5 First-Time Manager Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Confidence, Leadership Coaching, Mindset & Mindfulness
07/18/22 - Tara Perman

Hooray – you just got promoted. Let me guess, the excitement of being recognized for your hard work came with a side dish of “freak out.” Yikes! The anxiety you feel is normal and expected. This is a huge shift. No one jumps into the manager role with overnight success. In fact, many leaders reflect back and share that their transition to becoming a manager was one of the hardest career challenges they faced. So let’s not pretend this is easy – it is not. 

Like most new managers, I am sure you are getting inundated with helpful advice on your transition. And if the advice isn’t being pushed on you – a simple google search will easily overwhelm you with loads of articles and best practices for navigating the change from individual contributor to manager. There is no shortage of resources. And they all include tried and true ideas that will help you adjust. 

In addition to all of the great tactical advice out there – I believe you can avoid many first-time manager mistakes by adopting some new mindsets for yourself. My colleague Cait Swamy defines mindset in this article as a set of beliefs that shape how we make sense of the world. Our mindset influences how we feel, how we think, and ultimately how we behave and respond to circumstances and situations.  

There are 5 mindsets I believe every new manager should embrace that will help them avoid and/or pivot from the common mistakes that most new managers fall prey to in their new role. 

  1. Talk less/listen more

There was never a better time to be curious than when you are a new manager. A good way to get curious is to do less talking and more listening. When you are being exposed to new ideas/initiatives – ask more questions than you did in your previous role. Don’t accept every bit of information as delivered to you. Start to ask more “why” questions. Add “help me understand” to your vocabulary and use it frequently.  You will either connect the dots to your work more clearly OR you will challenge a status quo that needed a fresh perspective. Both are good outcomes. 

  1. Team –  not me

Up until now, you have been rewarded for being “me” focused. As an individual contributor, you were likely laser-focused on getting your work done, mastering your skills, and showing your competence. Now you need to expand your focus from me to the team. As a manager, your success is their success. You need to prioritize your support of each team member – making sure they are clear on the work, have your coaching/support, and see you removing obstacles for them. 

  1. Teach don’t tell

Everyone will tell you that you need to delegate – and they are right. You won’t survive this role without moving some things off your plate. As you start shifting work to others, pay attention to how you are having those conversations. Make sure that you are teaching and not telling. It is a distinct difference and one that requires a little extra time but is fully worth the investment. This article nicely defines the difference and shows examples of some simple shifts you can make in how you share a new task with a team member. Teaching is a 2-way conversation and allows both parties to demonstrate their thinking. The teacher has to learn how to hold back and allow the other person to fill the void with good questions that show they understand the ask and can identify the right next steps.

  1. Trust and confirm

When I get promoted to manager, I want to be a micromanager – said no one ever.  At least I hope not! And yet, many managers fall into a trap of micromanaging because they aren’t embracing a mindset of trust and confirmation. You have to do the diligence of checking on work but it’s best to focus on checking work progress and not checking work details. You are embracing your role of being an observer and supporter at the macro level and moving away from the micro-detail level. The more you can extend trust to your team, the more you will receive in return.

I love how this article explains the unavoidable leadership paradox that “You need to be more essential and less involved. When you justify your hold on work, you’re confusing being involved with being essential. But the two are not the same — just as being busy and being productive are not necessarily equal.”

  1. Thank you

If I told you there was one thing you could do daily that is SOOO simple and has a big impact on positivity – you would likely do it, right? The simple thing I am talking about is extending thanks and acknowledgment to your team for their effort. You don’t have to complicate it – you simply need to say it, mean it, and do it often. Embrace a mindset of gratitude for your team and their work  – and look for ways to show it. This approach will have a significant return on your team’s trust and satisfaction.

You have worked hard for your promotion. Congrats on this big milestone and new chapter in your career! Now is the time to embrace some new mindsets that are uniquely suited to this step of your career journey. If you feel you need more support on your approach or even the tactical things you should be doing to shift into your new responsibilities, I suggest partnering with a certified leadership coach to help you build self-awareness, outline clear goals, and have accountability for your growth.

Remember you have DONE hard things. You can DO hard things. You got this!

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