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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

7 Mistakes Most First-Time Managers Make at Least Once

Becoming a manager for the first time is incredibly exciting—but extremely overwhelming.

In your hands, you now have the power to effect change, make an impact, and guide the employees on your team to bigger and better things.

But you also have to figure out how, exactly, to do that.

In the process, you’ll probably (er, definitely) make a few mistakes. The transition to management isn’t just a promotion and a pay raise—it’s a shift into a new type of role that requires a whole new skill set. So as you assume that new role, be on the lookout for these common mistakes.

1. Still Trying to Do Things Yourself

As an employee, you focused on tasks. You had a to-do list of assignments that you were responsible for, and your main responsibility was to get those things done.

So, it can be a hard transition when all of a sudden, you don’t have that kind of list to guide your day.

As a manager, you can’t focus on individual tasks—you have to focus your effort on helping your team complete their assignments. Now, your success is dependent on the success of your team. So you won’t spend your time “doing;” you’ll be busy coaching, supervising, and guiding your team members.

2. Focusing on Details Rather Than Goals

Coming from an individual contributor role, you’re used to getting engrossed in the details of an assignment—keeping track of who you’ve emailed, the phone calls you need to return, and the documentation of your notes.

But as a manager, you can’t possibly know and keep up with all the details of each and every project that the members of your team are working on. Trying to do so will turn you into a micromanager—which isn’t beneficial to you or your team.

It’s important that first-time managers realize that they have to shift their focus to the big picture. Overseeing individual projects is a part of that, of course, but managers have to learn to monitor their team members’ progress efficiently to keep the entire team on course toward achieving long-term goals.

3. Imitating Others

Developing your own management style doesn’t magically happen when you assume the title “manager.”

So it’s not unusual for first-time managers to simply imitate what they’ve seen before—and if they’ve been promoted from within, that can lead them to continue to lead the department and team the exact same way it’s been managed before.

And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing (maybe you have an exceptionally productive and effective leader to imitate), it doesn’t allow for new managers to challenge the status quo, rise to their potential, and make an impact—their impact—on the organization.

4. Making Promises You Can’t Keep

New managers can be eager to please their new team and prove themselves as an effective leader—which is admirable.

What’s not so great, however, is when those leaders try to do that by making grand promises to their new employees—like switching to a new company-wide software system or immediately changing an intricate implementation process.

As great as these promises sound, brand new managers may not fully understand what it takes to actually follow through. Particular problems may have been around for a lot longer than you realize—and there could be a deep-seated reason that they haven’t already been fixed. In the end, promising too much may gain first-time managers favor at first, but can erode trust if your delivery falls through.

5. Missing Out on Early Wins

On the other hand, if there are some changes you can make immediately, such as getting rid of an ineffective and time-wasting daily meeting or eliminating a repetitive documentation step, that earn you a quick reputation of being a doer who’s ready to make an impact.

6. Refusing to Make Decisions

Without any prior management experience, new managers can experience something called decision paralysis. It’s when an individual overthinks a situation to the point that he or she never actually makes a decision.

And for a first-time manager, it’s pretty easy to overthink. In this new type of position, the choices you make don’t just affect you—they affect your entire team and department. With the weight of that knowledge, new managers don’t want to make mistakes or bad calls. So instead, they often delay and delay, never making the decision at all.

7. Holding Back

New to the role, first-time managers often don’t want to come across as over-authoritative. They don’t want to jump in and start changing things without a solid knowledge of the employees, department goals, and team needs.

But sitting back and taking too long to start managing can backfire. Without guidance, your team can flounder fast—and in the process, they will likely question your authority and ability to get things done.

Becoming an effective, inspiring leader takes time. It’s key to find a balance—between jumping in too fast and not jumping in at all, between asserting your authority and not becoming overbearing, and between being eager to impact the team and staying realistic.

Just remember: It’s a learning process. Strive to learn continually (and to avoid these common mistakes) and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the manager you want to be.

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