The 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made as New Manager

Posted on June 21, 2012.

Nobody becomes a manager without a few stumbles.  It’s not like you get management training, and then get promoted. That would make too much sense.  No, better to throw you in the deep end and see if you can swim.

If you listened to our podcast on aha moments, you know that the only initial training I received was a 723-page book entitled “Successful Managers Handbook”, which to this day, I’ve never really opened. Who has time to read a 723-page tome when you’re treading water? Needless to say, I made a few mistakes. Okay, many mistakes, but these were the biggest and the ones I learned from the most:

  1. I changed many things very quickly. Clearly assuming I was way smarter than my predecessor; I had to change what he had established.  Before even understanding everyone’s roles and responsibilities, I changed them. Why? Because they asked me to. Which leads me to mistake #2.
  2. I believed what everyone told me. Not to say you shouldn’t trust the people that work for you. But you clearly need to understand the landscape, the dynamics and everyone’s individual agenda before accepting everything at face value. The biggest lesson for me was realizing that not everyone put the company or the team first.
  3.  I forgot there were 3 sides to every story. It’s wasn’t long after taking the reigns that someone was in my office with a complaint. Being very decisive, I made a decision and solved his problem. Well that decision had a huge impact to several other people who were in my office within minutes with their take on the problem. Somewhere in between lay the truth.
  4. I wanted to please everyone. As a new manager, you want everyone to “like” you. I call it the Sally Field's syndrome. Trying to please everyone all the time, I ended up pleasing almost no one most of the time.  It took me years to realize that if I could get more than 50% of the team happy more than 50% of the time, I was successful.  Accepting that respect is more important than like takes time.
  5. I accepted all the accolades.  Getting promoted into management is a real boost to the ego.  Like movie stars, you start believing your own hype. Forget the fact that you might have just been in the right place at the right time or had a mentor with some pull.  So when people started complimenting the work of my team, I said “thank you”.  What I should have said was “ I know, didn’t Richard do a great job”.

I am a believer that you can learn more from your mistakes than your successes. At least I hope so, because these were only my top five.