7 mistakes new managers make and how to avoid them

At some stage in your careers, most of you will reach a point when you are promoted to manager or find yourself in charge of a team of people. If you feel inexperienced and unprepared for this transition, you could make a few mistakes that will cost your organisation time and money. Not knowing how to supervise others, for instance, often leads to negative experiences that later form limiting beliefs in our minds, like when you tell yourself “I hate managing”, or “I’m not a good manager”.

Good managers are not born. We all can improve management and leadership skills – especially if we take time to prepare.

What are the most common mistakes made by first-time managers OR managers who haven’t yet learned their lessons? Here, we talk through the 7 faux-pas you may encounter and how to avoid each one.

1. Assuming that you already have the authority over team members.

– New managers sometimes assume they will be automatically respected and followed because of their position. They then find it strange and upsetting to see a team member who is ignoring them or not acting correctly.

– Good supervisors know they need to earn their team’s respect and trust in order to exercise serious authority.

– To lead a team effectively, you must first establish your leadership with each team member. Show your character, competence, integrity and ability to get things done and your team is more likely to follow your lead.

2. Being too friendly or overly concerned about your reputation.

– Sometimes new supervisors want to please everyone and try to be extra friendly so as not to upset anyone. Some female managers worry about being seen as too bossy and often new managers are afraid of conflict. If one of the above is true for you, you may not hold your team members accountable and you may avoid making unpopular decisions, or having difficult conversations.

– This avoidant style of management can backfire, jeopardizing your authority and reputation, as the issue at hand – especially if it involves staff – just grows bigger and more difficult to tackle.

– When we are concerned more about friendships more than results, poor decisions are inevitable. For instance, you may have a problematic or confrontational team member that others are not happy about. How long do you wait before stepping in and taking action? If you hesitate too long, that may be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Move in too fast and people may see it as you exhorting your authority.

3. Not wanting or knowing how to delegate.

– If you’ve been appointed a manager, it’s likely that you have an inner perfectionist and thus will want to handle the most important projects yourself or at least try to micromanage your staff. Don’t!

– By letting go and learning to delegate efficiently (a hands-off approach is not usually productive as each member’s strengths need to be taken into account), you will a) empower your team towards higher productivity and engagement and b) multiply your own time and energy to be spent on other tasks.

– Bottom-line: If you don’t delegate, you will have no time to focus on the broader issues that you are responsible for and you won’t develop your team so they can take pressure off your workload.

4. Not knowing what motivates your team.

– Everyone is motivated by different things. The sooner you understand what motivates each team member, the better for everyone. Do not assume that everyone is like you.

– To boost your team engagement, ask your team members a few simple questions to find out what they want most out of work at this stage of their careers. It can be a better work/life balance, more achievement, extra responsibility, praise, a sense of community or something else.

5. Not recognising employees’ achievements or giving feedback

– This is one critical thing you need to do so that your employees know they are on the right track or become aware of the areas they need to focus on. Without feedback – especially positive encouragement – they will feel lost and disengaged.

– Their engagement levels are closely connected to your attitude… see next point.

6. Not walking the talk.

– Check your attitude and energy regularly. You cannot expect your team to follow your expectations and guidelines if you don’t set an example. Your team is watching you all the time.  Do you bring genuine positive energy into your office in the morning, or do you allow your face to portray worries from your family life?  Whatever non-verbal baggage you bring to the organisation, remember it all gets noticed. Your team may either feel encouraged and motivated or discouraged and disengaged depending on your attitude and energy.

– Develop a habit of meditation and exercise first thing in the morning, so your energy resonates at a higher, calmer level.

7. Failing to communicate and not setting goals

– This is also a pervasive mistake among new or inefficient managers. Information is the tool that enables your employees to do their jobs quickly and correctly.  The more comprehensive and accurate the information your team gets from you and the quicker they get it, the better they will perform and the more efficient they will be. Transparency and effective communication also builds trust – a critical element present in successful teamwork and organisational health.

– Do not forget to define goals and communicate them to your team. Without clear goals, your team will muddle through their day and productivity will drop. They won’t be able to prioritise work.

– Finally, remember that your success as a supervisor is dependent on the success of each member of your work group. Take a bit of time regularly to think what each one of them needs from you to be productive, creative and successful.

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