while some on the team may jump (literally) at the opportunity to compete in something physical, others may prefer a more low-key approach to bonding. Consider allowing mini team activities or finding a multi-purpose venue and letting team members gravitate naturally toward their preferred activity.

Consider focusing on others. Most people like to “give back” to the community, but many don’t have time on the weekends because of family and household activities. Take an afternoon off and volunteer as a team at a food bank or some other local charity. Not only will it give the team a shared experience to bring them closer together, it will increase their positive feelings about the company. Research shows that companies who give back to their communities have better brand visibility, more highly-engaged employees and stronger relationships with customers.

Most of all, be sure you are consistently modeling the behaviors that create a cohesive, high-performing team: clear expectations; open and honest communication; constructive feedback; mutual respect; and opportunities to share in and celebrate successes.

Till next time,


Communication, Engagement, Teams, Uncategorized


Recognizing the Value Millennials Bring to the Workplace

November 12th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

MillennialsIn the past couple of blogs we’ve looked at Baby Boomers and Generation Xers in the workplace and how to manage and work with them effectively. We round out this series with a look at Millennials, the youngest of our multi-generational workforce. This generation has grown up with the Internet and a proliferation of instant information and social connections. They are confident, social, and care about making an impact in the community.

Previous generations might argue that they are too confident, that they expect to achieve a higher level without “paying their dues.” But a recent New York Times article suggests that because of Millennials' confidence, quick learning ability and “nonstop exchange of information and opinions,” they are primed to drive a new wave of innovation.

If you are looking to attract, retain or collaborate effectively with Millennials, here are some tips:

Care about their personal and career goals. Millennials are motivated by managers who help connect their work to their personal and career goals. Understand what those goals are and give them assignments and opportunities that are directly related to them.
Coach and support them
. Millennials value achievement. Identify both their strengths and development areas and provide one-on-one coaching and stretch opportunities to enhance their performance. Match Millennial new hires with a Baby Boomer or Gen X mentor or “buddy” to help them learn to navigate the system and develop business relationships. Provide structure – goals, deadlines, well-defined assignments and success factors.
Leverage their technical savvy
. Millennials don’t like Managers who are threatened by their knowledge of and comfort with technology. Capitalize on their ability to quickly gather information and input via their social networking capabilities. Have them mentor less technically savvy employees to promote cross-generational collaboration and understanding.
Give them opportunities to volunteer in the community. Millennials are interested in contributing to their communities both in giving and in volunteering. According to the 2013 Millennial Impact Report, 83% of respondents made a gift to an organization in 2012. The report also showed that the top three reasons Millennials get involved are: 1) passion about the cause; 2) opportunity to meet people; 3) ability to apply their expertise.
Build their credibility. Don’t treat Millennials as if they are too young to be valuable. Use their capability to access and share information quickly. Give them opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills to a visible project or assignment. Give them frequent and productive feedback.

The NYT article quotes Mike Marasco, leader of a cross-generational mentoring program at Northwestern University: “Millennials work more closely together, leverage right- and left-brain skills, ask the right questions, learn faster and take risks previous generations resisted. They truly want to change the world and will use technology to do so.”

Till next time,


Communication, Leadership, Management, Multi-generational workforce, People, Teams

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Managing Generation Xers in the Multi-Generation Workplace

October 28th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

Generation XIf you read my last blog (which of course you did!) you now have a better idea of how to work with and manage Baby Boomers. But what if you’re a Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964) or a Millennial (born between 1980 and 2000) and you need to work more effectively with Generation Xers? THAT’S what we’re going to talk about this time.

Generation X refers to people born between 1965 and 1979. They grew up in the disco/pop/MTV era and witnessed the integration of the personal computer into our everyday lives. They are self-reliant (think “latch-key kids”), tribal and technologically literate. They work hard, but are more assertive in their quest for work/life balance than their Baby Boomer parents were.  They are adaptable, creative and willing to go against the system if necessary. They prefer not to have a lot of rules.

Here are some tips for managing and working effectively with Generation Xers.

