New Manager Tips for Enhanced Leadership Skills
You’ve done it. You’ve mastered your original job and have had bestowed upon you the illustrious title of Manager. Congratulations. You now have reports whose very careers rest in your more-than-capable hands. And if they fail to do your bidding, all you need is to clench those hands, reminding them who’s boss. After all, what else should they expect from the soon-to-be President, CEO, and Galactic Emperor? But before you charge into you own Little Bighorn, you should probably take a little bit of time to brush up on your leadership skills…just to be safe, my liege. After all, history is filled with lesser leaders, many of whom would have traded their kingdom for a horse in the end. Below are a few new manager tips to avoid their fate…Not that you need them, of course.
13 unfortunate mistakes new managers make:
- Ignoring internal conflicts: True leadership skills include a proclivity for proactivity, especially in ensuring harmony among one’s team. If your subordinates are fighting amongst themselves, the worst you can do is to ignore it. In their attempts to one up one another in your eyes, they’ll likely endanger your team’s goals – the ones your superiors care about when reviewing you. Conflict management involves confronting both sides, understanding their viewpoints, finding the root cause, and even calling in help when needed. Similar rules apply even when the conflict is with you.
- Ignoring performance problems: The mere absence of conflict does not equate to harmony. If there’s a kink in your chain, you need to straighten it. If someone on your team isn’t performing as they’re expected to, the worst thing you can do, once more, is ignore it. And ignoring it can be tempting if they were once your peer, or worse, have become your personal friend. That’s when it’s important to remember that corrective action is not the same as punishment. Your duty should be to ensure the success of your reports – after all, their success is a reflection of your success now. Ensure you immediately start documenting both bad and good performance, discuss any issues diplomatically and in private, and conduct effective performance appraisals.
- Not getting to know your team: If your old manager left or was promoted and you’ve taken their place, chances are you know your team pretty well because you used to be their peer, in which case things can get awkward, particularly if any one of them felt they deserved the promotion. Hold private meetings with each of them to reinforce your confidence in them. Should any conflict arise despite your efforts, see number 1 above. However, if you’re new to the team, it’s your duty to get to know not only your reports’ professional goals (so that you can help them along their career paths), but to also take an interest in their personal lives to some extent. A major part of retaining talent is recognizing that they have lives outside of work. While you’re not expected to become your subordinates’ friend – nor should you, really (see number 4 below) – you should make some effort to know what their unique circumstances are so that you’re prepared to accommodate them when necessary.
- Believing you’re friends: Cold though it may sound, regardless of how friendly you are with your subordinates, you’ll never really be their friend so long as a hierarchical relationship exists between you. The fact is that you have power over them, and no matter how much you like someone and no matter how much you can rely on them, that power dynamic is fundamental to how you’ll ultimately interact should an issue arise – and if you’re both smart, you’ll both always know this. Besides, being too friendly not only undermines your authority (thereby endangering the performance of your team should someone feel too relaxed – or feel like they can get away with challenging or disobeying you), but it could also potentially give rise to legal allegations of favourtism, not unlike those associated with office romances.
- Going Draco: It’s one thing to maintain some personal distance between you and your subordinates; it’s another thing to become cold, rigid, and harsh. Think: Can you navigate your way to the head of another team as well as Captain Bligh could navigate the Pacific…in a dinghy?
- Making promises you can’t keep: You may think garnering loyalty, and therefore optimal performance, from your team can be done by ensuring they’ll get everything they want because you can get it for them. Remember: You’re not President, CEO, and Galactic Emperor yet. If you promise leather recliners for everyone and then can’t get them, you’ll have a confidence crisis on your hands.
- Not clearly communicating your expectations and goals: Hold regular meetings with each member of your team to explain and follow up on their individual goals. Those goals should tie in with your team’s larger goals – the ones you’re held accountable for – and how they tie in should be explained in group meetings, not emails.
- Not proactively recruiting: If you need more people or have to replace someone who’s left, don’t wait. Have people in mind from your own network and reach out to them as soon as you know you may need one of them. If they all decline or you don’t know anyone suitable, take the necessary steps via your HR department, create effective job postings, and consider an employment agency like Adecco to lighten the burden.
- Overburdening your team: You may feel obligated to accept more work for your team because you believe in them and/or you want to impress your new bosses. However, you need to realistically consider whether you’re asking too much. That can be hard to judge, especially if you’re not doing any of the groundwork anymore. You don’t want your subordinates to feel like slaves. Plus, if they really can’t accomplish everything you’re giving them, it’ll ultimately reflect on you and your performance. Protect your team, push back when necessary, and fight for more people if you need them (see above).
- Micromanaging: You’re team knows how to do their jobs. If you start doing everything for them, you’re not doing your You should be focused on broader goals and ensuring that your team has what they need to do accomplish theirs. Micromanagement can also undermine your subordinates’ confidence in themselves or flat out insult them.
- Taking credit for your team’s work: Perhaps worse than overburdening or micromanaging your team is taking all the credit for their hard work. It’s definitely one way to solidify your team – against you.
- Not challenging existing procedures and protocols: There’s likely something about the way your team works – or how they work with other teams – that can be improved. You may be tempted to maintain the status quo for fear of stepping on someone’s toes, but avoiding positive change for fear of confrontation is on no one’s list of leadership skills.
- Not seeking support from your own superiors: Being a new manager means forging strong relationships for the first time in opposite directions on the org chart. To improve the power flowing to your team, you need to improve the power flowing to you from someone else. Create allies with your superiors so that you can provide your team with the best work scenario possible.