First-time managers have a difficult job, and there are many common mistakes leaders make as they’re getting their feet set. Identifying those errors and working to correct them can be the most significant difference between a thriving work environment and a struggling one.
These are the ten most frequent leadership missteps many unprepared managers take and how you can avoid them in your workplace.
Table of Contents
01. Maintaining a ‘Strictly Business’ Mindset at All Times
It’s easy for new leaders to forget that the people working towards shared company ambitions are more important than those common goals.
Leaders and diligent employees both want to work hard to get their business thriving, but it is essential to put those goals aside from time to time and learn more about your staff on a personal level. If your direct reports don’t feel like their employer cares about them and their needs, they are at a high risk of burning out or feeling neglected.
‘Strictly business’ mentalities might have short-term benefits with you and your team feeling hyper-focused on your ambitions without taking time to learn more about each other. However, the frustration and disengagement it does more harm than good and affects your employees’ well-being.
It is essential to take time with your employees to avoid burnout issues. Successful managers promote emotional support and personal relationships by encouraging team members to voice concerns. Additionally, highly emotionally intelligent team leaders make time in the workday to communicate with their employees and lead the charge to learn more about them.
02. Avoiding Constructive Criticism and Feedback
Leaders need to remain sensitive to their employees’ needs and concerns. However, too much sensitivity can be detrimental to the development of your company and individual team members.
Leaders who only give performance reviews periodically, or don’t give them at all, are actively sabotaging their employee’s ability to get better at their job. For example, suppose a team member repeatedly finishes a task incorrectly but never hears about it. In that case, they may internalize that improper execution and continue their work the wrong way. By offering fair criticism, employees can learn to correct their performance and strengthen their contributions to the company.
New managers who are only beginning to work on their leadership skills often avoid giving team members constructive criticism and honest feedback. That avoidance typically comes from not wanting to upset employees. Still, it is essential to offer performance notes regularly even though team members might take them harshly.
One way to make constructive criticism more manageable is to offer it often enough that it becomes a standard part of the workday. In addition, mixing the negative feedback with positive notes can rebuild any lost confidence.
03. Doing Too Much On Their Own
It’s natural for leaders trusted with the responsibility of managing a team to shoulder too much work on their own. Anyone who has earned a leadership role had to work hard to get there, and some new leaders feel they owe it to their team to increase that workload.
However, attempting to take every bit of work available drains your energy faster than you can keep up. With the new role of team leader comes new tasks that you’ve never had to handle before. Trying to take those responsibilities head-on while managing and correcting your team member’s work all at once puts leaders on the fast track to burnout.
Not only can working too hard as a leader drain your energy levels, but it can also sink your team’s performance and motivation. If your employees feel they can get by with subpar performance because you will correct their work or do it for them, they might stop contributing to the standard you expect. Additionally, not allowing your team to take on work deprives them of opportunities to grow as employees.
Some of the best ways to strengthen your team and preserve your mental well-being include:
- Recognizing when you’re overworked
- Identifying which jobs are manageable for your employees
- Delegating tasks as needed
04. Managing with a ‘Hands Off’ Mentality
Micromanaging employees is one of the most common mistakes leaders make. Most employees appreciate having space in the workplace and the confidence from their managers that they can complete a task without constant guidance. However, many new leaders overcorrect in order to avoid micromanagement and offer no advice to their team at all.
Assigning a task to a team member without enough structure can lead to poor performance and frustration. For example, the employee might complete a project step incorrectly or even miss a part entirely without proper expectations and guidance. And if you give them negative feedback for an error caused by your oversight, it might reflect poorly on your management style.
It is essential to strike a balance between overbearing and disengaged. Two ways to reach the perfect management tone before assigning a project are:
- Consider what information you would need to know to complete the project correctly
- Reassure your employee that it is okay to ask questions
05. Misevaluating the Team’s Motivators
Team leaders who notice their employees’ workflow stagnating might be misevaluating the qualities that motivate them. If you are pushing your team members in the wrong way, they might not feel the urge to improve and advance at their job.
One of the most common mistakes leaders make is assuming their team members are only motivated by monetary incentives. While pay raises and bonuses are often ways to boost employee morale, they are often only temporary ways to increase motivation around the office. More often than finances, workers are motivated and refreshed by the idea of a challenge and the chance to tackle more responsibility.
Employees are on their chosen career paths in most business settings. When people work in the field they want to be in, the idea of getting to lead a project or being selected for a new higher-ranking position is a stronger incentive to work hard than an increased paycheck.
