5 Mistakes New Managers Make

5 Mistakes New Managers Make

Unless you work for a large corporation with a decades-old training program, your first few months as a manager will probably be an extended exercise in improv. You won’t know what you’re doing, and no one will really tell you how to do it.

The dirty little secret at most companies is that managers aren’t necessarily promoted for their skills at inspiring and organizing people, but rather as a reward for doing a good job in an earlier role. In most organizations, there’s only so far you can go on the corporate ladder without adding people-management to your CV. Someone wanted to give you a raise, and now here you are, holding the professional futures of a team of humans in your hand like so many tiny bird eggs.

Don’t let it psych you out. Your official “management training” might consist of a brief and oddly stern conversation with HR and a packet of regulations and logins tossed into your inbox, but you can learn to be an excellent manager with a little self-directed study and forethought. The most important thing is to know what pitfalls might await you.

5 Mistakes New Managers Make

New managers, beware of the following:

Being best friends with the people who report to you.

Much like a reality TV star, you’re not here to make friends. (Unlike a reality TV star, you’ll need to learn how to express yourself without flipping over a table, but that’s a post for another time.)

Ideally, you and your reports all like each other, but it’s more important that you respect one another. Don’t try to be BFFs with the people who work for you. True friendship can only evolve between people with equal power and position, and that’s not the situation as long as you’re the boss. It’s unfair to ask your employees to feign delight in your presence one moment and hop to it whenever you need them to do what you ask. That expectation just gives them another job – this one unpaid.

Review these tips for how – and how not – to work with your friends.

Letting problem children set the tone.

It’s human nature to apply more grease to those squeaky wheels, but make sure you’re not organizing your priorities around dealing with – or placating – the loudest and most demanding members of your team. Doing so means you’re always reacting, not creating a proactive strategy, while running the risk of ignoring your quieter, more self-sufficient team members.

Instead, make sure to give all your reports equal time to discuss their goals with you, their manager. Put regular one-on-ones on your schedule, and keep those meetings. That way, you’ll hear from your introverts as well as your louder contributors.

Review these tips for how to handle a passive-aggressive co-worker.

Failing to build trust.

Your reports should feel safe confiding in you when they have concerns about the company’s direction or the progress of a project. The way you make them feel safe is by keeping their confidences and reacting in a positive, productive way.

This doesn’t mean that you have to listen to endless complaining with no purpose other than venting, but it does mean letting your people know that they can tell you something you don’t want to hear, without being punished for it.

Guide the conversation toward solutions, and encourage your team to think about solving problems even as they bring them to your attention, and you won’t have to worry about becoming their unpaid therapist – or winding up in the dark about an important problem.

Review tips for how to get your co-workers to like you.

Hiding areas of potential growth.

You don’t know everything. No one does. One of the scariest things about becoming a manager is that you’ll have a lot of opportunities to learn about how much you don’t know. For example, at some point in your career, you may manage workers with totally different skillsets than your own, which means that you don’t necessarily understand the nitty-gritty of what your people do all day – until you ask.

Note that this doesn’t require you to self-flagellate or otherwise make yourself seem small. Just be prepared to ask questions, and listen to the answers.

Never admitting when you’re wrong.

No one likes admitting that they made a mistake, but if you can’t acknowledge that you’re wrong, you can’t fix the problem. Show your reports that it’s OK to misstep, as long as you get back on track, by apologizing gracefully and making a plan to move forward. Your team will respect you for not pretending to be perfect and be much more likely to admit their own errors early on, while you can work together to fix them.

Suggested Reading: What Your Reports Say (and What They Really Mean) | Are You a Bad Boss?

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  • February 15, 2022