It takes a whole different skill set.
Most new managers learn the basic do’s and don’ts quickly—like resisting the urge to brag about how experienced you are and encouraging your employees to suggest new ideas.
But some mistakes are subtle and hard to see, much less correct. These are the ones that can throw you off before you even get going because no one tells you about them.
Here are seven of those “invisible” new manager mistakes that you’ll want to be sure to correct ASAP:
1. You Listen, But Don’t Watch
People share their feelings with a lot more than just words. They also communicate unconsciously through body language.
New managers can be so focused on listening, they forget to observe what people say through their actions. Say you’ve given someone a challenging assignment and ask how it’s going. They respond quickly with, “fine,” but you also notice they’re wiping their forehead and rapidly tapping one foot up and down. You sense anxiousness.
Don’t blow-off your observation; follow up. Do they have any questions? Is it going how they expected? Can you provide any additional support?
Knowing what’s actually going on will make it easier for you to help them be successful.
2. You Fake it to Make It
You’re a new manager, not a seasoned veteran. No one is going to think badly of you if you need to ask for clarification. In fact, others are far more likely to judge you harshly if you pretend everything’s going perfectly and then botch a job because you didn’t ask for help.
Be confident when you know you’ve got it, but be real and tell your boss or team the truth if you’re doing something for the first time.
3. You Micromanage
There’s a big difference between assigning someone a task and then monitoring his progress, and micromanaging him every step of the way. A good boss shows people it’s OK to come to you if they need help and also gives them room to do the job the way they want to do it: They don’t hover.
People who feel micromanaged tend to do one of two things. They quit (or transfer) so they can work for a manager who gives them room to do their jobs—or they check their brains at the door because they know you’re going to over-control how they do things.
To break free of this bad habit, allot more time to assigning a project. Instead of simply handing it off, take the time to share your vision and goals, allow time for questions, and schedule regular check-ins. If you’ve provided a clear path forward with scheduled checkpoints, it’ll be less stressful for you to trust your employee.
4. You Lose Sight of the Big Picture
Yes, you want your team to function like a well-oiled machine, but don’t let tunnel vision stop you from seeing the big picture. Beyond meeting your goals, be sure you understand how your team’s function connects to the mission and strategy of the whole organization.
Then, share it with your employees. When your team knows how their work contributes and connects to everything else, they’ll make better decisions.
5. You Say “Yes” to Every Project
It’s not your job to scoop up every new assignment that comes down from above. If you get sucked into too many low-level tasks, you’ll neither be available nor capable of working on the big stuff that requires more of your skills.
Know the difference between working hard and working smart. Whenever you can pick the projects that are more complex and create more value for the organization.
If your boss asks you to do something that doesn’t seem like a good fit, ask questions. Does he specifically need your eyes on it? Would it make sense to delegate it so you’ll have more time for something of greater importance?
6. You Only Manage Down
Too many new managers are so focused on doing a good job building strong relationships with their team, they forget to spend any time communicating with their own boss.
Don’t assume that because she knows how to manage your role, she automatically knows how to manage you. Teach her about your strengths and weaknesses, what motivates and de-motivates you, and your preferred communication strategies. (Here’s how to do that the right way.)
7. You Treat Everyone the Same
There’s a difference between treating people fairly (which is essential) and treating people the same (which is a rookie mistake).
People are unique, and each of us likes to be seen for our special gifts or unique qualities. Strive to understand what matters to each of your employees. For example, some people come in on Monday morning hoping you’ll ask about how their kid’s soccer team over the weekend. Others see asking about their personal lives as an invasion of their privacy. Learn what matters to your people, even if it means misstepping by asking too much or not enough. (This is where you’ll want to apply those other skills, like watching their body language and asking for feedback.)
Even when you screw up, they’ll notice you trying to meet them on their terms and they’ll appreciate the effort.
As a new manager—and, in life in general—mistakes are inevitable. You’re going to make them, and that’s OK. When you do, dust yourself off and keep trying. In most organizations, it’s more important for you learn to rebound from your mistakes than it is to not make them.
And if you find that you’re struggling, take a deep breath and consider asking for help from your own boss, from HR, or even from a career coach who specializes in helping new managers excel.
Photo of people talking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty images.
The constant in Jim's career has been teaching and preparing people at all levels to be better leaders. He started his career working with kids in the wilderness, and today works as a speaker, facilitator, author and educator working on he calls "people centered leadership" for organizations around the world. He is a principal for Moementum, Inc., a global boutique training consultancy and serves as adjunct faculty for a variety of leadership programs including the American Leadership Forum, Duke University and Virginia Tech. Read more of his writing on the Moementum Blog or follow him on Twitter @jmorris_jim.More from this Author