Transitioning to manager can be a tough process. Here are a nine management mistakes that new managers can hopefully avoid.
by Ryan Healy
Since my early days in college, I’ve studied management styles, reading about businesses, top leaders and entrepreneurs, usually in my free time. As the low man on the totem pole at one of the largest organizations on the planet, I had the opportunity to work with great managers and I was able to watch less-than-perfect managers struggle through the process.
Today, I’m a co-founder of a small company. And I’m quickly learning that management is no easy task. It’s an art that probably takes years to master. Every manager, no matter how great, still runs into challenges that make them question what they think they know, every single day. So, for your reference (and mine), here is a list of nine management mistakes that new managers can hopefully avoid:
1. Doing too much work
Going from employee to manager is a promotion. It means more responsibility, and the responsibility is making sure everyone else gets their work done. Then you get yours done.
If you’re at the office (virtual or not) for 10 hours, a majority of that time should be devoted to talking with employees, figuring out how to improve your team—their assignments, their self-management skills and your relationship with them. The funny thing is that when you become a manager and your personal task list shrinks, I guarantee your time at the office will grow. Since you’re not spending all day in front of a computer checking off your to-do list, you’ve got to get the actual work done somehow. And often, it will be early in the morning or late at night, when everyone else is still sleeping or celebrating the end of another work day.
2. Failing to realize what “work” is, now
In high school and college, “work” consists of papers, studying and calculus problems. When you graduate to the real world, typical entry-level work means sitting in a cubicle, staring at a computer and putting together PowerPoint presentations or creating Excel documents. Then, all of a sudden, you’re promoted to manager, and everything changes.
High school, college and entry level life are all about hands on, check off my to-do list type of work. Management work is completely different. It’s talking, it’s thinking, it’s planning, but it’s still work, and it’s more vital to the bottom line. If you don’t turn that corner and come to grips with the fact that when you’re just chatting with someone about their weekend, you’re actually doing work, then you will fail as a manager, because this means you think it’s about you, when in reality it’s about everyone else.
3. Delegating the grunt work
You have a lot of authority as a manager; you can delegate all of your work if you really want to. But be careful. Before you delegate anything, ask yourself the question, “Am I delegating this because it’s boring and tedious, or am I delegating this because it truly makes more sense for someone else to do it?”
Obviously, you have to delegate grunt work sometimes. But when you do, be sure to explain why you’re delegating, how its helping the company, and be sure to delegate some interesting work the next time around.
4. Failing to ask for advice
Ask for advice. All the time. There is no secret to getting the most out of your employees. The best thing you can do is ask the people who have been there before. If you’re a first-time manager, someone must be managing you as well. Pick the one or two people you believe are great managers and ask them what they would do in your position.
You don’t have to take their advice. But you should consider their advice seriously and decide if it applies to your situation. Even CEOs need mentors. I bet there isn’t a single CEO out there who doesn’t have a handful of mentors. So find your managing mentor and ask for advice.
5. Keeping an eye on employees
You’re a manager. You’re not a supervisor. It’s not your job to keep an eye on your employees and to know what they are doing at every second of the day. Your job is to mentor, train and coach them so they can be successful in this job and the next.
We no longer work on an assembly line, so much of how people spend their time is up to them. The best you can do is trust that you work with good people and that they will get the work done when it needs to be done. It’s about results, and results can be independent of time.
6. Failing to prepare
Whether it’s a task, a project or a meeting, great managers are always prepared. What your employees produce is always a reflection of you as a manager, so the best thing you can do is prepare as much as you possibly can and give your team as much direction as they need.
Again, it’s all about results, and if you delegate a task to someone without clearly explaining what you are looking for, things will get lost in translation. Your employee may produce exactly what he thought you wanted, but it won’t be what you were looking for, and it WILL be your fault because you failed to properly prepare him for the project.
7. Being too nice
Everyone is not going to love you. And if you want to be a manager, you have to get beyond taking things personally. From my experiences, this is and will be a big problem for Generation Y, especially when we find ourselves managing someone older. We’ve been taught to be nice and respectful and courteous, but nice can be misconstrued as timid, and a timid manager is not someone who inspires trust and confidence.
It’s okay to demand things from people. It’s okay to tell people to do something rather than ask. And it’s okay if everyone doesn’t think you’re the greatest. There’s a fine line between being tough and being an a**hole, but that’s what management is. It’s an art, and it’s that fine line that you must learn how to toe if you want to be a great manager.
8. Pretending to have all the answers
Nobody has all the answers, so there is no need to pretend that you do. If someone asks a tough question and you don’t have a great response, just admit that you don’t know. Snap decisions and answers feel great. They can make you appear cool and in control, but remember that a quick response to a seemingly innocent question can lead to someone wasting days or weeks working on something that you didn’t properly think through.
It’s okay to go back to your office, talk to the right people, figure out what the best approach is and then answer the question.
9. Taking a break
Unlike the tasks on your to-do list, management is never over. You may think you’re done for the day after you settle an issue, or after you meet with everyone on your team. But the truth is, it never ends. When you take a break from managing, that’s when things start to go south.
When you forget to go chat with your extroverted employees and you forget to check in with your newest hires to be sure they are okay, there’s a snowball effect. Not only is your work as a manager not being done, but because you’re not managing, your employees are not doing their work—and it’s your fault, not theirs. So whatever you do, don’t slack off. It’s all on you now.