Your first leadership role will definitely be a learning experience. Managing people is a very different skill set than managing projects or tasks. A new manager can stumble a little coming out of the gate, so don’t let yourself get tripped up by these common first-timer flubs.
Being a Micromanager
Even if you make this mistake, you’re not alone. A survey by Accountemps found that over 50% of employees say they’ve worked for a micromanager.
68% of employees who’ve been micromanaged say it decreased their morale
55% of employees who’ve been micromanaged say it hurt their productivity
People who believe they are being watched perform at a lower level
Avoid this problem by establishing a foundation of strong communication. These are the two most important steps:
1. Get to know your team’s capabilities
Doing this will help eliminate any doubt about your team's ability to execute. This means onboarding them properly (we’ll cover that later) and giving them necessary training. Give them productive feedback and check on their progress occasionally. Then trust them to do well.
2.. Get your team to know you
Let them know what your expectations are. Clearly communicate what they need to know about your role and responsibilities. Keep them in the loop about relevant projects, and share with them your professional vision. When you’re open and transparent, you won’t need to tell your employees what you want, because they’ll already know.
Trying to Be the Cool Guy (or Gal)
Yes, you want your team to like you. But remember that you’re a boss, not a peer. Here are the dos and don’ts you’ll need to follow to avoid this common trap:
Avoid saying “no” because you don’t want to be the bad guy. If a team member makes a mistake, bring it up with them respectfully. If you get too many vacation requests at once, don’t try to please everyone; just be clear about how you’ll treat the requests fairly.
Avoid setting high expectations or challenging your team so you can be a “fun” boss. Missing deadlines or losing productivity will put a damper on even the most party-like atmosphere.
Give team members reason to wonder if someone else in the group is getting special treatment because you’re always grabbing lunch or sharing in-jokes with them to the exclusion of others.
Let yourself be human and connect with your team — while sticking to personal boundaries and maintaining equal treatment across the group.
Make sure your team knows you care about their success by pushing them to develop and stretch themselves.
Be honest in your feedback, especially when handling criticism.
Giving Your Team Too Much Room
Hands-off leadership is good. But neglecting your team will kill your rapport. While your employees should be able to work independently, they still need your attention and guidance.
Remember that you’re no longer just one member of the team, and you can’t just dive into your own work and never come up for air. Being a leader means being interrupted. Give them your full attention when your employees come to you. If you have to dash to a meeting or take a vital phone call, make sure to follow up later.
You can also run into this mistake when you’re trying too hard to avoid micromanaging. But the solution isn’t to cut off contact — instead, keep communication channels open so you’re available whenever your team needs you. Open your office door (literally or figuratively) and be accessible via methods like email and instant messaging. That way you’re not smothering them, but they still know how to reach you.
Not Setting Clear Expectations
Don’t expect your team to be mind readers. Set expectations up front so there aren’t any misconceptions about what they’re responsible for or how you’ll evaluate them. Employees come in with different experiences, so it’s better not to assume everyone’s playing by the same rules. Make it explicit.
Clear communication will get you a happier team. How do we know? Findings for our Engagement Study show that management transparency is the number one factor in determining employee happiness. Cut the guesswork, and your relationship with your team will flourish.
Forgetting to Check in About Employees’ Professional Goals
Your team isn’t just about the day-to-day responsibilities. Employees will look to their leaders to help develop their career path. It might be hard to think that far ahead when you’re first starting out as a manager, but make it part of your early conversations with your team.