20 Rookie Manager Mistakes You Want to Avoid

management mistakes to avoid


Every manager has that first day on the job.  And no matter how many years of work experience he or she may have, most first-time managers quickly realize they have a lot to take in.  (We’ve all been there!)  As we learn, we are bound to have our screw ups, it’s normal.  The good news is that we can always learn from our blunders as well as the mistakes of others.  Managing other people is not easy, so being aware of the many pitfalls of the job can help give you a head start.  We’ve compiled 20 common mistakes new managers tend to make – our goal with this is not to scare you, but rather to inform you that there are many dynamics to being a great boss.  The sooner you learn to recognize and avoid them, the sooner to you crank out fantastic results for your business.  Let’s get started…


1. Not Realizing That What Got You There Won’t Make You Successful Going Forward

Here’s a known truth when it comes to transitioning from the role of an individual employee to that of a manager: what made you successful before is NOT what makes you successful now.  And yet, no matter how many people say it, new managers still make this mistake over and over again.  You got the job because of your own personal hard work, dedication and perseverance.  However, what will make you successful going forward as a boss is getting these type of results from your team.  You can’t do it all.  The sooner you can accept this, the better off you are in your new position.

2.  You Come Out Swinging

Many first-time supervisors are eager to make their mark on the organization and want to introduce a number of new changes all at once.  Bear in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the team you want to create.  Too many changes in a short amount of time can shock an organization.  Every new process and policy you implement will need to settle in and take root at a controlled pace.  Lightening fast change will only result in chaos.

3.  You Micromanage

We’ve all worked for a micromanager at one point or another, and know how it feels.  No one likes it.  When you are first learning how to get results through others as a new boss, it can be very difficult to stand back and let the process play out.  If you catch yourself assigning work but continuously following up to check on progress and to see if the work is in line with what you would do, take a step back.  It often takes a lot of discipline and conscious effort on your part to trust your staff to see the job through.

4.  Over-Delegating

While becoming a micromanager is one issue, the same holds true for the opposite end of that spectrum: you delegate everything.  You may view your new role as being the person who reviews incoming tasks and immediately finds a person to work it.  Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much you can delegate – sometimes there is simply no capacity left.  Assigning more work doesn’t help.  Every now and then, you will need to roll up your sleeves and do the work yourself, or negotiate a new deadline that your team can meet.

RELATED: How to Effectively Delegate Work To Employees

5. Failing to Prioritize

Having finally earned the title, many first-time leaders feel obligated to do everything that is asked of his or her team, fearing to look incompetent if they do not.  They’re afraid to say no.  Setting priorities and pushing aside work that is not critical can certainly be hard to do, but it is essential.  Making these decisions is necessary in order to give your staff the focus it needs to deliver positive results.  If everything is a ‘priority,’ then nothing is really all that important.

6.  You Focus On Clearing The Next Hurdle, and Forget About the Race

With limited experience, it’s easy for new managers to zoom in on what they see immediately in front of them.  Due dates, assignments, milestones.  What is far more difficult to realize, however, is that all of these are just individual hurdles in a larger race.  You will do yourself many favors by looking up at the horizon to see the finish line and to get a clearer view of where you’re going.  Doing so helps you better anticipate challenges and issues (such as resource constraints) before they become real problems that cannot be corrected.  Always look up to grasp the big picture.

7.  Blaming Others Before Blaming Yourself

Being a good manager is about being a good leader.  And one trait of being a good leader is that you protect your people, even when you don’t want to.  Remember that when employees make mistakes, or a problem occurs, it was on your watch whether you like it or not.  It’s called accountability.  Your willingness to be held accountable for your team’s performance will also help you earn the respect and trust of your colleagues and employees.

8.  Failing to Realize That Management is About Influence, Not Power

While it is true that as a manager you have a certain amount of power, stopping there is a very short-sighted view of your job.  Many new managers do not realize that they will be far more successful if they become mass-influencers rather than just directors.  Certainly, there are times where you need to dictate action and use your authority to drive activity.  But don’t let this define you as a leader; focus on becoming influential.

RELATED: Manager Vs. Leader; Authority Vs. Influence

9.  Believing All Your Employees Are the Same

Something we tend not to appreciate before becoming a leader of people is how unique and different employees really are.  Sure, you may have noticed that there are differences in experience, background, and education.  But it often takes a while for us to truly realize (and appreciate) that those differences mean that each employee has unique talents and skills that can serve the team in many ways.  The sooner you learn how to tap into and harness the unique talents of each employee, the sooner you can deliver results.

