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Blog: Misteps that New Managers Often Make

Leadership Journey Levels:

This is an issue entire books are written on. I believe the major reason new managers fail is due to lack of training. New managers go into a position with “sugar plums dancing in their heads” and wide-eyed wonder of how fantastic it is to be a leader. It is wonderful to be a leader, but it is also a challenge.

We have to look at why people get promoted to leadership. It is usually because they were great individual performers. We then take them out of the role in which they have: excelled, built identity, and earned autonomy. We then we put them in a role where they are the “new kid on the block”, have not managed people before, and are trying to figure out who they are in this new realm. That seems to be a recipe for disaster and yet it happens every day. Instead of being responsible for themselves and for personal results, they are now responsible for a team of people, motivating and managing different personalities, and let’s not forget still having someone above them telling them what to do.

I think there are a several challenges that a new leader faces in this new opportunity. I will list them below with a few suggestions as to why this happens:

  1. Micromanaging – there are several reasons for this. The first was discussed above. New managers often know how to do the technical aspects of the job well so they continue to go back to that by default because they have not been trained to manage people. New managers often think they can do it better than their team. This may be true and why got promoted in the first place, they need to realize it is not about being “the best” as an individual performer, it is about inspiring and training the team to be the best. A high-performance team will reflect better on them in their new role as a manager in the long-run. Another reason for micromanagement is they want to look good in their new role so they are afraid to let someone else do it when they know how well they can perform – again this may be true but they have to understand they are now training people to be as good as they are, even better! The new manager has to work on trusting their people – it is amazing what a new manager’s team will accomplish when they feel valued and trusted. My advice to new managers who are micromanaging is, let it go – give your team some margin for error, the opportunity to learn and then coach them to improvement.
  2. Insecurity – a new manager is going to feel insecure in their new role initially, even if they never tell anyone. It is normal to feel this way anytime we do something new. This can be another factor in micromanaging. A new manager needs to give themselves some time to develop and grow. I highly recommend a mentor or coach to partner with you in this new journey.
  3. They don’t know what else to do – New managers are often only comfortable performing the task rather than managing the task because they have not been trained what the role of the manager is – try delegating – ask your team members what they want to do, observe what they are good at. Your job is to manage them to their own greatness.
  4. Need to be in control – this is usually tied into insecurity or fear. A leader does not need to control others to be in control.
  5. A need for things to be perfect – people cannot grow under this pressure. New managers should learn to strive and train for excellence but remember where they started. Train, mentor, and partner people up for better performance.
  6. Not running effective meetings – again this goes back to the lack of new manager training. If there is nothing to talk about, there is no need for a meeting just to “have it”. Meetings should have purpose, a schedule, an opportunity to connect and people should leave with a feeling of accomplishment. Meetings do not have to take a long time. Time does not equate importance.
  7. Thinking that because they are the “boss” they have all the answers – This is a misconception that can be due to past experience with managers who thought they knew everything or from the misconception that as the boss they have to know everything. New managers need to recognize that they are not going to have all the answers and that is OK, normal and the way it is suppose to be – this is why they have a team!
  8. Trying to be everyone’s buddy – this often happens when a new manager is promoted from within. They are not sure how to make the shift and do not know how to lead and still be connected. They may be afraid of being seen a “bossy” or just taking over and telling everyone what to do. They want to be liked… that is the way it was before… new leaders may not know how to transition into the realm of leadership. A new leader has to recognize that things are different now. When they have “buddies” on the team, the rest of the team will assume favorites even if they are not playing favorites. It’s better to keep the “buddy” friendships and “private jokes” about the night before out of the office.
  9. Avoid the “maverick” syndrome – whether hired from the outside or promoted from within, coming in as a “maverick” with all the answers or going to show this place “how it is done” does not usually work. It is better to get to know the culture and the people, earn respect and then begin to make changes. This will play in their favor in the long run.
  10. Not understanding the importance of managing up – Managing up is a skill that takes time to develop; however, when done properly can really help a new manager learn and excel. The foundation of managing up is relationship building and strong emotional intelligence
  11. Not self-aware enough to know how they want to lead or be known – it is important for a new leader to process through how they want to lead, what do they want to be known for, what their personal/professional values are, and how are they reflected in their leadership style. This takes time and self-reflection for any leader including the new manager.
  12. Inability to balance new responsibilities with the rest of their life – going back to self-awareness, what do they value? What do they want their life to look like? Set a plan of action according to that – and don’t expect everyone on the team to have the same priorities or work-life balance.
  13. Managing everyone the same way – people are different, they are motivated differently, and respond differently in situations. New managers should get to know individuals on their team and manage them the way that they will be most successful for them individually.
  14. Being a suck up – this never works, the best idea is to learn how to manage up, not suck up.
  15. Not valuing the importance of a safe network of support – a support team is important to bounce ideas off of, share frustrations with and concerns – self-aware leaders know that as humans we need support. All leaders need that support to give feedback, encourage and hold accountable to your own value system.
  16. Having favorites – see the notes above on “buddies” at work. People know when you have favorites and will not be able to be loyal and dedicated if they know you have “favorites.”
  17. Relying on or hiding behind email – some situations require personal contact, especially if something can be misunderstood and/or if conflict is involved. If an email has gone back and forth more than 3 times, it is time to pick up the phone or set a meeting. If it can cause or has the potential to cause conflict, have the conversation in person, body language and non-verbal messages are important for a leader to read and they cannot do this over email.
  18. Not showing respect for people that have been there a long time – new managers should listen to the feedback of those with seniority, even if they disagree. They will be surprised what they may learn. New managers should find a way to create win-win scenarios and always show respect. “If you want it you have to give it.” I think many of the hurdles that new managers face can be overcome from having a coach and or mentor to work with – this coupled with good leadership training workshops will help to bring success. We should not fail to recognize the value of “the school of hard knocks”.


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