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7 Deadly Sins of New Managers

Posted on February 5, 2019 at 3:45 AM


Congratulations! You made it to the manager ranks at work. Your hard work and success as an individual contributor finally paid off. Along with a bigger paycheck, you now have your first responsibility to lead people. To make the most of your new opportunity, it is important to avoid the mistakes that first time managers often make. Here are the 7 biggest mistakes to avoid as a new manager. 


1 - Micro-Managing - New managers often get promoted because they were good at doing the work as an individual contributor. One of the toughest things about managing people is letting go of some of the control you had over how the job gets done. As the manager, you should focus more on assessing what people deliver (e.g., the quality, efficiency, and timeliness of results) and less on how they deliver it. Just because people sometimes do the work differently than you would, that does not mean they are doing it incorrectly.


2 - Absorbing Responsibility - People on your team are going to realize that, as a new manager, you may have a temptation to dive in and do the work yourself. They may actually welcome micro-management as a way to offload work to you. When a team-member asks you for advice on a decision they are supposed to make, they might be seeking to shirk responsibility for the decision if it goes wrong - "I was just doing what you told me to do!" Watch out for people who seem to welcome and encourage micro-management.


3 - Bending the Rules - As an individual contributor, it is easy to look at all the policies and procedures at work as unnecessary and bureaucratic "red tape." While streamlining processes can be a smart thing to take on as a new manager, resist the temptation to bend the the rules for individual cases. That is a slippery slope to trouble. As soon as you bend the rules for one person, others will expect the same leniency or criticize you for favoritism if you don't deliver for them. Bending a rule once can be the same as breaking the rule permanently. Before you bend a rule, at least understand why the rule was put in place and the impact of removing it.


4 - Avoiding Conflict - It is a natural goal to want everyone on your team to like you, especially if you were promoted to manage your colleagues/friends. Conflicts are natural within any team because we have to prioritize in a world that doesn't have infinite time and resources. As a new manager, you may want to avoid diving into conflicts. But as the leader of the team, it is your job to make sure conflicts are addressed in a constructive way. If you don't show leadership in identifying and resolving conflict, nobody will.


5 - Taking a One-Size Fits All Approach to Leadership - As a new manager, you will be figuring out your natural leadership style. It can be easy to forget that different people need different leadership support from their boss. Some will need you to provide external motivation to spark effort, while others just need some guidance or air cover to get things done. It is important to realize that different people need different leadership from you.


6 - Driving Overwork - New managers are often tempted to want to overachieve in their first leadership role. That may translate into additional hours of work to get extra results. As an individual performer, you saw the impact of long work hours on yourself and your life outside of work. As a leader, you need to keep in mind that you set the tempo for the hours worked by your team. If you are on email all weekend, your team might feel they need to be too. If you are working late every night, some on your team may be reluctant to leave before the boss does. You have to see a broader perspective as a leader.


7 - Forgetting the Example You Set - As an individual performer, others may have noticed the attitude you projected, the words you said, or the actions you took (or failed to take), but they didn't focus on them. As a leader, everyone focuses on you and reads the signs to see where your head is at. Leadership means you are on stage. Get used to it. Make sure the signals you are sending are the ones you want.


Taking a leadership role for the first time can be both exhilarating and terrifying. The key to success is realizing that what got you that big promotion is not what will get you the next one. Your work ethic and smarts will be helpful, but not everything, you need to succeed as a leader. Leadership is a skill that can be sharpened by reading books, getting training, getting a coach, or just seeking help wherever you can. Set a great example for your team by showing them how you seek to get better in your job every day.

Categories: People Leadership, Career Planning, Communication Skills