The transition from individual contributor to leader is tough. Often we are unsure of what our role really is, and perhaps even worse, we have only basic intuition about how we should go about being a leader.
An article titled Harold Hillman: Five common mistakes of the new manager on the NZ Herald identifies five basic mistakes new leaders make. It is a good reminder for all leaders – not just the novices!
With the best of intentions, first time managers are still prone to make some common mistakes that are best regarded as ‘growing pains’
There’s just something about being appointed as a first-time manager or team leader that will often trigger a self-imposed pressure to be this perfect leader! Predictably, there are some common mistakes that new managers make. The patterns have been consistent across generations, reinforcing the adage that growing pains and the inevitable mistakes provide the foundation for future wisdom. For first time managers, these common mistakes are the growing pains that will help them become seasoned leaders over time.
Here are the five common mistakes made by rookie managers:
(1) First time managers are reluctant to ask for help. This is prevalent among new managers who often impose this pressure on themselves to be perfect, even though they have very little experience and could benefit from the support of others.Rather than being guarded and defensive, new managers should feel okay about being on a learning curve. This will ease the pressure that they sometimes feel to know everything, which then makes it easier to ask for support when they need it. The team members are also much more willing to support the new manager if they sense their help is wanted and appreciated.
(2) First time managers are hesitant to deal with poor performers. Being liked and popular can be very validating and affirming for new managers, which is why many just don’t have the appetite or desire to deal directly with poor performers. Yet, they know a big part of their appraisal is based on the team’s performance. So, new managers will often pick up the slack from a poor performer, which only amplifies the problem across time. Sooner than later, they should have that tough conversation about performance standards. Their credibility suffers the longer they wait, not to mention the real risk of losing some of the team’s top performers.
(3) New managers don’t delegate enough. It’s no surprise that first-time managers are often accused of micro-managing their teams. For many of them, the realm of management is too amorphous with lots of grey area. They don’t perceive that they’re adding much value; nor are they personally energized. Consequently, new managers tend to dive back into the realm they know best, where their ‘hands on’ work was valued and also a source of personal energy for them. Unfortunately, the team experiences this as micro-managing, which is not what the new manager intends. Therefore, it’s important for new managers to really appreciate that delegating work to others is ‘real work’.
(4) New managers are more focused on tasks and less focused on relationships. Often they miss critical opportunities to connect with people because they’re too busy ‘managing’. The challenge for new managers is to avoid getting mired down in the details of completing tasks and to put equal focus on the people that drive the results. New managers will often focus on the end result rather than understanding what motivates each of their team members personally. And this leads directly into the fifth common mistake……..
(5) First time managers often can’t see a distinction between ‘leading’ and ‘managing’. They often learn the hard way that these are two very different skill sets. Managing is largely about doing. It’s about ensuring that ‘business as usual’ churns along effectively and efficiently. And it’s what a lot of first time managers put a premium on, because it’s tangible and often recognized as an early predictor of even broader management potential. What many new managers have yet to learn is that leading is largely about making those personal connections with their team, building key relationships with peers and other important people, and broadening their sphere of influence. New managers should invest more time into the leadership component of their roles, as it will improve their ability to influence successful outcomes.
If you’re a new manager and this is your first time leading a team, take heed of the lessons learned from the many generations who have gone before you. While you may not be able to avoid some of these rookie mistakes, you can at least proactively plan for how to deal with the hurdles when they come. With good planning, you’ll be able to adapt quicker, which is really the true value gained from being on a learning curve.
Harold Hillman is a business leaders coach and author. He has a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh (USA). Previous roles include Corporate Vice President & Chief Learning Officer at Prudential Financial (New York). Hillman came to New Zealand in 2003 to join Fonterra and is now the MD of Sigmoid Curve Consulting Group, where he coaches business leaders and executive teams. His latest book is ‘The Imposter Syndrome”.
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