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5 Big New Manager Mistakes I Made
Entering leadership for the first time is a big step. You will have your first set of direct reports, increased responsibility, higher authority, and unfortunately, you will make new manager mistakes.
It happens to the best of us. It is hard to get everything right when you start a new journey.
Sometimes you will receive direct feedback on your mistakes. For example, you might hear, “Your feedback was taken the wrong way. Try phrasing it like this next time.” Other times, it is harder to see your mistakes until you must further along.
As a new manager, I was not immune. On my path of becoming a well-respected leader, I made mistakes. Here is my confession to the five big new manager mistakes I made as I started my leadership career and my advice to new managers.
5 Big New Manager Mistakes I Made
Mistake #1 – Thinking I needed to be all-knowing on day one
I became a manager because I showed that I was capable of doing the job. In my mind, that meant I should be able to do everything in the job 100% starting from day one.
However, there were things I did not know how to do or fully understand because I had never done them before. I was scared to go to my boss and say that I needed help or training. I also feared to go to my peers too often because I was afraid they would provide feedback that I was not capable of doing the job.
As I started to hire new employees for my team, I finally realized how wrong my thoughts of instant perfection were.
I was hiring mostly entry level account managers. While they have experience, they never held an account manager role. To help translate their strengths and competencies to the position, they needed training and guidance – either from the people I enlisted or from me.
If I allowed my new hires to not be perfect from day one, why were the expectations for myself different?
Just like my new hires, I had never done the job before. My knowledge and past experiences showed that I was capable but capable is different than proficient. There was so much to the management role that I had never been exposed to before.
As a new manager, do not be afraid to say that you do not understand the task at hand. Request guidance and take notes for future reference. If you need additional help on the same topic later, ask specific questions to specifically show where you are getting stuck. The best way to become a proficient manager is never to stop learning as there is so much to learn!
Mistake #2 – Trusting other leader’s thoughts to form my opinions of my employees
When I entered management, I received many opinions about the employees I inherited. As a new manager, I took what I was told as fact. I quickly realized that other people’s opinions did not always provide the whole story.
When I was only a month into my leadership career, I was given an eye-opening assignment. An employee was no longer meeting leadership expectations. I was to prove that the employee was either capable of continuing with the team or need to be exited from the company.
Over a week, I spent hours talking with the employee and those they employee worked with daily. I started the week with the mindset of “This employee is a dead man walking” and ended the week thinking “Are you kidding me? This employee is a keeper!”
My mind changed because I took the time to learn about my team member including:.
- #1 Strength – The ability to build fantastic relationships with clients and sales partners.
- #1 Stress Inducer – The continual negative focus from Increased stress led to more errors because their focus would shift to the wrong items.
- Lacked proper training of our new systems
I got the employee the training needed and began to turn conversations away from stress inducers. We did not ignore errors; we just changed how we discussed them. Their stress level dropped, and so did the mistakes.
Five years later, this employee is still going strong with the company.
As a new manager, accept other people’s opinions only as the starting block. From there, dive in and form your own opinions. As their leader, you owe them the respect of taking the time to learn firsthand about their strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, once you know their shortcomings, you can find out if it is possible to help them improve.
Mistake #3 – Not valuing 1-on-1 time
In my department, the norm was to have one-on-one meetings with your manager, and I enjoyed them. It was through these meetings that I could communicate my needs and wants. I believe that it was because of these conversations that I ended up on the projects and assignments that defined my career. I wanted these meetings to have the same impact with my team members.
However, my meetings produced little value, and I began to cancel the meetings. This course of action ended up being a disservice to both myself and my team members.
Without these meetings, I stopped connecting with my employees and started only having access to high-level knowledge about them and their accounts. The lack of relationship building meant I was merely becoming their manager and not an effective leader.
A change was needed, and over the next few years, I continually improved how I conducted these meetings. The first thing I did was I made sure we had conversation topics. I created an agenda and tried to bring in one unique work-related topic into each conversation.
Next, I started to get to know my employees on a personal level. We began each meeting talking about our families, what we did over the weekend, upcoming vacations, or anything to help grow the connection.
Lastly, I did my best to stop canceling meetings. Sometimes the meeting time needed to be adjusted, but I did my best to make the meetings a priority.
As a new manager, you need to be available to your team members and form a unique relationship with each person. Whether it is formal one-on-one meetings or casual conversations, be there for your team. The more you know about their strengths, the better you are to guide them and the company to success.
Mistake #4 – Not connecting with remote employees
When I entered management, I had two remote employees. Being an introvert, the thought of having to form a manager-employee relationship with someone I could not talk to face-to-face terrified me.
As time passed, I struggled to form the same level of manager-employee relationship that I had with the rest of my team members. I never felt like I was the best manager for them.
A few years into my leadership career, I transitioned to a new team and had a new remote employee. Here is where I made my biggest mistake when it comes to remote employees.
Every conversation had a negative focus with us mostly discussing mistakes and errors. As a result, we did not have a good relationship.
My main mistake was that I was offering only snippets of whom I was as a leader and expecting them to manage the relationship. However, if I did not expect my in-office employees to run point on forming our relationship, why was it ok for me to expect this of my remote employees?
To build better relationships, I started communicating with them more frequently. When we talked, I made it a point to ask open ended questions to initiate a conversation. I made sure to share things that they might have missed out on by not being in the office with the rest of the team.
For the negative relationship, we started focusing on the positive while still sharing constructive feedback as needed.
As a new manager, you have to make sure you are forming relationships with your remote employees. It is critical to frequently talk so they know you are available and so you can support them. It is your job to lead the connection through casual and formal conversations.
Mistake #5 – Pulling my employees up the corporate ladder
As a worker, I knew I always wanted to make it to the top. While I was ok with taking my time to learn in each position, I was always focused on what my next step on the corporate ladder would be. It was such a natural drive for me.
My mistake as a new manager was to assume that everyone had this drive. I thought that everyone wanted to end his or her career in a position other than his or her current one.
One of my employees taught me that this was not true.
The more I challenged her to define a path of career development that would take her to another position, the more stressed she seemed to become.
At first, I thought the stress was from a lack of confidence. It was months later that I realized it was because not everyone is like me.
This employee is a good employee. She does her job well and has everyone’s respect. If she does not want a different position, why was I trying so hard to encourage her to leave my team?
As a new manager, you have to realize that some employees are more than content with their current position. They are not content because they do not care or lack the confidence that they can do something else. They are content because they have found a position they enjoy and they have reached their defined top rung on the ladder.
Embrace these employees. They are the ones you can count on when other employees leave to continue their career climb. They are your team’s foundation. Don’t make them feel like they are not wanted because you assume all employees are working for that next position. For them, being in this role defines a successful career.
You can do it!
Do not let the fear of making mistakes hold you back from entering or continuing your leadership career. No leader is perfect right out of the gate. In reality, no leader is perfect at any point in their career. Be open to feedback and keep learning.