What common mistakes do new managers make?
It is an invigorating experience to be in the presence of a newborn manager, when they tend to approach their promoted roles with much enthusiasm. They demonstrate an eagerness to get stuck in, and to prove themselves to many people: to prove their abilities; that their seniors made the right decision by choosing them for the job; that they will lead their team with positivity and deliver great results; that they will take good care of their clients and improve the company’s service.
But with this enthusiasm often comes over-compensation that tends to manifest either as wanting to do every little job there is, or as micromanaging every job there is. Both are common approaches, and tend to result in mistakes that have been made many times before, and will certainly be made many times again.
For some, this struggle is a necessary rite of passage, and for others, there is the opportunity to receive support that the new manager very much needs to avoid such mistakes. Managers who are young in experience - not necessarily in age - often make the following errors, and usually because they are left to struggle alone without the support and development.
New managers often aim to please everyone
New managers can find it hard to say no to other people or to set goals that are realistic - they want to get it all done to the best standard and prove themselves. At this point, they have not had enough time to get to grips with their new role and to gain a clear understanding of all the elements that are working for or against them in the new workplace.
This pressure adds to a manager’s reluctance to say no. Taking on tasks or objectives in such a knee-jerk fashion inevitably puts the manager under immense stress, which ripples out to their teams and seniors.
A new manager wants to establish themselves as successful straight off the bat, which tends to result in disappointment for everyone. Along the way, the team is often overworked and are soon exhausted and angered by their meagre return on investment.
This lack of results is caused by the manager’s inexperience and inability to realise that all of this frustration is occurring.
For some new managers, breaking tasks down into manageable chunks and completing them well before moving onto another is the way to go, but as with the macro approach, this technique also has its downfalls.
When breaking things down, there are usually three main areas of focus - team, task and self.
When a new manager’s focus is totally on the team, their aim is usually to win the team over, hoping that with the team on their side, everything else will fall into place.
They will make the team feel supported, and hope for the same in return, making it known that they are willing to go down with the ship like any good captain. They are coming to understand what motivates the team and the individual, all while seeking their trust and respect.
Naturally, this requires time and effort, but while the team is getting all the attention, other elements are being neglected: deadlines missed, clients and senior managers displeased, and the team frustrated at their professional reputations being trashed.
Managers will only receive the trust and respect of their team when they deliver in every area. Sole focus on the team will be supported at first, but this respect will soon taper off as the team becomes disillusioned with the distraction.
When focus is put solely on a task by new managers, with delivery being positioned as priority, issues soon crop up in the other, neglected areas.
The client may be receiving what they expect, but the delivery process is chaotic, with managers often putting unnecessary pressure on their team.
The praise for the manager that should go along with delivering is overshadowed by their autocratic working style, which often alienates the team. Priority must be shared equally between delivery and team support.
Being promoted from one level to another - that is, up to management - can prove quite the ego boost, and too heavy a focus on the self will see managers alienating their team, seniors and perhaps even their client.
High manager ego sees morale and productivity plummet, which often causes missed deadlines.
Of course it is important for managers, or anybody in a company, to know where they want to go, it is more important that they make their mark in their current role before eyeing up the next one. Again, balance is crucial.
When in doubt, blame yourself
Any new job will require a certain period of adjustment to new tasks and responsibilities, and this is all the more true for new managers.
Hand in hand with new responsibilities comes the opportunity to learn from mistakes that get made, but often managers are quick to excessively blame themselves for any errors that occur, directing their energy inward towards the problem rather than outward towards a solution.
Pushing so hard to deliver results often causes more mistakes to be made, to the point that managers fear having to deliver.
This sort of pressure sees stress levels soar, resulting in more frequent illness.
It’s mine, all mine
A lot of people stepping into a manager role for the first time have made their way there by performing well in their previous roles.
Often managers will want to cling on to the responsibilities of their former role as a sort of safety blanket, and resist handing over their old tasks to someone else.
Because of this, they will try to deliver in their new and old roles: they spend additional hours in the office, deadlines keep getting put back, and the team lose faith in them, due to lack of delegation.
There is often an assumption that teams are unable to live up to the high standards the new manager has set, which sets a negative chain reaction off.
It’s yours, all yours
If lack of delegation is not the problem, it is often over-delegation. These kinds of managers are eager to move into their new roles and to completely abandon everything to do with their old one.
Teams soon end up overworked and frustrated that the manager is swanning around and leaving all of the actual work to the others. Once again, balance is the key.
Feedback and conflict
Both new and old managers often struggle with giving feedback, particularly constructive feedback, and some find themselves reacting instinctively, with fight, flight or freeze.
When having to give constructive feedback, fight mode may cause unnecessary aggression, while flight will see a manager ignore an issue and offer no feedback at all. If a manager lacks the skillset required to deliver feedback, they may freeze and avoid the subject entirely.
These are just some of the mistakes that it is very common for new managers to make.
Every new manager needs time and support to find their own feet, and being helped along by their team and superiors will make this teeth-cutting phase easier, quicker and more successful for everyone involved.