Giving employees the proper form of motivation can help them reach their full potential.
06. Not Resolving Conflicts Effectively
Nobody should have to feel like they’re walking into a hostile environment when they go to work. But, unfortunately, new managers who do not emphasize resolving conflicts before they get out of hand often facilitate toxic work conditions without realizing it.
One of the telltale signs of an unprepared manager is someone who actively avoids conflict and tense situations. That conflict could be related to the manager directly but could also be between two team members or one employee dissatisfied with their workplace responsibilities.
The most crucial step a leader can take to manage workplace conflicts effectively is checking in with their employees regularly and being unafraid to talk about challenging issues. If any negative feelings or underlying conflicts are left unresolved, those emotions can decrease motivation and employees’ work performance. Discussing disputes with all involved parties as they arise can keep the negativity from becoming a team-wide problem.
But it’s often not enough to simply talk about the problems. For example, if your employee confides in you about issues with other team members or the overall work environment, listening without offering a solution or working to change anything only promotes more negativity. It is up to you to listen to your team members’ concerns and accommodate them to the best of your ability.
07. Leading without Goals or Vision
Employees look to their leaders to do more than maintain the status quo. The best managers and team members work hard and suggest the right changes to make their jobs more fun and their company more productive. Still, one of the most common mistakes leaders make is entering management positions without any concrete goals or visions for the future.
As we looked at earlier, team members working in their chosen career field are often motivated by new challenges more than anything else. Therefore, when your management style asks employees to repeat the same tasks without giving them a sense of what they are working towards, they quickly lose their motivation.
Lead your team with clearly defined goals and a vision for what you want the future of the business to look like. This motivates your team and keeps them engaged and working hard to reach your shared ambitions.
08. Not Being Available
Your role as a leader is essential. Your employees trust you with tasks and management responsibilities that you are solely responsible for completing. Unfortunately, with all of that pressure, it’s natural for many managers to shut themselves away to finish their own projects while forgetting about the people they’re leading.
The most crucial task a team leader has is supporting and tending to the needs of their employees. While your projects are vital for making the company operate smoothly, work cannot get done without effort and engagement from every employee. If your team members are confused about what needs to get done and how to do it and don’t feel like you have time to answer their questions, the entire company will suffer.
Similarly, if your team members feel like you do not have the time to resolve their conflicts, employees might start to build resentment for your leadership and consider quitting. As a leader, it is up to you to make sure your team knows you are always available, even when you’re at your busiest.
09. Not Asserting Yourself as a Leader
One of the most challenging things for a new leader to accomplish is creating a work environment that feels friendly, accessible, and promotes clear communication. When your team members feel safe to confide their workplace concerns to you and ask for honest feedback, you are one step closer to building a successful business.
However, many managers overcorrect to reach that level of trust and fail to establish themselves as a boss. Most leaders want to feel friendly with their team members, but presenting yourself as their friend and not a manager can lead to significant conflict. For example, some employees might start to slack off at work if they do not see you as an authority figure.
Your employees’ lack of purpose and motivation can lead to poor performance on projects. Additionally, being too friendly with your employees can lead to even more complications if you let them go for substandard work. If your team members don’t respect your position enough to believe that you have the authority to let them go, the firing process can become personal and messy.
Of course, you should not be cold to your team members. Neglecting your employees builds distrust, tension, and even resentment in the workplace. You need to establish your expectations for their performance to create a functioning work environment.
10. Rushing to Fill Vacancies
Having to let someone go or a team member quit is a challenge for new and old managers to handle. However, the best team leaders know that the best way to handle an unexpected position opening is with slow care and sensitivity.
Rushing to fill an open position is among the most common mistakes leaders make when they’ve never been through the hiring process. It can be tempting to fill the job opening as quickly as possible and get back to managing a complete team as before. The problem with this approach is the risk of hiring the wrong job candidate and sinking overall workflow and company morale.
Managers need to realize that every task their employees handle is essential, and not just anyone can complete them. Unfortunately, when you rush through the hiring process, you are more likely to overlook significant red flags and select an employee unequipped to thrive in their new position. Not only will this bring your team’s overall production to a grinding halt, but it can lead to frustration from other team members as well.
Employees become frustrated if an unqualified, improperly trained new employee hinders the team’s ability to complete their work. So if you feel the need to rush a re-hiring process, remember that bringing the wrong candidate to your team can cause more long-term harm than short-term gain.
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