7 Massive Mistakes New Managers Make and How to Avoid Them

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Morag Barrett
Morag Barrett is sought out speaker and the author of "Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships" and "The Future-Proof Workplace" published by Wiley March 2017. She's also the founder and CEO of www.SkyeTeam.com, an international HR consulting and leadership development company. Morag’s experience ranges from senior executive coaching to developing leaders and teams across Europe, America and Asia. SkyeTeam works with clients in a range of industries including: Healthcare, Telecoms, Mining, Manufacturing, Engineering, and Technology. She's a regular contributor to the American Management Association, Entrepreneur.com and CIO.com.
Morag Barrett

@skyemorag

I help organizations, teams & individuals get unstuck | leadership development | Keynote Speaker | Author 'Cultivate. The Power of Winning Relationships'
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Morag Barrett
Morag Barrett

You have just been promoted…. Congratulations! While this is an exciting time for you, have you stopped to consider the mistakes new managers make, and how you can avoid them?   The spotlight is on you.  Others are watching your every move, every comment, every decision you make.

  • Your boss is watching to confirm they promoted the right person
  • Your team is watching to work out what their new boss (you) will be like to work for
  • Your peers are watching to see whether you are someone who values teamwork and collaboration

The pressure and scrutiny of others is only exacerbated by the pressure we put on ourselves during the “honeymoon period”. What I have learned is that this self-imposed pressure can be the most limiting of all, as it causes us to hesitate to ask for help or to admit when we don’t know.  We (mis) believe that we need to take charge, take control and have all the answers from day one.

Effective leaders and managers are at the heart of every successful organization, however, many companies operate a ‘sink or swim’ approach to leadership and management development and do not provide support during the critical transition.  Think about your last promotion or new role, how did you prepare yourself for your new responsibilities?  What support did your company provide?

At SkyeTeam we know that almost every new leader and especially first-time managers will make mistakes along the way.  Here are seven of the most common mistakes new managers make, and more importantly what you can do to avoid them!

Mistake 1: Not spending enough time with your new boss. Few leaders take the time to get clarity on their new role beyond reading the job description (if you have one!).  Make sure to meet with your boss to ensure that you are both clear on; their expectations of you and your role; their leadership style; their perspective on your team (who are the stars and who are the ones who may need additional support); their expectations on the opportunities for change (and what needs to stay the same!) and key results to be achieve.  In addition, this is an opportunity for you to share your expectations of your boss and what you need from them to ensure success, this is a partnership after all. Make sure that this is not a single conversation and that you meet regularly to review progress and receive feedback.

Mistake 2: Not Getting to Know the Team. It is likely that your promotion is a result of great results in your previous role; if these were predominantly technical results then beware!  Research and experience has shown that, as you progress through your career, it is the quality of your working relationships that have a greater impact on your success. Take the time to get to know your new team AND peers to understand how you can ensure their success (and they yours).

Mistake 3: Not Giving Enough Direction. Keep your team informed of project goals, priorities, critical deadlines and how success will be measured.  Discuss how these fit into the company’s overall objectives.  It’s a fine line between giving enough direction and micro-managing so encourage questions and feedback.

Mistake 4: Feedback – Only Focusing on What’s Wrong. In a Ken Blanchard Companies survey of over 1,400 executives, failing to provide appropriate feedback was the most common mistake that leaders make.  Ensure that the feedback you provide is specific and describes the behaviors required for future success.  Look for opportunities to celebrate success and feedback focused on the future as well as ‘do differently’ feedback that is focused on the past.

Mistake 5: Changing too much and too soon.  In a desire to ‘put their stamp’ on things leaders may rush in and make changes to how things are done.  However, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, just because something isn’t being done the way you would do it, doesn’t make it wrong.   Take time to understand your new role; observe the team and ensure you have the support of key stakeholders before implementing big changes.

Mistake 6: Failing to Delegate. Holding onto the tasks that got you promoted can be a particular challenge especially if you have been promoted internally, resulting in burnout, job dissatisfaction and frustration (of your team as well as yourself).   Delegating tasks will allow you the time to develop and focus on the NEW responsibilities and expectations of your role.

Mistake 7: Not taking the time to learn. When we move into a new role we naturally want to show those who hired us that they made the right decision.  This can result in a failure to ask for help or to admit ‘I don’t know’.  Allow yourself (and others) to make, and learn from, mistakes.  Set aside time to reflect on what is working and what is not; what situations went well and what didn’t go to plan.  More importantly, identify what the learning and what you will do (differently) the next time the situation arises.

What mistakes have you seen new managers make?  And what advice do you have to avoid making those mistakes?

2 Comments

  • monty rainey says:

    Very well written! The mistake I have seen most often, especially with new managers – is they are are too focused on being “the boss” they forget to take the time to build relationships with their people. That’s not always the fault of the new manager. Sometimes the corporate culture views it as unacceptable to build those relationships, but they are vital and can make the difference between a good employee and a great one.

  • Monty, glad you enjoyed this post. I agree, relationships are critical, and I find that (new) managers may focus their attention building relationships upward in the organization and forget to focus horizontally or down in the organization. As you point out somtimes it is the company culture that prevents this, at other times it is the lack of care and attention by the manager. I write about these issues in my new book “Cultivate. The Power of Winning Relationships.”

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