The 7 Biggest Mistakes First-Time Managers Make That Drive Employees Away

CoachHub · 12 February 2020 · 5 min read

Transitioning from being an employee to a first-time manager is unquestionably gratifying, but also one of the most challenging and potentially stressful moments of most people’s careers. Management isn’t merely a case of doing the same job as before at a higher level; it involves a whole new set of responsibilities, to both the team you manage and the business you represent.

It’s no wonder that pretty much every first-time manager makes a few blunders along the way, especially as so few organizations offer mentorship, training, or executive coaching to those stepping into management positions for the first time. Nine-out-of-ten managers wish they’d received more training before being promoted, while those who do receive training question whether it’s still relevant to today’s business world.

However, if mistakes are inevitable, they can at least be mitigated by being aware of some of the most common missteps new managers make. This will help foster trust among teams, and in turn, will hopefully stop them from walking out the door for good.

1. Refusing to acknowledge the change

It should come as no surprise that this is one of the most common slip-ups made by first-time managers. You leave work one day a regular employee, a member of the team; you walk into the office the next day as a manager.

Most people make the mistake of continuing the work they were doing before, but redoubling their efforts in an attempt to lead by example. They fail to account for the time and the emotional and intellectual costs of leading people, which can quickly lead to stress and burnout.

Without the proper guidance, transitioning from being a peer or friend to a manager can also be uncomfortable, embarrassing even. But the dynamic has changed. Addressing that immediately will help everyone.

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2. Not delegating tasks

The failure to pass on work to other team members is usually rooted in one, or more, of the following factors:

  • Not wanting to come across as arrogant or dictatorial in their new role leads to managers doing tasks themselves.
  • A discomfort with having difficult conversations with under-performing team members means leaders pick up tasks to cover for the weak employee.
  • Managers who don’t trust their team members will micromanage, fearing that tasks won’t be completed to their satisfaction. This leads us to point number three.

3. Not trusting their people

First-time managers are keen to impress and to repay the faith the company has shown in them. For managers who lack confidence or the relevant training, this can manifest itself as a lack of trust in their employees and, usually, a misplaced focus on managing tasks rather than people.

Managers who concern themselves with their employees as people, providing reassurances, guidance, mentorship, opportunities, understanding, and unwavering support, will be paid back with an engaged employee who gives their all for the team.

4. Copying their managers

The business world is jam-packed with people who excelled at their job for some time and were, therefore, promoted to manage a bunch of other people doing the same job.

Thrown in at the deep end, many new managers will draw on their own experiences and seek to imitate the communication and management styles of their managers from their own career. Such transition moments are incredibly important, and leadership coaching can help new managers identify their leadership strengths and what type of manager they want to be, facilitating that transition for both the manager and their team.

While imitating a previous manager is never a good idea, reaching out to other leaders for mentorship is an excellent one. Leaders need to be around leadership to develop.

5. Setting a bad example in meetings

We’ve all had managers who arrive at meetings 10 minutes late, before giving a long explanation, and, finally, insisting that the session runs late to make up for the time lost at the beginning.

Meetings are where new managers can quickly make a positive impact. If managers start meetings on time, always have an agenda, and summarize the action points with time remaining on the clock – not while heading to the elevator for the next meeting they’re running late for – their teams will follow suit. That coordination will likely trickle down into all their activities too. With that in mind, any training resources companies dedicate to time management and running meetings are likely to see significant returns on investment.

Eager to make their mark, some managers also make the mistake of nixing regular one-on-ones with direct reports. Although time-consuming, these are essential and should remain on the agenda. However, getting rid of any regular ineffective or time-wasting meetings will quickly win first-time managers some brownie points from overburdened employees.

6. Changing everything straight away

There is a fine line between quick wins, like eliminating unproductive meetings or processes, and making changes purely to stamp some authority. New managers are perfectly-placed to question why things are done in a certain way, but listening to the opinions of the team and key stakeholders is always the best first step.

It’s perfectly normal for new first-time managers not to have all the answers. Coaches, mentors, and team members can help navigate those tricky first months.

7. Being too eager to please

The flipside of the new manager who changes everything is the first-time manager who fears coming across as overly-authoritative, saying “yes” to everything instead. For a new manager, now faced with the responsibility for employee retention, employee engagement, and team morale, it’s an easy trap in which to fall. However, employees and organizations crave sturdy direction and guidance. It’s better that employees question a manager’s decisions than questioning their authority.

With all these potential pitfalls, it’s a wonder that anyone ever accepts that first promotion to a management position. But, with the right support, a managerial role can be incredibly rewarding, helping to shape not only the business but also the lives, satisfaction levels, and development of employees. Just remember that managers shouldn’t have to do it all alone.

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