Becoming a manager for the first time can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming. The truth is the majority of managers make mistakes when they take on a leadership role for the first time. In fact, research suggests that 9 out of 10 people who become a manager, don’t have leadership attributes when they begin their management journey. The shift to management is not just about a promotion and a pay rise, its often a case of needing to acquire a whole new skill set. So, as you embark on your management journey, you should be careful not to commit these common first-time manager mistakes.
Refusing to let go
As an employee your job is pretty easy. You have a list of tasks and projects you are responsible for, and you do all of the work yourself. When you become a manager, it is not your job to do those tasks anymore. You have to hand over the responsibilities to another person in the team. But most first-time managers find it incredibly hard to let go. The new person might have a different way of doing the work, which can freak out some first-time managers as that’s not how they used to do it. Likewise, others struggle with adapting to a role that is coaching and developing others to do more work than just one person could do, as they are still so focused on just doing themselves.
In addition, as an individual contributor a person is going to be up to date with all of the specific details of every piece of work and project they are working on. As a manager, it is impossible to be up to date with every single item and all the nuances. Trying to keep up to date will turn you in to a micromanager that will cause your team to disengage and increase attrition. Its important first-time managers understand that they have to focus on the big picture and ensuring the team get there.
Not building trust
Let’s be clear, team building efforts can be fun, but they are proven to be one of the least effective ways to build trust between a team and their manager. Having a team lunch, or some drinks after work, or going to an adventure park do not lead to employees trusting managers more. Trust is not about building rapport, its about being authentic and keeping your word. If your spouse was having an affair would you trust them again just because they bought you a nice lunch? Of course not. Trust is earned by being trustworthy. Its something you earn through your conduct day in and day out.
You need to communicate effectively and keep your promises. If you tell the team that no one is going to lose their jobs and then you make someone redundant, are your team going to trust you? If you promise someone a promotion if they deliver a project and then they don’t get promoted are they going to trust you? You need to communicate honestly and authentically and don’t make any promises you can’t keep.
Trying to be too nice
You don’t want to be an awful human being, but at the same time, being too nice is just as bad. A large part of being a manager is providing feedback and helping the team to improve. Its easy to praise someone when something has gone well, but a lot of people don’t like to discuss when something can be done better. The more valuable conversation is helping someone to improve in an area they are not performing well. But sitting back and not having those difficult conversations will lead to poor performance.
Finally, its important to remember that becoming an effective leader takes time. Failing and making mistakes is part of the journey of learning. You, just as with any of your team members are going to make mistakes. Learn from them, adapt and move forward. But whatever you do, do not become one of those bosses that lets your ego get in the way. Just because you are the boss, does not mean you are always right, or that you can’t admit you are wrong. Only bad managers believe that.
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