New managers typically embrace their roles with a combination of energy, perception, and enthusiasm that can make them incredible assets. However, they are also likely to fall into several common pitfalls that can erode the effectiveness of their leadership.
Each time I've promoted an existing employee into a leadership position or recruited someone to fill a management opening, I've carefully examined how well they adapt to their responsibilities and where they struggle. In this article, I've listed five common pitfalls I've observed and ways you can overcome them to help new leaders transition into their bigger role.
Tackle emerging problems as soon as you observe them.
It's easy to see why many first-time leaders come into their team with an "observe first, act later" strategy, especially if they are inexperienced within the company or the unit they now oversee. It makes sense to educate yourself about the processes and personalities that drive the new group you are going to lead before taking actions that could dramatically impact team performance and employee well-being.
The latent negative consequence of this tendency, naturally, is taking it too far and letting problems fester until they become catastrophic. Whether an issue is the leftover result of pre-existing policies or disputes, or something that only became apparent after your arrival, it's your responsibility to manage circumstances when situations are still malleable and mitigate the risk of crises.
Draw on all the resources are available to you.
Without a doubt, one of the most common mistakes inexperienced leaders make is viewing their new assignment as a solo mission. New managers want to make their mark, and whether they're overseeing a team or an entire company, it's tempting for those in leadership positions to want to bear the burden of success solely on their shoulders.
But leading any group of people, no matter what size and configuration, is never an isolated experience. Every company has more resources than management teams actually utilize, and it's up to you to employ them effectively.
Regularly reassess whether or not your management techniques embody company values.
Under your guidance, your team -- and its performance and personality -- should reflect the specific attributes of your management style and values. However, your staff is also part of a larger organization and it has to balance those idiosyncrasies with a reflection of the overall company culture and mission.
In a 2017 global survey of executives who had transitioned to new leadership roles published in the Harvard Business Review, organizational culture issues were cited by nearly two-thirds of respondents as a significant stumbling block. As you develop new policies and set expectations and goals for your employees, it's important to consistently evaluate how aligned your decisions are with the company's values.
Experiment with change in a careful and regimented manner.
As a new leader, you are an agent of change. If the status quo was perfect before there would have been no need to change managers, replace a departing director or create a new leadership role. Change is an inherent byproduct of your position, and ignoring that reality is ill-advised.
Of course, how you go about instituting change is crucial. You don't want to begin by updating policies and processes wholesale. Instead, choose one or two areas and dedicate your focus to them at a given time. Develop unique goals for each new direction and carefully monitor your decision's impact before proceeding with your next initiative.
Remember that you don't have all the answers.
You're likely to face complex organizational issues as a new manager. Yet, you'll want to avoid arriving with pre-determined solutions to everything that plagues the group. Coming in with answers before you've asked any questions demonstrates arrogance and disregards the work employees have already done in attempting to resolve the issues.
To garner support for change as a result of your leadership, let your staff know that you are going to collaborate to develop innovative solutions. Go to them for information that can help you better understand the distinctive challenges they face, and make an effort to blend your vision for the future of the team with the unique circumstances under which it operates.