Five common mistakes made by first time managers (and some veterans, too)
As your company is growing, you’ll likely increase the number of managers. If you’re promoting from within, be mindful of the fact that some new managers have no prior experience in that role. It’s of utmost importance to give them proper guidance and to discuss potential pitfalls. Let’s look at some common mistakes.
Sacrifice management for individual contributor work
There’s nothing wrong if a manager picks up some slack and helps out where needed, whether this involves finishing up a services project in order to make a client happy, filling in on a sales demo, or taking on a challenging support ticket. However, individual contributor type work should never have be at the expense of the team’s well-being. Be sure to have one on one meetings with your direct reports as well as weekly team meetings and daily stand-ups.
Retreat or ignore
Underperforming teams and individuals need your leadership. However, when things are not going well, the knee-jerk reaction of retreating is pretty common, and yes, only human. Instead of recognizing this and making a conscious effort to face the situation and dedicate more time to the individuals in question, a lot of managers (and I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself) retreat and sometimes even ignore them. Obviously, ignoring a conflict or underperformance rarely fixes anything and often makes the situation worse, resulting in mutual resentment. The sooner you have a heart to heart with your team member, the greater your chances of finding a solution.
Everybody makes mistakes. And sometimes, as described above, you let an unpleasant situation escalate by ignoring it. But at some point, you have to make a decision to either part ways or hit the reset button. If the latter is the case, everyone involved, but especially the manager, has to be committed to honoring a clean slate. Managers who continue to hold even the slightest grudge run the risk of creating an environment in which people are afraid of owning their mistakes and of taking risks.
Ask team members to do something that they’re not willing to do themselves
One of the best leaders I know once told me that her golden rule was to never ask her team to do something that she wasn’t willing to do herself. If you ask your reports to work late in order to meet a deadline, you better do the same. If you ask them to come into the office instead of teleworking, you better be there as well. Managers who are not willing to show this level of solidarity often have a hard time undoing the dent in morale that their behavior created.
Stagnate their own growth
Sometimes managers are so focused on the professional development of their team members that they forget to invest in their own growth. Other times, managers who got promoted too quickly or reached superstar status for previous achievements may start believing that there’s not much they can do to improve and, as a result, don’t take constructive criticism to heart and don’t look at ways in which they can improve. As a manager, be an example to your employees and never be complacent when it comes to your own skills.
The first step to becoming a good manager is to recognize your own room for growth and to lead by example.
What about you? Which mistakes have you made as a manager, and which lessons have you learned?