Common Mistakes First-Time Managers Make

Common Mistakes First-Time Managers Make
How to start off your new management role.
by Square Jun 27, 2016 — 2 min read
Common Mistakes First-Time Managers Make

The first time you take on a leadership role at work, you’re probably just as excited as you are intimidated. Finally, it’s your chance to make the changes you’ve always wanted. But once you take on your new role, you quickly realize that being in charge isn’t as easy as you thought it would be, and you empathize with the managers who came before you. Not only do you have the challenge of leading a team, but you also have to adapt to a new way of working now that you have a different set of responsibilities and goals.


They don’t focus on the big picture

Once people get into a leadership position, they can no longer focus on a daily to-do list of tasks and personal short-term goals. Now they have to focus on the larger goals of their department or organization. Instead of focusing on details and individual projects, it’s crucial that they turn their attention to the progress of their direct reports. Effective managers know that they are responsible for motivating their team and keeping everyone on track.

They don’t get to know their employees

It’s tough to lead your team if you don’t really know them. “How you begin is so important to how you’re perceived by your team,” Lindsey Pollak, author of the management book Becoming the Boss, tells Fast Company. She cautions against relying primarily on electronic communication. So, while you don’t need a face-to-face meeting for every question and discussion, it’s important to have a personal relationship with your employees. Having in-person conversations can also bring up other issues that need to be addressed and lead to productive brainstorming sessions. In short, there’s no drawback to talking to your team and getting to know them better.

They only focus on keeping things running smoothly

A big part of a manager’s job is making sure that everyone else is doing their work. “New managers also need to realize they are responsible for recommending and initiating changes that will enhance their group’s performance,” Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill writes. According to Hill, that means evaluating and challenging structures and processes outside their area of authority.

They make promises they can’t keep

Before you were in a leadership position, you probably had a long list of things you would change if you could. So, once you’re a manager, it’s tempting to start making grand proclamations about processes you’re going to change or technology you’re going to adopt. It’s a bad idea to make promises before you understand how things work from the other side. Especially as a new manager, it’s important not to make promises you can’t keep. Once you lose the trust of your team, it’s hard to get it back.

They don’t take action where they can

Sure, it’s not advisable for first-time managers to promise sweeping changes before they know what is realistically possible. But that doesn’t mean they can’t first tackle the little things that will make a big difference. For example, instead of promising a new software system for employee scheduling, how about starting with a more streamlined process for requesting time off? Listen to employees and do what you can, even if it’s not a permanent solution. Making an effort goes a long way toward earning your team’s trust and respect.

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