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.

Hold grudges

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?

Self-investment: Taking responsibility for your own growth

If you’re looking to grow your revenue, your company, or your user base, you need to grow professionally and become better at your craft every day. You also need to make sure that you encourage this type of growth in your employees. Just like professional athletes, try to avoid going into maintenance mode –  always strive to be better with each performance. Here are a few thoughts.

Log your lessons learned

No matter how big or small a success or failure you experience, be sure to extract a lesson learned. As Thomas Edison once said about the process of inventing the lightbulb, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” In order to force yourself to reflect on lessons learned, keep a log. Some people prefer to keep a physical journal while others keep things on their phone or in the cloud. Google docs works great if you want use hashtags in order to be able to easily find items by category.

Peer groups

It’s always a good idea to step outside your company, and even your industry, in order to learn about how other leaders have approached certain challenges. Startup hubs often provide excellent opportunities for in person networking and idea exchanges. At the Atlanta Tech Village, for instance, we have a 7 Figure Club, in which a group of entrepreneurs get to meet for lunch with David Cummings and discuss what’s been going well, what’s not been going well, and any other topic of relevance. A group of female leaders meets up for coffee to talk about topics such as recruiting and diversity. If you’re not aware of those types of opportunities at your workplace, reach out to tech hubs in your city, or go to You may even end up founding your own networking group. LinkedIn groups can be a good way to connect with professional peers in a more asynchronous way. Speaking of LinkedIn – have you checked out LinkedIn Learning?

Read, read, and read some more

I can’t stress enough how valuable a daily reading routine can become, but don’t take it from me. Warren Buffett, when asked about the key to success, once said Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” It’s a habit that most financially successful people have in common. The average CEO reads 60 books a year. Reading non-fiction allows you to stretch your mind, to better understand your industry and different aspects of leadership, and to sharpen your problem-solving skills. After all, you are essentially consuming solutions. As a CEO, VP, director, or anyone with leadership aspirations, don’t just dive into books on management and financials, but also continue to learn about project management, product management, sales, marketing, and customer service. Augment your reading with webinars, podcasts, and TED talks.

Learn skills outside of your job responsibilities

The amount and quality of online courses that are available for free or for a nominal fee is nothing short of astounding. In addition to taking courses about topics that are directly within the scope of your daily job responsibilities, seek out some that are not. How about a PHP or Java course, a course on building mobile apps or UX, or machine learning? The more technical chops you have, the more confident you can be in asking the right questions with regard to your product. When sharpening your programming skills, build something that involves a cause that you’re passionate about. I also recommend finding any courses that revolve around innovation, whether it’s with regard to design or business models.

Learn skills outside of your job

One of the most important skills which you should never stop honing is the ability to learn new things. Therefore, consider dedicating whatever amount of time works for your lifestyle to acquire new skills outside of your job. Learning a new language is never a waste of time. Duolingo is a great way to get started for free. Learn sign language or braille, how to build something with your hands (for those of us who work on the computer all day, this can be a welcome change), or pick up a new musical instrument.

In order to always move forward and to grow your employees and your company, you must invest in your own growth and become the most well rounded leader you can be. Growing means stepping out of your comfort zone, and it certainly is a substantial daily investment. But it’s one that you can’t afford not to make.

What about you? What are your tips for continuously becoming better at your craft?