First time manager? 3 pitfalls to avoid

As the economy painstakingly grows and jobs are returned, I suspect we’ll see those companies who formerly hired and developed recent grads return to their old ways.  Over the past 5 – 10 years, college recruiting and new hire training has been significantly underfunded, curtailed, and in many cases ignored.  So while we have a generation of workers that some quote as large as 70 million–over 3 times as large as Generation X–ready to get to work, it’s been a long while since Corporate America was focused integrating a new group of young people.

Because of that, many employees will become managers earlier than they would have in the 80s or 90s because there’s a shortage of people with 5 – 10 years of meaningful experience right now.  So to help as they transition into their role, I thought I’d hit on a few common pitfalls that I see with new managers.

1. Friending subordinates.
I tell all my new employees that I will not friend them on Facebook while they work for me.  It’s a hard and fast rule–no exceptions.  Frankly, they don’t need me to know what they’re up to.  Though if I asked everyone, I’m sure 90% of them would say there’s no reason I couldn’t see their photos and updates.  But I’ve seen enough seemingly innocent mistakes to know that the less I see, the better.  And it’s not just for their own good; it’s for mine.  They don’t want to get in trouble, and I don’t want to deal with it either.  I’m on LinkedIn every day, and that works just fine for my purposes.

In general, the Facebook freeze-out can and should be applied to friendship in general.  Especially when a new manager was promoted from within the ranks of his peers.  While friendly working relationships and occasional socializing builds a strong team, it can be difficult to ensure equal treatment and attention for all employees.  The appearance of favoritism (or actual favoritism) quickly destroys the culture of any team, and makes the manager’s job more difficult, not less, when it comes time for performance reviews, promotions, or improvement plans.

2.  Making your team work for you.
Once promoted to manager, many people think, “Great — Now I have a team of people to do my bidding!”

The opposite is true.  “Now I have a team of people I have to work for.”  When moving from individual contributor to manager, the job responsibilities change dramatically.  A manager’s job is to enable his team to succeed.  A phrase I’ve heard before that really resonates with me is servant leadership.  True leaders serve their employees in any way they can to enable their success.  First time managers often remain focused on individual results, to the detriment of their team success.

3.  Not delegating.
Almost every manager has trouble delegating.  (I guess there’s not a lot of trust out there.)  It’s even more true with new managers.  Many think they need to shoulder all the burden, work the hardest and longest, and deal with all the pain.  Not so.  Younger employees often look at their over-worked leaders with envy because they want to contribute but aren’t sure how.

So much of Gen Y’s value ends up as wasted energy due to lack of direction or poor communication, though even menial tasks are learning opportunities to a younger employee.  It’s a shame to waste all that drive by not delegating.

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One response to “First time manager? 3 pitfalls to avoid

  1. Not following up, or getting updates.
    No matter how good of a team you work with, priorities are constantly shifting and new demands are being made of your team. You can bet that if the tasks needed to keep a project moving forward are not regularly brought to the teams attention, they are probably forgotten.

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