11 Mistakes to Avoid During Your First 30 Days as a New Manager
As a new manager, mistakes are inevitable. The mindset to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them is essential to success. Learn from these 11 common mistakes.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
The first 30 days on the job may seem crazy with too many things that require your attention. As a first time manager, it may seem that your world has turned upside down with a schedule that's packed, stakeholders with unrealistic demands, and your own team members who look up to you with high hopes and expectations.
The excitement of the new job along with the commotion of its demands will cause you to make mistakes as a new manager.
Why Do First-Time Managers Fail?
First-time managers fail when they do not accept the challenges of the new role with openness and curiosity. They are oblivious of the impact of their own actions, how others perceive them, and live with a false sense of pride in the assumption that everything they do is right.
Their belief in the self-righteousness of their actions prevents them from seeing reality, accepting mistakes, and learning from it.
What new managers need to know is that self-awareness is the first step to notice their own shortcomings. They are bound to make mistakes, but self-discipline and eagerness to improve can help them learn from these mistakes and offset their vulnerabilities.
In his book Principles, Ray Dalio talks about failures that are so relevant to making mistakes.
"I believe that the key to success lies in knowing how to both strive for a lot and fail well. By failing well, I mean being able to experience painful failures that provide big learnings without failing badly enough to get knocked out of the game"
With the knowledge that mistakes are unavoidable, let's go through the list of 11 most common mistakes that all new managers make.
11 Common New Manager Mistakes
Our beliefs shape our experiences which in turn drive our actions in the workplace. Some of these beliefs that can cause mistakes as a new manager are:
1. "I need to act early to establish credibility."
The belief to act early and make things right stems from the desire to be in control. The feeling of control can lead to an assumption that you are acting in the best interest of your team while others may not see it that way.
Instead of being genuinely curious, actively listening, and learning about each team member, you are excited to share your own plan with the team. Without asking really good questions to understand how the team currently operates, what works for them, what challenges they face, and taking time to establish trust, even a subtle hint of change can cause unsettling feelings and resentment towards what's to come.
To establish credibility as a new manager, you want others to do what you think is right. Instead of focusing on what's working well, you intend to find faults by learning what's not working. While the intention may not be wrong, the timing is.
As a new manager, you do not realize that without earning trust from your team, they will not be receptive to your ideas even if that's the right thing to do. Building trust takes time and your first 30 days as a new manager is not the right time to "act on your plan".
It's a fine balance of reacting too fast to acting in the knowledge, driving change using authority to empowering the team using influence.
As a new manager, the first 30 days are meant to shift from "me" to "we" perspective by observing, absorbing everything by listening and asking really good questions. Remember, defining the what, how, when at the outset doesn't get you in control, it can make people resent you.
2. You're Too Worried That Everyone is Watching You
It's true that all your actions are under extreme scrutiny within the first few weeks as a new manager. It's natural for your boss, peers, and direct reports to notice and interpret everything you do. They don't know you enough and use your behavior and action as a proxy to who you are.
The feeling of being watched can make you lead from a position of fear instead of courage which can prevent you from standing up to what's right and instead go for what's easy and agreeable.
You end up making promises you can't keep with the desire to make a good first impression without realizing the negative effects it can have as they come to terms with reality in effect making them believe that they can't trust you.
Optimizing for likability with the fear that your decision may upset some people, thinking that you will have plenty of time later to do the right thing prevents you from being authentic and opening up to people in a manner that establishes trust.
3. You Think Asking for Help or Advice is a Sign of Weakness
Your ego and belief that seeking advice is a sign of incompetence and others will not consider you fit for the job can stand in the way of asking for help.
As a new manager, count on other experienced managers within your organization or outside to help you understand the challenges of this role, seek feedback from your team and invest in finding a good mentor who can accelerate learning in this new role and help change gears as needed.
Starting with a misconception that seeking advice is a sign of weakness can push you down the rabbit hole. Asking for help doesn't undermine your authority. It provides a strong signal that you take responsibility for your learning and growth.
