Are great managers born, or made? We might never have a definitive answer.
That said, whether an individual was born to lead, or has been cultivating their leadership instincts for years, when they finally make that leap into management, there’s bound to be a few rookie manager mistakes.
It’s really not surprising, after all – management is an art form. There’s a reason for the tens of thousands of books on management, not to mention the seemingly endless list of blogs (though ours, of course, should be at the top of your feed). Learning how to make a group of employees – whether its three people or 30 – be productive, innovative, efficient, and happy is hard. Period.
So whether you’ve just been promoted, or your looking to set up your new managers for success, here’s a run-down of the four most common rookie manager mistakes to watch out for – and what to do instead.
Rookie mistake #1: Creating a blanket policy for one bad apple
No matter what the industry, the workplace culture, or the quality of management, there’s always going to be that one person that is eternally arriving 45 minutes late. Or never follows up with people. Or works from home but doesn’t get anything done. You might feel compelled to respond with a constricting policy change to get that one worker back in line – but think before you act. Don’t let that one bad apple ruin it for the rest of your team. Reactionary policies or rules that are really only relevant to one or two people won’t necessarily fix the problem, and might have a detrimental affect on the staff as a whole. That said, it can be frustrating to other staff to see the actions of a problematic employee get ignored altogether.
Do this instead: To address a bad apple – or apples – take the time to deal with each person individually. Meet one-on-one to discuss any problems with performance or work ethic, and create an action plan to correct the behaviour together. This approach shows you take an interest in each member of your team – while also indicating that problematic conduct doesn’t go unnoticed.
Rookie mistake #2: Embracing the mantra, “do as I say, not as I do”
There’s nothing worse than being told to do one thing, while watching your manager do the exact opposite – in fact, it’s been called the detrimental downfall of management. This is especially true if a new manager comes in and implements new policies or rules, and then doesn’t follow them. It’s a leap in logic that will likely result in team members neglecting the rules themselves – or worse, losing faith in their new leader.
Do this instead: It’s simple: if you would reprimand your staff for doing it, don’t do it. This includes everything from taking long lunches to pulling out your phone during a meeting. Employees respect someone who practices what they preach. If, for some reason, there’s a rule that applies to employees, but not management – or visa versa – explain the reason for it to your staff clearly. And if you can’t explain it easily, consider why the discrepancy is in place in the first place.
Rookie mistake #3: Fixing things that aren’t really broken
Yes, you want to show a positive impact when you join a new team in a management position. Yes, if it’s necessary, a change in procedure, a new system or technology, or some other sweeping change can be a good thing. After all, sometimes, there’s nothing better for improving efficiency and productivity than a fresh set of eyes. However, change is difficult, and if it’s change just for the sake of it, it can derail a team or project.
Do this instead: Take a step back and evaluate. Don’t rush – look at what is working well, and what seems, at first glance, to be problematic. Then, closely examine the problem areas, working with your team to find out what steps are already in place to remedy the situation. If there’s already a plan in place, align your goals accordingly to avoid unnecessary change.
Rookie mistake #4: Not taking an interest in your employees’ futures
Not discussing goals is one of the biggest reasons why employees quit. As Forbes put it, “no career path, no retention.” Especially as new generations enter the workforce with non-traditional career goals in mind, it becomes even more important for management to create an ongoing discussion with their employees about their future.
Do this instead: Last month, executive coach Mikael Meir offered us his top tips for being great leader, and among them was a simple one: talk to your employees. “Get personal – ask your employees where they want to be in their career, and how you can help them,” said Meir. Actually caring about an employee’s career goals will resonate with your direct reports, and likely make them work harder.
There are more rookie manager mistakes out there, but addressing these four is a great start to becoming a trusted and respected leader.