Don’t require a face-to-face for information exchange. If you call and they’re not there, leave a detailed voicemail rather than just “please call me back.” Or write them an email.  It’s more efficient, and that’s what technology is for. And speaking of technology, you can attract, retain and motivate them by providing them with the latest technology and adequate resources.

Give them a task or project and let them fly. Gen Xers are motivated by the freedom to get the job done on their own schedule. They don’t do well with micromanagement.

Develop them. Gen Xers prefer managers who support their training and growth, and provide ample development opportunities. Give them stretch projects or put them in charge of something highly visible to spotlight their abilities. Provide them with frequent, specific and timely feedback to help them build their skills and position them for future career opportunities.

Value diversity and think globally. As this generation was growing up, the world was shrinking (in terms of perceived distance) due to the reach of new technologies and the influx of new cultures and nationalities into our communities. Generation Xers embrace diversity and want to work in environments that are not limited in scope.

Be genuine and direct. Generation Xers tend not to like managers who don’t “walk the talk.”  Demonstrate your competence and show that you trust them by allowing them to work autonomously. Make your interactions with them purposeful, rather than just “schmoozing.”

And, whatever you do, don’t forget to make time for FUN!

Next time we’ll talk about how to work effectively with Millennials.

Till then,


Communication, Diversity, Leadership, Multi-generational workforce, People, Teams

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Individual Styles and High Performing Teams

March 27th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

High Performing TeamsWe all tend to gravitate toward people who are like us.  This is true in our friendships, our relationships and, yes, our work teams. We hope that by focusing on those similarities there will be more harmony and, by extension, a better, more productive work environment. But think about what “harmony” is, in the true sense of the word. It’s NOT everyone singing the same note.  It’s people singing different notes that creates harmony.

As a team leader, it’s easy to fall into like = harmony thinking.  Avoid conflict. Get to the performing stage quicker. Shorten the decision cycle. And yet, without giving air to those different notes – different ideas, strengths, approaches, views – you miss the opportunity to create something innovative and new. Same ol’, same ol’ produces the same ol’, same ol’. Every time.

Consider this scenario.

Mike is about to meet for the first time with a temporary project team he’ll be heading up for the next several months. The members were assigned to him, so he had no input into their selection.  He’s disappointed that he wasn’t asked to pull together a team from “his” people, who think just like him. Life would be so much easier. He hasn’t met any of the team yet, but he’s spoken with four of their managers and has made some notes.

Robert. Quick-thinking. Direct. Not afraid of conflict or challenging the status quo. Confident and decisive. Track record of meeting deadlines and staying within budget. Competitive. Task-focused.

Yolanda. Lots of ideas. Good at creating a vision and inspiring others to follow. Outgoing and friendly.  Likes variety and flexibility. Tends to change topics quickly during discussions. Relationship-focused.

Gary. Quiet and reserved. Great listener. Works to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Good at coordinating efforts and maintaining strong relationships. Strong focus on values.

Barb. Analytical and detail-oriented. Excellent at ensuring all bases are covered. Processes information by asking questions. Lots of questions. Takes a systematic approach to decision-making.

Mike wonders how he will ever be able to meld these diverse styles together to complete the project.  He worries that Robert will compete with his leadership, and that Barbara will get too caught up in the details to get anything done.  And how will Yolanda and Gary work with the other two?

Mike decides that the only way forward is to embrace the differences instead of fearing them. And a magical thing happens. Yes, there are some conflicts at the start – as there are on all teams – but those conflicts, and the different approaches, perspectives, talents, ideas, and strengths harmonize into a final product that is far superior to anything Mike in his monotone world had ever seen.  Because…

Yolanda created a vision.

Robert kept them on track.

Gary ensured they were heard.

Barb let nothing fall through the cracks.

Want to learn more about individual styles and the value each can add to your team? Contact PeopleThink: 415.440.7944 or kcolligan@peoplethink.biz.

Till next time,


Diversity, People, Performance, Professional and team leadership, Teams, Uncategorized

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