RELATED: Managing My Group of Misfits

10.  You Command Instead of Communicate

According to a MRH Survey, 50% of people say the most important aspect of being a good boss is being able to communicate effectively.  But, as you know, communication is about more than just about barking orders at people.  Effective communication, rather, is a two-way street.  It’s about providing direction and guidance just as much as it is about listening carefully.  Your ability to manage others will quickly improve as soon as you learn how to be a better listener.

11.  You’re Too Serious… or Not Serious Enough

Whether it’s to meet the target profit, make deliveries on time, or to help as many patients as you can, people are depending on you to deliver results.  That’s some serious responsibility! But you are also there to help guide the team through difficult times, and serve as a moral compass.  Sometimes you need to be the disciplinarian, other times you need to be the comic relief.  Not everything is a matter of life and death, and everyone likes casual Friday.  Make sure you give the organization what it needs at a given time.

12.  You Cannot Adapt

Adaptability is one of the most important skills managers need in order to perform their job well.  Certainly, we all have our working preferences and always want things to go our way.  But recognize this will not always happen.  Your ability to quickly adapt and redirect in response to unexpected changes is critical to your team’s success.  Plan carefully, but don’t be surprised when your plan gets tossed aside.

13.  Failing (Or Being Afraid) to Give Critical Feedback

A difficult, yet important aspect of being a manager is giving critical feedback to others.  This is not easy, no matter what anyone tells you.  Giving prompt constructive feedback on things like an employee’s professionalism, lack of preparedness, timeliness or the quality of his or her work can be uncomfortable, but it helps prevent problems down the line.  If you don’t say something, it’s only a matter of time before you wish you had.

RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts of Giving Feedback to Employees

14.  Ignoring Performance Issues

As mentioned above, giving feedback is an essential part of being a manager.  But when a situation reaches the point of becoming a performance issue, you need to take action.  Nothing will impact your team’s ability to deliver like obvious underperformance.  When someone repeatedly fails to rise to challenges or meet commitments, it impacts the team, your other employees and you.  Tackle performance issues quickly for the betterment of your entire organization.

RELATED: Managing Your Poor Performers 

15.  You Manage Tasks, Not Careers

It’s an easy mistake to make but an important one to avoid.  Amidst the daily grind, busy managers tend to spend all their time talking to employees about tasks, assignments and due dates.  There is no time for anything else, right?  Well, as a leader of other people, you are also tasked with cultivating and guiding your employees’ careers for the long-term benefit to your company or organization.  On a regular basis, be sure to step away from tasks and talk about their career ambition, and the development needed to get there.

16.  Setting Unrealistic Goals

We all hear about goals and the importance to setting them to drive focus.  But we often overlook the importance of setting goals that are not only achievable, but also valuable to our businesses and teams.  Unrealistic or non-value added goals for your new team will become a distraction to what’s really important.  Rather, make it a point to set clear, tangible goals that mean something to everyone.  Be selective with your choice few, and recognize that every goal should help you improve performance, not just monitor the organization.

RELATED: Setting SMART Goals to Manage Employee Performance

17.  Not Asking for Help (Soon Enough)

Everyone needs help.  Even the CEO has his or her advisors.  Many first-time managers, however, are afraid that asking for help as they fear it will show they are unfit for the job.  Don’t get stuck in that mindset.  The reality of management is that the decisions you make and the results you are responsible for obtaining will require the help and support of others.  Don’t hesitate to seek the help of your employees, your peers and even you own boss when needed.

“Your ability to manage others will quickly improve as soon as you learn how to be a better listener.”

18.  Feeling You Need to Be the Expert

One misconception that many new managers share is the false assumption that they need to be the expert in order to be the boss.  Sure your experience and knowledge are there to serve your team, but the reality is quite the opposite – your staff are the experts and the ones with all the details.  Your job is to help them be at their best, to challenge their thinking, and to help make the critical decisions based on their input.

19.  Trying to Be a Best Friend

The idea of being a boss can actually be intimidating to many, and it’s natural to want to be ‘liked’ by our employees.  And certainly while it’s important to have strong and healthy relationships with your employees, they are your employees.  They work for you.  When necessary, you are expected to hold them accountable, to give constructive feedback and to evaluate their job performance.  Make sure you maintain solid, but professional relationships with the people who report to you.

RELATED: How to Manage Your Friend

20.  You Forget That Employees are People, Too

There is a central theme to all of the previous items on the above list: people.  Thus, we wanted to conclude our list with this important detail.  Your expectations of your staff need to be grounded in the fact that your employees are real people, with real lives, and real problems… Just like you are a real person, with a real life with real problems.  It’s important to communicate to your employees like people, and deal with issues with compassion and honesty.  Set fair and reasonable expectations of your staff, and serve as a mentor at work, and in life.




Looking for More on Becoming A Great Manager?  You Might Like…

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