Top Six Mistakes to Avoid as a First-Time Manager

Mistakes to avoid

Although getting your first promotion into a managerial role is something every high-performing individual looks towards, the challenges that come with this change make it an almost dreadful experience. Often, first-time managers get into the role with minimal training or no training at all, so much so that the odds become stacked against them in a way that makes the role a roller coaster ride without the safety belts.

In fact, research from CEB Global shows that a staggering 60% of new managers fail within their first 24 months. A recent survey also shows that 43% of managers who have been in their role for less than a year say they’ve had no training, further contributing to the high failure rate.

So, how do you overcome this trap? We have compiled for you a list of the top mistakes to avoid to make your first-time manager role a much more fulfilling experience.

Mistake 1: Doing It All Yourself

First-time managers often are excellent individual contributors who have been promoted into managerial roles. As fair and motivating as this is, often first-time managers overlook the fact that what got them to be excellent professionals is not what will get them to be excellent managers.

Your role as a manager is not to get the work done yourself but to lead your team to get the job done. With that in mind, a managerial role requires an entirely different skillset than what made you an excellent individual contributor. So, next time you feel the urge to jump in, roll your sleeves up, and do it yourself, remember to relax, step back, and delegate.

Mistake 2: Shying Away from Difficult Conversations

First-time managers often shy away from difficult conversations. That is motivated by an innate human desire to be ‘liked’. But remember that your goal, as a manager, is not to be liked as much as it is to be a good leader. And although your team may like a nice manager, they will not like a manager who leads the team to underperformance, layoffs, and stagnation.

Therefore, there is no escape from the necessity of being able to take tough conversations head-on. If a team member is underperforming or there is a conflict in the team, as the leader, you must prioritize talking about it to ensure feedback is given, roadblocks are removed, and conflicts are resolved.

Tough conversations also go both ways. Your team may find it difficult to give you feedback on your management style and practices. And, as a first-time manager, this is the time when you need it the most. So, encourage your team to give you direct feedback by scheduling one-on-one check-ins with them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, or sharing a survey with them regularly, and simply directly asking, ‘How can I be a better manager for you?’.

Mistake 3: Managing Down Only

As an individual contributor, you may have had an easy time only managing yourself and perhaps, occasionally, managing your relationships with your peers. However, as a first-time manager, you will be making a grave mistake if you miss out on how multi-stakeholder the role is.

Your role as a first-time manager often includes making commitments to your team, middle management, and other leaders in the organization at your managerial level. With such a multi-constituency, you’ll likely have a hard time if you manage by authority alone. You will need to develop influencing skills to be able to influence middle management to make decisions that help your team, to influence your peers to cooperate with your team, and even to influence your team members to give their best.

Mistake 4: Changing Too Much Too Fast

It is common political science wisdom never to attempt to change too much too fast, even if one is a great leader. People like constancy and a sense of certainty. As impossible as this is to achieve in the modern world, still it is sensible for a leader to try to approach change with more empathy towards this human tendency.

Moreover, there may be good reasons why things are the way they are. Instead of attempting to make drastic changes from day one to bring about the dawn of a new day, start with keeping the status quo, learning the ropes, developing a deeper understanding of why things work the way they do, deciding on what could need a change, and, only then, attempting to make the right changes at the right time. This will ensure you get your team’s appropriate buy-in and support and proof-checks your decisions.

Mistake 5: Not Giving Credit

As an individual contributor, a lot of your work was likely the result of solo work. However, as a team leader, any results the team achieves are likely the fruit of the work of many team members. You will go a long way if you keep this fact in mind and always remember to give credit when it is due.

Take the time always to say ‘thank you’ to your team members in private and in company meetings. Point out their contributions when you are thanked for their work. And, always use the word ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when talking about the team’s achievements. When it comes to team leadership, you can never overuse the word ‘we.

Mistake 6: Using One Brain

One of the biggest misconceptions a newbie manager may have is believing that they are the ‘brain’ of the team or that it is their responsibility to ‘think’ and ‘make decisions’ while the team is responsible to ‘do’ and ‘implement the decisions’. When approaching matters with this mindset, you make the grave mistake of alienating the entire team, depriving yourself and your company of the value of the great calibers you have, and, more importantly, risking solely owning a solution without the buy-in of your team.

Instead, make efforts to leverage the collective intelligence of your team. Start by making the time to see the unique value and perspective everyone brings. Use effective brainstorming and design thinking methods to arrive together at the best solutions and use group voting systems to make the best decisions.

Enhance your Leadership Skills

So these were the top six mistakes that every newbie manager must avoid. If you’re interested in developing your leadership or managerial skills, check out our wide array of leadership courses here, personalized to your needs and powered by our partner, Skillsoft.



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