4. You Are Expected to Know Everything
Showing off that you know everything while deep down lying to yourself and being terrified about someone finding it out can trigger a feeling of imposter syndrome in some people.
Your role as a manager is not to know everything, but rather to find information that supports the best decision making for its people and the organization.
In her book Radical Candor, Kim Scott talks about being right vs finding the right answers
"People who are more concerned with getting to the right answer than with being right make the best bosses. That's because they keep learning and improving, and they push the people who work for them to do the same"
Say "I don't know" and then set a timeframe to find out.
5. You Need to Optimise for Team Goals
In the beginning, you will spend a lot of time with your stakeholders to identify what needs to be done and provide that clarity to your team. Communication as a group is essential to align on team goals, but it doesn't help with individual aspirations.
To optimize team goals, individual aspirations cannot take a back seat. Understanding every team member in terms of their experience and expectations can be highly effective in mapping the right people to the right opportunities.
The first 30 days as a manager is crucial to start on a right note, connect and build trust by giving dedicated time to each of your team members and learn about them through the first one-on-one meeting.
6. Former Peers Are My Friends
For those who have been promoted from an individual contributor to a manager in the same team, it may be awkward to assume responsibilities of a manager with people who have worked as your peers for a long time.
Relationship dynamics change now that you are suddenly a boss. You understand that you cannot continue to work in the same mode as earlier and yet you are hesitant to be open. The fear that what you say and how you act might offend them and break your friendship prevents you from utilizing their complete potential.
It may be uncomfortable at first, but a new manager must openly discuss the new dynamics with each of their team members. Talk about your new role, define boundaries, and align on expectations. Mention that you will make mistakes and will need their support to learn and do what's right for the team.
7. "I can balance individual contribution and management responsibilities."
A lot of first-time managers start with the perception that they can continue as an individual contributor and take on additional management responsibilities.
The desire to contribute individually prevents them from shifting from "Me" to "We" and deal with the demands of their new role. They find it hard to leave what they have done for so long and embrace new responsibility with complete focus and energy.
Management is a new game with its unique challenges. To be successful in your new role as a manager, you need to spend all of your time learning the craft of this game. Trust your team members with more responsibility and give up the desire to do everything by yourself.
8. "My boss knows how I am doing."
New managers also wait for their boss to schedule a meeting instead of taking things under their control.
Managing up by aligning expectations and sharing information is as important as managing down. Keep your boss apprised of the situation, how things are developing, ask what else can you do, and seek advice.
9. Transparency is Key
Being transparent and communicating well is very important in your role as a new manager. However, over-communication can hurt - knowing when to communicate is as important as knowing when not to communicate.
Thinking transparency implies sharing every bit of information between your team members and other stakeholders is a recipe for disaster.
E.g. Communicating minor delay in timelines to stakeholders can create unnecessary panic, informing your team about a new project without much clarity can confuse, talking to your team about a minor rift in your last meeting can cause uneasiness.
Be conscious of what you share by determining how the information helps the other person.
10. "I need to be serious in my new role."
There's an important difference between being calm and not taking things seriously. Being serious about your responsibility and accountability as a team is important, but it should not prevent you from having fun.
Always being on your toes can not only make you stressed, but it can also harm the team as well.
Learn how to be calm during your first month even though it may seem that everything around you may be falling apart.
11. Saying No Will Lead to Ruffling Feathers
Saying yes to stakeholders without consulting the team only to show that you are in control or not speaking up about ideas that do not align with your team's goals with the fear that it can upset some people can prevent you from doing what's right.
Taking on more than you can manage, saying yes when you should be saying no can lead to misalignment of your team's goals with the work they are expected to do.
As a new manager, it may be difficult to speak up and say no. However, with the right intention to do work that helps you and your team move forward, you will be able to find the courage to say no politely. When people see the results of your decisions later, they will trust you more.
Also, read these posts to understand the shift in roles and responsibilities from an individual contributor to a manager
Remember, as a new manager mistakes will happen. You desire to learn from those mistakes that will set you up for success in the long run.
What mistakes did you make as a new manager?
Published at DZone with permission of Vinita Bansal. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.