5 Mistakes First-Time Managers Make (and How to Avoid Them)
If you’ve recently been promoted you’re likely thinking about all the new projects you’re going to take on and the vision you have for your team. But before you begin picking out your new wardrobe and preparing to move into your new office (or your nifty new cubicle), you’ll have to make sure you’ve got a few things squared away when it comes to managing a team.
“Think about it. You spend an enormous percentage of your life at work…what do you whine about the most after you get home after a long day? A boss who isn’t managing or a co-worker who isn’t being managed,” said David C. Baker in Managing (Right) for the First Time.
Poor management can make the workplace a lot less pleasant, so try your best not to let your inexperience contribute to the chaos. Here are five mistakes you should avoid if you’re a new manager.
1. Becoming self-centered
Don’t start acting like you’re the best manager who ever lived and you’re too special to speak to anyone below you. If the underlings always have to speak to you first, it’s time to check your attitude. Self-esteem is great and all, but there should be limits. Joining the management team doesn’t make you better than everyone else below you. You just might rub someone the wrong way who later becomes your boss at another company. Be kind to everyone and remember that one day you may need help from someone you least expect.
“…Being a manager will make you and others think you are special, but you really aren’t. What I’m saying is that management should be viewed as a job. That is, it’s a job that involves stepping out of the details, looking at trends, acting like a coach, and all the other things that come with it. But that’s not necessarily more important than what the people on your team do, and you need to disabuse yourself of that idea or you’ll be haughty and unapproachable,” Baker said.
2. Trying to be everyone’s friend
It can awkward if you’re managing co-workers who were once your peers. However, now is not the time to be extra friendly so you can gain your team’s trust. You’ll have to step up and be the manager you were hired to be. While this new situation might be uncomfortable, it would be a disservice to your team to go out of your way to be nice so you can prove nothing has changed and you’re still the same person. The only thing is, this isn’t true—you’re not still “one of the guys.” Your roles have changed and things are not the same. So accept your new role and get comfortable with being in a leadership position. The friendly approach often backfires because your subordinates will most likely see this as an opportunity to take advantage of you by seeing how far they can bend the rules. It’s OK to be pleasant, just don’t try to be best buds.
“No matter how close a manager may feel to an employee, it should never be confused with a real ‘friendship.’ You might be a ‘friendly’ boss, and maybe even share some of the characteristics of a true friendship. You might even call it ‘a friend with boundaries.’ However, the role of a manager transcends friendship and creates a boundary and potential scenarios that would never exist between true friends,” said management expert Dan McCarthy.
3. Playing favorites
Another mistake many new managers make is giving their closest office friends preferential treatment. Passing over a well-qualified colleague so you can promote your friend is unfair and can negatively impact team spirit.
“Some bosses, particularly those who are not adept at managing, have favorites..it’s a big problem. It does damage morale. It’s disheartening to see others getting privileges that aren’t available to you,” said Suzanne Lucas, founder of the blog Evil HR Lady.
Although this happens often in many companies, it doesn’t make it right. Make an effort to reward the most qualified team member for a job well done. Besides, if you pick a friend for a promotion, and he happens to be a poor fit for the role, it will just make you look bad.
4. Doing everything yourself
Now that you have a team to lead, it will be necessary for you to learn to trust them enough to give them work. You cannot (and shouldn’t try) to do all the work yourself. It’s scary to leave the fate of a big project in the hands of other people, but it will be necessary so you can maintain your sanity. Staying up into the wee hours of the morning so that you can complete work that someone else should have done is a sure way to burn out and become filled with so much resentment that you’ll want to quit before you’ve gotten a chance to settle into your new position. Delegate the workload and save yourself some serious heartburn and stomach ulcers.
“Effective managers know what responsibilities to delegate to allow themselves time to plan, to collaborate with others in the organization, and to monitor the performance of their employees, making sure to give them adequate feedback and development opportunities. Often, managers think that they are delegating when they assign tasks to employees. Sometimes this is merely dumping on people. Real delegation is assigning responsibility for outcomes along with the authority to do what is needed to produce the desired results,” said Sam Lloyd, author of Accountability: Managing for Maximum Results.
5. Failure to provide feedback
You may often think to yourself how great your team is and how lucky you are to have them. However, it’s important to let them know you think they’re great and give them instruction on how they can be even better. You may still be settling into your new job, but an encouraging word goes a long way. It could make a big difference in the quality of work you receive and as well as the output. Take some time to look outside of yourself and offer a kind word as well as some constructive criticism. It will only take a few minutes out of your day. Your team members need encouragement and direction in order to do their best work.
“Practicing Management 101—just the fundamentals—requires discipline and rigor. It’s not easy to maintain a high-structure, high-substance, ongoing one-on-one dialogue with every person you manage. Nonetheless, those are the fundamentals…If you are somebody’s manager, then you have the power over that person’s livelihood and career, their ability to add value, and their ability to earn—this is how people put food on the table. They are working to make a living and take care of themselves and their families. And you are that person’s boss. That is a profound responsibility. The least you can do is the fundamentals,” said Bruce Tulgan in The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems.