Career Advice

10 of the Biggest Mistakes New Managers Make & How to Avoid Them

Every new manager messes up at some point. What really matters is whether he or she responds with grace and humility, is quickly able to formulate and enact a recovery plan and learns from the mistakes things that not everyone does.

In our research at Jhana, we’ve identified 10 of the most common new manager pitfalls.

1. Doing instead of managing.

Although there’s nothing wrong with rolling up your sleeves from time to time to help your team accomplish a pressing goal, you’re now being paid to direct and oversee others’ work not do it yourself. So don’t keep doing what made you successful as an individual contributor. Instead, focus on helping others do their jobs well.

2. Overcommitting.

It’s natural to want to please others, establish credibility and make a big splash. But target those wins carefully. Try to get comfortable saying, “I don’t know yet, but I’ll get back to you.” Promising too much too soon will backfire and erode your credibility.

3. Failing to manage and communicate in all directions.

Your direct reports are your most important priority. True or false? False! They are very important but don’t make the fatal mistake of forgetting about your new boss and peer managers. You need to manage and communicate up as well as down not to mention sideways, so your team doesn’t become siloed.

4. Changing things that are better left alone.

Finally, you have your chance to do things your way. You can’t wait to make some big changes and show how great you are at this whole manager thing. Not so fast! Just because something seemed like a good idea from where you sat as an individual contributor or just because something worked in your previous company doesn’t mean it’s the right approach.

5. Relying on your newfound power to get the job done.

Expecting good results simply because people are supposed to listen to you might seem to work at first. But those results will be built on a foundation of resentment and fear, rather than goodwill and trust.

Set high expectations, but actively welcome alternate ideas, and integrate that feedback into your plans. Also, explain why you’d like people to do things. You don’t want to be the managerial equivalent of a parent who says, “Do it because I said so.”

6. Badmouthing the previous manager.

Regardless of whether you’re replacing someone terrific or terrible, keep your opinions to yourself. Dragging someone else through the mud usually sullies the dragger as much as if not more than the draggee!

7. Aligning yourself early on with any one person or group.

Don’t assume you understand the politics of your new situation, even if you were promoted from within. Instead, spend the first few weeks getting to know key stakeholders and their relative political standing in the organization.

Who has been successful selling their ideas? Who hasn’t? Who influences big issues like budgets? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can position yourself accordingly.

8. Falling prey to “analysis paralysis.”

Some new managers get overwhelmed by all of the options and information coming at them and just freeze.

Take a week or two to get a lay of the land, and then decide on a course of action. It’s better to move forward with something that’s 80 percent of the way there than spend precious time crafting the “perfect” plan.

9. Acting like another one of the gang.

Don’t pretend that the new power dynamic that goes along with your job doesn’t exist. It does. While you can still have great rapport with your team, you need to put fairness above fraternizing.

Be careful about going to lunch with the same crew every day (if you want company, invite everyone on your team). If you socialize with direct reports outside of work, try not to talk about it around others, who might feel marginalized and wonder if it’s going to hurt them on their performance reviews. You get the idea! You’re the manager now. Act like one.

10. Unknowingly repeating one of your past managers’ bad behaviors.

It’s natural when something goes wrong, we draw on memories of things we’ve seen before. If you had good managers, no problem. But many of us have had bad managers (whether we realize it or not). Beware of replicating negative behaviors instead of forging a healthier path.

Avoiding major mistakes is the beginning of the new manager’s journey, not the end. It takes years of small steps and daily effort to become a truly great manager. In the meantime, there are three things every new manager can do to improve: get a mentor, do a lot of reading on the topic of management and practice, practice, practice.

Rob Cahill is the co-founder and CEO of Jhana, which provides bite-sized performance support for people leaders to build the skills they need to be successful, in a simple, on-demand format they’ll love. Rob started Jhana to help millions of people get the great manager they deserve, but often don’t have. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Teach For America’s Bay Area region. This article was originally published by Jhana. Reprinted with permission.