If you’ve never managed others before, you’ll have to get used to an entirely different way of working. Your promotion may well be based on your sterling performance as a team member, but being a manager involves a new set of skills that you are going to have to crack quick-smart if you are going to succeed as a manager.
Being vague is one common mistake that new managers make. Employees look to their managers for clear and precise directions, and not receiving them can cause confusion and resentment, and seriously affect the work of the team. You may not be used to acting with authority, but now you must. Give clear directions, with clear goals and deadlines attached.
Make sure you’re not keeping the most interesting work for yourself and assigning more routine tasks to your team members. This is particularly common when a manager is appointed from within the team.
Good managers are not afraid to delegate and it’s important to get into the habit of using this key management skill as soon as you can. Not only will this build your abilities as a manager and free up your time for what you should be doing, but it will allow your staff to develop their own skills, which is crucial for both their morale and effectiveness as part of the team.
As a manager, you should also resist taking on work that’s being done badly by a team member. A good manager will sit down with the staff member to discuss the problem and find a way through it. Similarly, although it may go against your instincts – and you may even be a friend of the colleague in question – you must be prepared to confront poor performers. Never make it personal, but if a serious problem develops in your team you’re the one who’ll pay the price in the end. And remember to focus not on the mistake but on the learning opportunity it represents.
Conversely, if some of your staff are doing particularly well, let them know it. New managers often find praise as hard to dish out as criticism, but both are necessary if your team is to work well and its members to develop.
New managers also often make the mistake of trying to impress their bosses by personally taking all the credit for the work of their team, which reflects badly not only on the rest of the team but also may eventually come back to bite you, because experienced senior managers can usually spot this behaviour.
Another potential mistake is devoting time to the wrong issues. You need to sit back and plan your schedule so that it is focused on your organisation’s strategic goals, then prioritise all other matters and either fit them around that or drop them completely.