How to Avoid Mistakes New (and Experienced) Managers Make

By: Morag Barrett, CEO and Founder, Skye Associates LLC and CWCC Member

You have just been promoted…. Congratulations! Effective leaders and managers are at the heart of every successful organization, however many companies operate a ‘sink or swim’ approach to leadership and management development and do not provide support during the critical transition.  Think about your last promotion or new role, how did you prepare yourself for your new responsibilities?  What support did your company provide?

Skye Associates is one of the leading leadership and management development firms in Denver; we know that almost every new leader and especially first-time managers will make mistakes along the way.  What are the most common mistakes, and more importantly how can you avoid them?

Mistake 1: Not spending enough time with your new boss. Few leaders take the time to get clarity on their new role beyond reading the job description (if you have one!).  Make sure to meet with your boss to ensure that you are both clear on:  their expectations of you and your role; their leadership style; their perspective on your team (who are the stars and who are the ones who may need additional support); their expectations on the opportunities for change (and what needs to stay the same!) and key results to be achieve.  In addition, this is an opportunity for you to share your expectations of your boss and what you need from them to ensure success.  This is a partnership after all. Make sure that this is not a single conversation and that you meet regularly to review progress and receive feedback.

Mistake 2: Not getting to know the team. It is likely that your promotion is due to great results in your previous role; if these were predominantly technical results then beware!  Research and experience has shown that, as you progress through your career, it is the quality of your working relationships that has a greater impact on your success. Take the time to get to know your new team AND peers to understand how you can ensure their success (and they yours).

Mistake 3: Not giving enough direction. Keep your team informed of project goals, priorities, critical deadlines and how success will be measured.  Discuss how these fit into the company’s overall objectives.  It’s a fine line between giving enough direction and micro-managing, so encourage questions and feedback.

Mistake 4: Feedback – only focusing on what is wrong. In a Ken Blanchard Companies survey of over 1,400 executives, failing to provide appropriate feedback was the most common mistake that leaders make.  Ensure that the feedback you provide is specific and describes the behaviors required for future success.  Look for opportunities to celebrate success and feedback focused on the future as well as ‘do differently’ feedback that is focused on the past.

Mistake 5: Changing too much and too soon.  In a desire to ‘put their stamp’ on things leaders may rush in and make changes to how things are done.  However, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, just because something isn’t being done the way you would do it, doesn’t make it wrong.   Take time to understand your new role; observe the team and ensure you have the support of key stakeholders before implementing big changes.

Mistake 6: Failing to delegate. Holding onto the tasks that got you promoted can be a particular challenge especially if you have been promoted internally, resulting in burnout, job dissatisfaction and frustration (of your team as well as yourself).   Delegating tasks will allow you the time to develop and focus on the NEW responsibilities and expectations of your role.

Mistake 7: Not taking the time to learn. When we move into a new role we naturally want to show those who hired us that they made the right decision.  This can result in a failure to ask for help or to admit ‘I don’t know’.  Allow yourself (and others) to make, and learn from, mistakes.  Set aside time to reflect on what is working and what is not; what situations went well and what didn’t go to plan.  More importantly, identify what the learning and what you will do (differently) the next time the situation arises.

What new manager mistakes would you add to this list?

With over 25 years of experience in business and leadership and executive development, Morag Barrett is the CEO and Founder of Skye Associates LLC, Denver. Skye Associates is a woman-owned, international leadership development consultancy that is focused on you, your business, and your success. Celebrating their 5th birthday, Skye Associates has provided high impact leadership and management development programs, high performing team and executive coaching to leaders and managers in over 22 countries and on 4 continents. For more information visit

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