Extraordinary Team Blog

Mistakes New Managers Make

Posted by Joseph Sherren on October 22, 2014

As an employee working for a large corporation I had a great desire to be a manager. I dedicated myself to achieving this, and after working hard I succeeded. But, perhaps I tried too hard because I think they tricked me.

I ended up with a group of employees who were constantly complaining, said they worked too hard, did not make enough money, always wanted more time off and constantly made mistakes. I thought, if I could just get a promotion to the next level I wouldn’t have to put up with all this crap.

Well, it happened, but they tricked me again. I ended up with a group of front-line managers who were always complaining and making mistakes. So I thought, if I could just get promoted to the next level, I wouldn’t have to deal with this. Guess what? It happened.

But again, I think I was tricked. I ended up managing a group of senior managers who whined and complained. But this time, one manager made a mistake so significant that the corporation was going to be in trouble with a major client. As a result, I ended up in the president’s office explaining the problem, coming up with a solution and creating a plan so it wouldn’t happen again.

At the end of the meeting, feeling very discouraged, I explained my management journey to the president and asked: “Does this ever end?” He lowered his glasses and said: “Have you met my vice presidents?”

The sad reality is, it doesn’t. As long as you accept the responsibility of management, this is what you are paid to deal with. But more importantly, many of the dysfunctional behaviors are caused by you, their manager.

Over the years, as a manager and coaching other managers I have discovered that most new managers seem to make the same mistakes. Some learn from them, but many do not. So here are five of the common mistakes managers make:

  1. Think you need to make every decision.  Making every decision will only turn you into a micro-manager. Great leaders know there are subject matter experts on their team who can actually make better decisions. Doing this is also a good way to engage them and develop their decision-making and management abilities.
  2. Believe you know more than the team.  You may be smart, that is why you are the manager. But, nobody wants to work for a “know-it-all.” The best managers understand there is always more they can learn, so they listen to and engage their staff in problem solving and decision-making. I actually found when I said, “I didn’t know the answer” (even though I thought I did), they became more engaged and came up with better solutions than I would.
  3. Fail to communicate clearly.  Managers are often misinterpreted because many new managers are viewed with an eye of suspicion. New managers must earn the trust of their employees, it does not come automatically. Be alert – they are looking for you to say something to confirm their suspicion.
  4. Undermine the efforts of your employees.  The number one thing employees look for (and need) is recognition from the new boss. Often new managers are insecure and in trying to prove themselves, they actually take the recognition that is due to the employee. They may even take a staff member’s idea and make it their own. Nothing is more discouraging and will cause a good employee to quickly become disengaged. They may even (subconsciously) allow mistakes to happen just to prove they were right.
  5. Finally, when it is necessary to take control — do it.  A leader once asked, “Where are my people, for I am their leader and I must know where they are going?” Unfortunately we have too many managers who have a high performing team, know what they are doing and where they are going, yet wrongly jump in front and take the credit. There are other times a manager must take the lead and absorb the risk. When that time comes — take charge.

My question is for managers this week: “What are you doing to create trusting relationships and engaged employees to achieve high performing teams?”