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Common Mistakes That New Managers Make

Successful supervisors need skills they won’t learn as an employee.

By University Alliance
Common Mistakes that New Managers Make

Being promoted to a manager position for the first time is a rewarding and gratifying accomplishment, but the position requires dealing with struggles and challenging experiences many inexperienced supervisors are simply unprepared to handle. 

The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business offers an online program to help professionals in their first or second supervisory or managerial position recognize the common mistakes of inexperienced managers and how to avoid them.

Most managers are promoted because of their stellar work ethic and individual contributions that help the company succeed. But the rules change when you become a manager.

“Most first-time managers struggle,” said Mike Crant, a senior faculty member in the Department of Management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. “It’s no longer about personal achievement. It’s now about what you can do for other people.”

A new manager should focus more on the people they supervise and help develop the skills and talents of others. An effective first-time manager spends less time trying to draw the spotlight to their own work.

In the Mendoza College of Business lecture series on the expectations of new supervisors and managers, the objective is to bring awareness to the common mistakes of inexperienced managers, avoiding them and taking corrective action if necessary.

To be successful, managers are “good at technical and soft skills,” Crant said. “Good supervisors are able to reach people and get things done through people.”

Crant highlights five of the most common mistakes that hinder managers from being able to excel in their first supervisory roles. Among them is failure to delegate, which can signify a fear of losing power or influence, or an inappropriate concern about overburdening the staff with too much work.

The lecture provides tools to help a new manager learn to delegate more effectively, including ways to better understand the new role.

“The new supervisor needs to understand that they will be evaluated and hopefully rewarded for paying attention to other people, not just for calling attention to themselves,” Crant said.

Not seeking enough support from your boss, showing a lack of confidence, inability to provide strategic thinking, and being afraid to give constructive criticism and feedback are among other common mistakes made by inexperienced managers.

A new manager should learn to manage their boss, taking the initiative to invite them to lunch or for coffee, revealing weaknesses and asking for advice.

Employees look to managers for signals and cues about the performance of the company, so it is important for the supervisor to appear confident at all times.

People want to work for other people who believe in themselves and their ideas. “You need to own the decisions,” including those from senior managers, Crant said. “You need to show you are in command. People are looking to you as a role-model.”

Managers also typically focus too much on short-term goals and not enough on the big picture and innovative ideas. “Strategic thinking is crucial for career advancement,” Crant said.

Dealing with conflict also is an important part of the role of manager.

Crant recommends supervisors not ignore problems to avoid confrontation. Confront conflict when necessary and provide frequent and immediate feedback, especially when dealing with young, new hires.

According to Crant, a good analogy to describe an effective, inexperienced manager is a duck.

“I want you to be like a duck, appearing calm on the surface, but flapping furiously underneath [the water],” Crant said.

Thinking about how to avoid predictable, common mistakes and taking corrective action early in a manager’s career will be of great value and can lead to career advancement, Crant said.

Wherever you are on your professional journey, the University of Notre Dame’s 100% online Executive Education Programs can help you sharpen your leadership and management skills and move you closer to your goal. 

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Category: Leadership and Management