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9 Mistakes New Managers Should Avoid

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Rookie manager mistakes. They’re predictable. They’re also mostly preventable.

Here are nine that jump up and bite too many first-time managers.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 1: Assuming you’ve been tapped for this new role to “shake things up.”

Reality: In the history of first-time managers, approximately zero were promoted into their new role with the charter to “shake things up.” The boss who promoted you is cautiously optimistic that you won’t screw things up too badly. Maybe over time, if you prove capable you will be able to shake gently.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 2: Assuming the people on your new team are happy to see you in this role.

Reality: There are likely to be a variety of opinions about your elevation to this role, ranging from resentment to jealousy to ambivalence. Beware the false enthusiasm. Everyone’s waiting to see who and what you are before deciding whether to support or subvert you. You’ve got to earn your credibility.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 3: Adopting the “I’m in charge” tone.

Reality: The last person who uttered the phrase, “There’s a new sheriff in town,” and got away with it, was in a Grade B-Western film in 1964.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 4: Assuming they’re doing it wrong.

Reality: One first-time manager announced on day one that everything in the department was subject to review and change. This pronouncement immediately put people on the defensive and raised the angst meter when it came to dealing with the new manager. It turns out they were an efficient, effective group capable of doing more for the firm. This guilty until innocent manager lasted a short four months before the team rejected her.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 5: Requiring everyone to earn your trust.

Reality: Trust flows in both directions, and you get the first move. Fail to show that you trust your new team members and it will be a cold, awkward start-up and potentially fast flameout.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 6: Letting the loudest voices dominate the narrative.

Reality: There are always people who believe a new boss is fair game and assert themselves to secure favor and gain power. That’s fine as long as you understand the game and as long as you seek out the quieter team members to gain insights into what is going on with the team.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 7: Getting caught up in the drama.

Reality: There’s always drama. Don’t let it suck you in. Stay above the gossip, conspiracies and “He said,” or, “She did” side-stories.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 8: Failing to meet and listen in a one-on-one setting.

Reality: Most people feel under-appreciated. Prior managers have conditioned them in many cases to believe that their opinions don’t count. Break this cycle of disrespect by sitting down with each team member and listening. Use the questions: What’s working? What’s not? What should we do about it? How can I help? And then remember to do something with the answers.

Rookie Manager Mistake No. 9: Failing to match words with actions.

Reality: Everyone’s watching. The do must match the tell.

You will make mistakes—they’re inevitable. The nine above are so common; they’re almost cliché. Don’t become part of the cliché.

Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.

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