THE 7 DEADLY SINS OF THE ROOKIE MANAGER – and how to avoid them.
During my days of managing people (including managing new supervisors) I have noticed many new managers shooting themselves in the foot by getting off to a terrible start. Let’s face it, managing people is hard enough without ticking them off right from the get-go. Too many rookie managers are un-coached and simply thrown into a job with the expectation that they were smart enough to get it so they must be smart enough to manage people. Far too untrue. Managing people often has very little to do with the previous success that resulted in their promotion.
Most rookie managers commit one, two or more of the following people management career killers that could have been avoided with a little more coaching.
- ASSUMING A FAULTY POSTURE – Managers often fall into the trap of trying too hard to play the authoritarian – from Day One. Using the ‘My way or the highway’ approach or simply not admitting they do not know everything is a sure road to failure. This is especially true of rookie managers who are young. It is hard to look a veteran employee who is 20+ years your senior in the eye and tell them that you think they are doing something wrong. So the natural defense mechanism is to just be a tough guy and not discuss it with the employee – just bitch at them and tell them what you think and then return to your office. The harder way is to have an open and frank conversation with them that admits to them that you are not sure if they made an error or not. That way displays some weakness and no rookie wants to show that. But the fact is, it is better to be humble. Ask for input. Gain collaborative effort from all your people. Find common ground and then hold it. Make work a shared journey not your personal victory parade.
- DELEGATING IMPROPERLY – Overwhelmed rookie managers will frequently delegate key functions to people they assume will know how to do them. Vet people first, select the right one, and then hold frequent update meetings to make sure they are on the right path.
- MICRO MANAGING – New managers usually have a driving desire to see everything done as they would do it. Get over that fast. Agree on how the end product should look and then let your employee run with it – but follow up often.
- FAILING TO LISTEN – Newbies will sometimes fall in love with their newfound authoritarian voice. Listen twice as often as you talk. Let your people be heard and don’t be afraid to follow their lead.
- POOR CRITICISM – When a mistake has been made, rookies tend to focus on who is at fault. Instead, turn your focus to ‘how did this happen.’ Criticize faulty processes or communication failures rather than people. When you can turn every failure into a teaching opportunity, you gain respect and authority.
- INCONSISTENCY – Ok, this is a tough one for every manager but new managers need to be particularly vigilant that they are not perceived to be having one set of rules for one person and a different for another.
- LACK OF RESPECT – for your employees. Nothing will sabotage a rookie manager’s people management career faster than the perception that he or she believes they are superior to the rank and file workers. Listening well, giving credit openly, praising good work and being a bit humble will make sure you do not have to face that problem.
If you are a rookie manager heading into your first command, mold yourself carefully and get off to a good start. If you are the manager of a rookie manager, spend more time coaching and make sure they have a clear shot at success right out of the gate.