How to spot a first-time manager – 7 mistakes no leader should be making

Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” – Fred Brooks

My morning ritual involves green jasmine tea and a lot of reading. This morning a funny title caught my eye: “how to cope with nightmare employees“. And it was published in a digital business publication I often read. It struck me because this exact line is one that helps me recognize first-time or inexperienced managers. The article was probably written for SEO or simply to shock and get reader attention and not for any educative purpose, so no harm done. However, it made me think about the top 7 lines that, in my opinion, differentiate a rookie from an experienced player. 7 first time manager mistakes.

Don’t get me wrong. Experienced managers make these mistakes as well. They are human mistakes and come more natural than we would like to. I know the right mindset and I catch myself tripping as well and quite often. The difference is maybe in the awareness. Newbies are convinced they are right. In case any of you first-time managers recognize themselves in the lines below, please take 2 minutes to read my arguments. And if you disagree, I would more than happily like to debate.

1. “My team simply s****, it’s so tough to find good people, I’ve tried and tried and tried. Where have all the good people gone?

My reply would be “where have the good managers gone?”. It is an impulse all managers have from time to time, but unfortunately you can’t blame anyone for your team as a manager. Except for yourself. And this especially after 3-4 months from your start with the company and the team. It’s your team, your responsibility, you decide who should be in and who shouldn’t, you decide who’s got potential, what the goals of each team member are etc. It’s your landmark, your team, your area, your authority, your results.

2. “It’s not my fault, it’s my team member’s fault and only his.

My dearest, it’s your job to assume full responsibility for your team. In your manager’s eyes and in the eyes of any colleague from your company, it is your team’s fault. You represent the team and assume its objectives and tasks so IT IS TECHNICALLY YOUR fault. Of course, internally, when you discuss things it is someone’s responsability maybe in a practical way, but yours because you haven’t delegated tasks according to skills and performance and yours because you haven’t foreseen the problem. Anyhow, yes, internally, in your team, there is probably someone responsible, not at fault and of course measures need to be taken. If it was poor performance, you need to tell it to a team member and you need to give him a deadline and a number of trials to correct this. In any other circumstances, it is your responsibility, so your “fault”.

3. “I need to do it all by myself and I have no time. There is no one I can trust with this task in my team.

I think you may be in micromanagement mode. If there is no one you can trust in your team, then think about what changes need to be made. It is your team after all. If you have the right people, then the next step is to explain the goals for each one of them and make sure your team has everything they need in order to get things done. Then you need to give them space and trust. Build trust. And delegate.

4. “My team will do this. Because I said so!

If only it were so easy. Authority doesn’t come with a title. It comes through skill, example, personal relationship building, trust and a series of other factors. You need to earn your team’s trust and respect, it doesn’t come by default with the Manager position. You need to demonstrate skills, character, ability to get things done, leadership etc. Don’t be a bull in a China shop, be gentle and remember that things do take time.

5. “I’ll focus on the team later. First of all results. Let’s get the tasks done and I will focus on people later.

You may not believe it at this stage, but people are the true DNA of the organization. If you don’t know it now, you will learn soon enough and fingers crossed so that it won’t be too late. You first need to get the right people in the boat and only then assign objectives to each one of them and help them achieve them so that your team achieves its goals. On the other hand, you can only get things done with your team and through your team, otherwise it would be individual results and it would not be enough.

6. “My team are my friends, it’s difficult to provide a friend with negative feedback… it’s better to be gentle, I don’t want to lose their trust.” 

Your primary focus as a manager should be on building a team, not friendships. Everyone says so, but you keep ignoring them as you think such a nice thing as friendship can’t really hurt too much. It is of extreme importance to forge good individual relationships, but they should not be the same with friendships in order to maintain a happy work environment and an objective system where results are praised.

7. “The management provides my team with poor conditions. My duty is to protect them and offer them better conditions with the company.

A great lady mentor I’ve had the pleasure to work with told me that the easiest thing for a first-time manager is always to become the union leader of his team. You can’t imagine how true this is! The manager’s role is to achieve results through his team, to buffer (but it goes both ways: up-down and down-up), to be objective and represent both the company’s interests and the team’s interests. Complaining about company’s policies, lack of resources and top management is something anyone can do. What is expected of you is to make a difference and come up with solutions.

These are 7 mistakes I’ve made and I am still tempted to make. I would really love to learn about yours.

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