Congratulations on your new role as a manager!
You're suddenly responsible for the career trajectories of people who aren't yourself. And with that comes new a set of responsibilities, perspectives, and skills.
It's no small task, and without being mindful of common mistakes, it's easy to mishandle. I take pride in being a good manager. I focus a lot of my attention on managing my direct reports and think effective management is the most important aspect of my job. But managing didn't always come naturally to me and I've made my fair share of mistakes along the way.
Here are the three most common mistakes I've seen new managers make, as well as some advice on how to avoid doing the same.
1. Having micromanager-phobia
Even if you haven't been directly exposed to one, you surely know someone who has suffered under the dreaded "micromanager."
For those who have worked for one, the reactions are strong and unanimous: "This stifles my creativity. I can't work this way. I'll never be this type of manager."
Far too often, the next step is overcompensation. The new manager becomes so fearful of being labeled a micromanager that he or she ends up not managing anything at all.
Part of managing involves telling people what to do. Rookie managers often mistake this for micromanaging. However, ordering directs to do things a certain way, doing it for them, or pointing out a mistake without correcting it are qualities of a micromanager.
Checking in with people to make sure they're on track. Asking to see results. Asking to see a report. Asking to be kept in the loop. Asking to join a call to see how someone's doing. These are all things every manager is expected to do. And that's the difference.
Every one of your direct reports will be different, but find a balance that gives all of them the freedom to get things done independently but also stresses accountability.
2. Being the "friend boss"
Another new-manager fail? Being the friend boss. Don't be the friend boss.
Of course, you want your workplace to be a friendly environment. Of course you want to be kind and caring with all of your colleagues. And, of course, you want to have fun together. At my company, Arkadium, we have a "joy team" dedicated to organizing fun outings for everyone in our company. Fostering a friendly and fun environment is super important to good workplace culture.
But never confuse being someone's manager with being a best friend--it will almost always lead to uncomfortable situations, especially when it's time to have challenging conversations. Giving constructive feedback or addressing poor performance, for example, can easily be misconstrued when your direct report is under the impression that you're supposed to be friends.
As a manager, you're responsible for somebody's career trajectory, growth, and compensation. Executing all those responsibilities while simultaneously being a friend is a balancing act that no effective manager would recommend.
Authenticity is the key to any relationship, in and out of the office. Being a best friend and a manager at the same time just isn't authentic.
3. Keeping your door too open
An open-door policy is important. Your direct reports should feel comfortable enough to communicate with you. But there's a fine line between having an open door and making yourself too available.
Do your direct reports have a question about the email cadence between your account manager and a partner? That's perfectly valid--they need that information to properly do their job. Should you fulfill your direct reports' request to proofread every one of their emails before they press send? Of course not.
Don't be an enabler by giving the impression that you need to sign off on every small decision. By stunting someone's independence, you make it difficult for that person to learn and grow in his or her role.
Be genuine, be open, and don't hesitate to draw lines in the sand. Being a new manager isn't the minefield some expect it to be.