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5 Mistakes of New Managers

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Damn the man! That’s you, now.

Woman Wearing Black Leather Jacket Black Sunglasses With Silver SpikesYou’re a new manager. Welcome to the other side. First time people managers need to realize there are brand new challenges that require a whole new mindset. Unfortunately, new manager training is often under-resourced in most businesses. And while promoting from within can be a loyal quality of a company, putting ill-prepared employees in charge of others is dangerous. See below for my list of the five things new managers just don’t get right. If you’re a new manager, hopefully this foresight will allow you to hit the ground running and immediately improve the impact you have on your team.


1. Say ‘Hello/Good Morning’ To Everyone. 

  • Seem like a dumb point to make? Screw your judgement and listen to me. As a new manager you are immediately responsible for more than just yourself. With that responsibility comes, not only team success (however your organization defines it) but also team morale. That’s right, it’s not just about the metrics. A good manager will ensure his/her team is individually motivated, challenged, heard, and appreciated. Not only will a simple hello provide a sense of acknowledgement but it also allows you to take inventory of each employee’s mood (on the daily) which is key if you want to be effective at motivating, challenging, and hearing them.
  • This habit is the beginning to making sure all other management habits are in line by setting the precedent of being fair. New managers with the best intentions can easily get caught in the crossfire of HR and employee discontent if they are perceived as being ‘unfair.’ The moment you give the impression you’re treating others differently is the moment you open yourself up to complaints of ‘favoritism,’ despite the fact it may be unwarranted. Saying hello/good morning to everyone should be only one example of how you are providing the same amount of time and attention to each of your reports. Begin here and let all your other actions follow suit.

2. Ensure Professional Boundaries And Separation. 

  • This is a difficult lesson to learn but is absolutely necessary to be a good manager. A manager must be friendly, not friends. This is especially hard if the manager has been promoted from within the same team. Transitioning from a peer to a peer-leader is not an easy task. Your former colleagues are now your direct reports. The dynamic must shift if you are to be successful. This means you can’t gossip about the Jenny anymore and you can’t talk about how David never gets his work done.
  • A new manager must separate themselves from the social intimacy of their team. You are their leader and that means the road can be lonely at times. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about each employee’s personal life. Certainly not. It means you need to allow enough distance between yourself and them to facilitate a professional relationship. Like it or not, you are an authority figure and to maintain credibility, you need to act like it.

3. Reevaluate How You Measure Your Success. 

  • Prior to becoming a manager, you’ve likely spent your career as an individual contributor. That means that up until now you’ve been judged by the work you yourself have produced. As a new manager, that is no longer the case and failure to see this will result in micro-managing tendencies, reduced productivity, and stifled innovation. Herein lies the wisdom: As a manager your success is no longer measured by your personal achievements, but by the achievements of your team.
  • Part of becoming a successful manager is learning to ‘zoom out.’ That means thinking strategically, not tactically, as an individual contributor would do. This can be hard to pick up as we’ve been trained up to this point that value is extracted by tangible work. Do ‘x’ and receive ‘y’. By being able to look at the big picture you will allow your team to do what they do best without getting in their way. Their success will be your success.

4. Document Important Employee Interactions.

  • This may sound like a bullshit administrative task that doesn’t jive with your hip new management style but listen up, you don’t want to learn this the hard way. It will make yours and your employee’s life so much easier if you get in this habit from the start. By documenting important interactions you create accountability and organization around key events, goals, and conversations.
  • Here are some examples of when documenting is crucial:
    • Setting goals, metrics, or expectations
    • When identifying ‘coaching opportunities’
    • After disciplinary conversations with employees
    • When discovering ‘praise-worthy’ moments
  • By documenting these interactions, you free yourself from hearing the “Oh, I didn’t know/You didn’t tell me/I never agreed to that” excuses lobbed by under-performing employees. And if you ever reach a point of termination, providing a well organized documented timeline of events enables a fair perspective of the facts. On the flip side, you’ll want to ensure encouragement and recognition for things your team does well. By documenting these moments you’re telling your reps that you care and pay attention to their efforts.

5. Collaborate, Don’t Command.

  • If you want to be leader and not just a manager you need to cultivate an environment of collaboration. Often, new managers will feel the need to establish their authority and do so by dictating commands, tasks, and policies. This immediately alienates your team and will create an unnecessary power struggle. Remember, your success is defined by their success. By working together you can accomplish much more. Give your team opportunities to voice their opinions and solutions. In fact you should be encouraging those opportunities, not just allowing them. Being a manager doesn’t mean you are king/queen. It means you now have the ability to champion and elevate others. Start by creating a collaborative culture.


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Comments to 5 Mistakes of New Managers

  • As a new manager, I loved this article !

    Nicole August 1, 2018 2:18 pm Reply

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