This week I asked some of my colleagues and mentors what they would list as the most common mistakes made by new managers. Here is a summary of the best advice from some talented managers, coaches and business owners of what not to do right after you’ve gotten that big promotion:
Trying to Shake Things Up – Many new managers feel that they need to come in and make changes right away. This usually stems from a fear of being perceived as an ineffective manager or out of a total lack of ideas about what to do. But making changes before understanding the systems in place can be risky. Take the first 30-90 days on the job as an opportunity to get to know your team members, customers, vendors and colleagues. Seek to understand the reasons behind the processes you see, and when you decide to make changes, do so in a controlled manner so you can measure the results!
Failing to Seek Advice – If you’ve just been promoted because you were the highest performer and best at what you did in the past, you may be so accustomed to success that you forget what it’s like to be challenged. Leveraging your network to find a mentor or coach who can help you avoid the pitfalls of your new position is critical when you take on a new role. Taking the time to learn from the mistakes of others can greatly increase your chances for success.
Believing You Are In Control – You might wish that your promotion came with the keys to the kingdom, and some of your management colleagues would love it if it were true. While you are now responsible for the output of your team, and have a certain amount of authority within that context, issuing edicts from the mountain top and acting like a dictator is rarely the best way to build a high performing team. There will be many things outside of your control in a management role, and understanding what things are within your sphere of influence vs. what things are not is a key component of your transition.
Not Allowing Your Team to Make Mistakes – When you were an individual contributor (if you worked for a skilled manager) you were likely allowed enough space to try some things and make some mistakes. Avoid the tendency of newly promoted supervisors to try to micro-manage everyone. Set goals and objectives for your team members and then hold them accountable for the results, not the process. If they make mistakes or have challenges along the way, be a resource they can leverage – don’t come down on them like a ton of bricks or you will find that they will avoid involving you until it’s too late.
Not Listening – Some new leaders think they have to go it alone. They believe that asking for advice or soliciting opinions makes them look weak in front of their team. Being unable to make a decision will certainly erode your credibility as a manager, but soliciting input from your team, your peers and your network to ensure that you make an informed decision will prevent you from having to change your mind as you uncover more information. With that said it’s important to set time boundaries for yourself on the information gathering process. The wrong decision right now is often better than the right decision too late.
Being Buddies – Were you promoted to manage a team wne you had previously been a member? Are you now in charge of your former peers? This can be a challenging scenario for experienced leaders, let alone people who are filling a management role for the first time. Trying to be “one of the guys (or girls)” after you take on the position of supervisor can lead you down the slippery slope of favoritism. You will need to develop an objective view of your team and its members in order to be effective at evaluating their work. If you have been buddies in the past, this will require a conscious shift of mindset and you may have to put up with some flack about selling out. Put yourself on a reading program (you can check out my recommended reading list for some titles to start you off) to develop your leadership skills and as long as you take charge respectfully but decisively, your team will soon see you as their leader.
Taking on a management role for the first time can be a daunting prospect. The metrics for success as a manager are substantially different from those of an individual contributor, and if you don’t take the opportunity to proactively change your approach, you will find yourself struggling with the challenges of leadership. While it is important to adapt your mindset towards your new position and learn new skills to be successful, you cannot and should not try to completely change your personality. Some management styles and techniques may work well for you while others will not. Become a student of these different schools of thought and you will have a full toolbox to draw from when you encounter challenges.