6 Common Mistakes New Managers Make
November 3, 2015
It is rewarding and fulfilling to see people rise up through the ranks of a company. It's satisfying to see star performers promoted into new management roles with wider responsibilities. Those being promoted are consumed by many emotions. There is the inevitable rush of excitement that surges through their body but there are also nagging doubts that preoccupy their thoughts. A voice inside their head whispering "Will you be good enough?" "Do you have what it takes?" For all the excitement there is also a lot of fear. This fear can lead to anxiety and stress.
Research studies have found that transitioning into management roles is incredibly stressful. That makes sense. Change is unsettling. Change involves us heading into the unknown. We are creatures of comfort. As we get used to things we do them on autopilot. We no longer consciously think about what we're doing, we just do it. Change requires us to turn off autopilot. It requires us to consciously think about what we're doing. We have to learn new skills and thought patterns. The idea of all this new learning can be enough to make our palms sweaty. With all this pressure it's no wonder so many of us screw up our transition into new management roles.
The good news is you can negate your fear and manage the process of change. To do that you simply need a road map. You need to be aware of the potential pitfalls that lie ahead of you and build a plan to navigate around them.
So what are the common mistakes that managers make when arriving into their new management role? What are the pitfalls we need to avoid?
1. Thinking You're Still A Star Performer
Often top performers get promoted as a result of their individual contribution to the success of a team. They are the stars of the team. They are exceptional at what they do. But management is different. It is no longer about how good you are, but it's about how well you can get others to perform. Moving from being a star performer to being in management is a difficult transition. It requires a totally new way of thinking. Now, your goal is to motivate and inspire your team toward success. No longer will you be at the front of the pack, instead you will be at the back encouraging everyone to move forward and achieve more. Failing to make this fundamental change will only result in you doing too much of your old job and not enough of your new one. It's no longer about you; it's all about the team. Ask yourself, what decisions do I no longer need to make?
2. Not Getting To Know Your Team
Managers excel with 'the human touch.' In a world where we can hide behind technology, it's all too easy to avoid talking to people. We end up prioritizing tasks over people. A manager's job is to find success through other people. It's imperative that you take the time to truly understand your team; what are their hopes? What are their fears? What motivates them? What are they happy about? What are they unhappy about? What do they need from you? What do you need from them? Open the dialogue early. Get to know them. Don't rush it. Spend time learning about the person as well as the professional. What do they do when they aren't at work? What's most important to them? What do they value? How you begin is so important to how you're perceived by the team. Ask yourself, how will I get to know my new team in a way that communicates I care?
3. Change For The Sake Of Change
This could be the most common mistake managers make. It happens all the time. Managers want to quickly establish themselves in the team, so they make changes. Lots of changes! Scrutinizing every process that has come before them and taking action. Spending time fixing things that aren't even broken. Change is unsettling for everyone even when it's positive change. Coming into a new team and making lots of changes communicates the exact opposite of what you intended. You want to show everyone that you are in control and have a plan. In reality you communicate that you're insecure or threatened by the success that came before you. Instead of making changes early, new managers should ask questions and seek to understand why the team does things in certain ways. Taking the time to understand will enable you to focus on making only the changes that will truly make a meaningful difference. Ask yourself, what can I ask to better understand the change I am about to make?
4. Failing To Recognize The Power Of Early Wins
Making change for the sake of change is fatal, but doing nothing can be equally as damaging. As you spend time observing and questioning what's happening in the team you need to identify some early wins -- even if they are small wins. Be on the lookout for areas of inefficiency or needless bureaucracy. Finding areas where you can make quick but meaningful enhancements is powerful. You need to show the team you're serious about making improvements and performing to the highest standards. Chalking up some early wins creates energy and momentum. It inspires action and fosters positivity. All the traits a team needs to keep winning. Being the best means winning the most. In the early days, the team notices small victories. Ask yourself, what small victories can I achieve in my first 90 days?
5. Being Too Friendly
This is a dangerous line that managers have to walk. You need to know your team well enough to establish trust. For collaboration to exist people need to know their contribution is not only welcomed but also valued. They need to know their manager has their best interests at heart. To foster this type of relationship you have to know the individuals and their values; you need a relationship that goes deeper than simply setting their weekly goals. People are happier when they are working for a manager they get along with. Happier people are proven to deliver better results. However, you must be careful. Socializing with your team can be dangerous. You need to set clear boundaries so that the team aren't tempted to take advantage of you. You are responsible for improving performance, which can make for some uncomfortable conversations. It's hard to challenge performance when you're too close to the team. Your friendships will impair your judgment. Ask yourself, what are the boundaries that I want to create between myself and my team?
6. Not Creating Time To Focus
When we transition into a new management role we want to be accessible to our team, colleagues and boss. Since a lot of these relationships are new, making time for everyone seems like the smart move, but it can also be fatal. Being too accessible can take you away from your core purpose. Your time can be eaten away by pleasantries and conversation. You can find yourself on projects you don't need to be involved in. You can find yourself fixing problems that won't move you toward your goals. Being too accessible absorbs your time and energy. Success comes from spending time focusing on the areas that will truly make a difference to your team's performance and growth. Ask yourself, what can I say 'no' or 'not now' to in order to focus on what really matters?
There are many more mistakes that didn't make it into this top 6. Mistakes will happen, and there are many to make. You can't run away from mistakes, but you can prepare yourself to make fewer of them. Mistakes allow us to learn and grow. Mistakes are learning moments. When a baby is learning to walk, they don't just one day pull themselves up and casually stroll around the house. It takes time to master. They wobble and they fall -- sometimes hurting themselves in the process. There are many setbacks. It's a process. The most important thing is that they are learning. With every wobbly step or painful fall, they are learning what works and what doesn't. The mistakes they make inform their decisions and approach the next time. Embrace the fact that every new management post is like learning to walk. You will make mistakes, you will fall but if you learn from each step you will be heading in the direction of success.
Learning to walk is about being able to balance. Balance is essential to not falling. Taking on a new management post also requires balance. You'll have the burning desire to put your mark on the team and take quick action. You'll be hungry to improve performance and exceed your targets. You'll want to quickly gain the trust and respect of your team. All of these are the right things to desire, you just need to equally divide -- or balance -- yourself between them.