Becoming a new manager can be both exciting and overwhelming. You now need to flex an entirely new skill set, and your performance becomes less dependent on your work and more on what others achieve. Yet with new responsibilities also comes the opportunity for you to make a bigger impact on your organization and strategically develop your team.

The statistics are often against new managers. In a recent survey, only 39 percent said they received training. Due to that lack of coaching, it’s inevitable you’ll make a mistake (or many) as you transition into your new role. There are common missteps you can avoid, however, if you’re properly prepared.

Mistakes to Avoid as a First-Time Manager

1. Not Delegating Tasks


When you shift into a managerial role, your job responsibilities shift, as well. You’re no longer an individual contributor checking tasks off a to-do list; you’re now responsible for your team’s success and ensuring they complete their work.

Sometimes it seems easier to say, “I’ll just do it”—particularly when faced with a task that you have historically owned or software that only you know how to use. Although it might take more time upfront to train someone else, the longer you wait, the faster the work starts piling up. Your job now is to supervise, coach, and support your team, which you can’t effectively do if you’re too busy tackling tasks.

2. Diving Too Deep into the Details


Once you delegate tasks, you need to step away from them. Studies show that employees are happier when they have autonomy over their work. It’s likely you’ll be happier, too. As a manager, it’s near impossible to keep up with the specifics of every single project. While it’s important to track employees’ progress and make sure projects are on track, the deeper you dive into the details, the more likely you are to start micro-managing.

What you should focus on instead is that your team is working on meaningful projects that align with organizational milestones. How does each individual task contribute to the team’s longer-term goals? That’s the bigger picture you should be concerned about, not the nitty-gritty details.

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3. Forgetting to Ask "Why?"


New managers sometimes fall into the trap of simply mimicking their predecessors. It’s important to remember, though: Work doesn’t always need to be done the way it was done before. While it’s easy to default to, that’s not how change happens.

When a new project or task surfaces, don’t shy away from asking, “Why are we doing this?” If the answer is simply, “Because we always have,” it’s likely time to reevaluate your team’s approach. Is the work still necessary? Are there more effective ways to achieve the intended goal? You won’t know until you ask, “Why?”

4. Trying to Make Too Much Change Too Soon


While it’s important to question your team, you can’t disrupt every process overnight. Take the time to understand your employees’ goals and the overall organizational culture before drastically changing how work gets done.

Through your conversations, you’ll likely find some incremental improvements you can make, whether it’s streamlining an over-complicated approval process or removing an unnecessary meeting from everyone’s calendar. Just make sure you’re doing more listening than talking; are you truly understanding where your employees need help?

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5. Avoiding Difficult Conversations or Decisions


Employees in the United States spend nearly three hours per week dealing with workplace conflict. As a manager, it’s likely you won’t be the exception.

Difficult conversations are bound to arise, and you need to know how to manage them—not avoid them. The longer you wait to address an issue, the worse it becomes, and that could impact your team’s morale. For example, if someone is under-performing, it’s going to negatively affect those who need to pick up the slack. You can’t let problems fester.

You also can’t waver on tough decisions, or simply say “yes” to avoid confrontation. The decisions you make impact your team’s workload, so you need to be strategic about what you’re promising others. Trying to please everyone will only work against you.

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6. Not Prioritizing Trust


Research shows that when employees feel trusted by their manager, they’re happier and exert extra effort at work. That’s why it’s important to prioritize trust.

Schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports. During those check-ins, ask about their professional goals. Are there particular skills they want to gain, and is there a project you can assign or workshop they can attend to help them gain that experience?

You can also use those check-ins to practice transparency. The more open you are with your team about the organization’s goals and challenges, the quicker you can both build trust and help your employees understand their role and how they individually contribute to the company’s overall success.

7. Not Seeking Out Mentors


The issues you’ll face likely aren’t new. There are dozens of other managers who have had to tell an employee he or she is under-performing or that they can’t promise a raise or promotion. What’s important is, when those difficult conversations arise, that you have someone you can turn to for advice. By learning from a mentor’s mistakes, you can hopefully avoid a few of your own.

What you ultimately need to remember is: You’re going to make mistakes. And when you do, don’t get discouraged. You’re not expected to know everything. This is a learning process. Ask for help when necessary and, if you do slip up, own the mistake and move forward. You now have others relying on you to take the lead.

Do you want to further improve your managerial skills? Explore our eight-week online course Becoming a Better Manager and discover how you can more effectively move your organization forward.

Lauren Landry

About the Author

Lauren Landry is the associate director of marketing and communications for HBX. Prior to joining HBX, she worked at Northeastern University and BostInno, where she wrote nearly 3,500 articles covering early-stage tech and education—including the very launch of HBX. When she's not at HBX, you might find her teaching a course on digital media at Emerson College, chugging coffee, or telling anyone who's willing to listen terribly corny jokes.