You’re bound to make mistakes as a new manager – but here are the biggest, most common pitfalls to avoid in your first 30 days as a new manager.
I’ve never quite known the proper word to describe the feeling of being simultaneously elated and terrified — but your first 30 days as a new manager is that feeling.
You don’t want to mess this up. You’ve been reading The Effective Executive and High Output Management, googling “management 101” and “first 30 days as a new manager”, and talking to mentors about the “should’s” and “should not’s” of leadership… all in hopes that you won’t make any egregious blunders during your first month on the job.
But quite frankly, it’s bound to happen. You’re going to make a mistake, or two, or twenty. When we’re new as leaders, we operate out of instinct. It’s an instinct formulated from what our former bosses have done, honed by our own value system of what we personally prefer, and our best guess for “So I think this will work?” But we don’t really know if it’ll work.
That’s where I can help 🙂
Based on the conversations of 1,000+ managers in our global online leadership community The Watercooler and data we’ve collected through Know Your Team from 15,000+ people over the past 6 years, I’ve assembled the most common mistakes that leaders make during their first 30 days as a new manager.
Here are the six most important things NOT to do during your first 30 days as a new manager:
#1: You talk to the team as a group, but not one-on-one.
It’s time. As the new manager, you’re given an opportunity to address the entire group during an all-team meeting. While you’re a little nervous, you enthusiastically share who you are, how excited you are to be in this new role, and how things will change for the better. This is good… Right? Well, not quite. Don’t forget that a critical part of communicating well as a leader is not just talking with everyone — but talking with each person, individually. Your individual relationship with each team member sets the tone for how the entire team will interact with one another — and so focusing on establishing a positive relationship with each of your team members is critical. During your first month, be sure to schedule one-on-one meetings with each person, so you can better understand: Where are they stuck? What are their concerns? What is their work style and preferences? Here are 8 best one-on-one meeting questions you can start with.
(Pssst… Did you know we have a One-on-Ones Tool in Know Your Team? You want to check it out if you’re interested in our one-on-one meeting templates, and access to hundreds of our one-on-one meeting questions.)
#2: You embark on a “Here’s what I think…” stump speech, instead of a “Let me listen and learn” tour.
As a new manager, it’s tempting to want to be seen as “The Person with a Plan.” We have a penchant for forward progress, and sharing vision and a plan of action seems like the most efficient way to get there. However, this inclination can counterproductive in your first 30 days as a new manager. Remember that as a new manager, you are new. You need to first understand where folks are at, what’s on their minds. You need to observe and absorb the full context of the situation before charging ahead. As a result, instead of espousing, “Here’s what I think” or “Here’s what we’re going to do” straight out of the gate, take the first month to do the opposite. Ask questions. Actively listen. One Watercooler manager in our leadership community, called it a going on a “Listen and learn tour.” The time for stump speeches comes later.
#3: You optimize for likability — but not for trust.
Who doesn’t want to be liked? Being liked feels good, after all. The problem though with optimizing for being liked as a leader is that it often prevents us from being honest as leaders. We hesitate to be frank, direct, and transparent with folks if all we want to do is preserve someone’s image that they have of us. Rather than focusing on “How do I get my team to like me?” ask yourself, “What can I do to earn their trust?” Trust and likability are distinctly different. Likability is about feeding your ego, about you feeling good because people like you. Trust is about giving people a reason to put their faith in you. It means making your intention clear, and following through on requests that people make of you, early on. Focus on building trust during your first 30 days as a new manager, rather than currying favor, and you’ll create a foundation for your team to more strongly believe in you, the work, and the vision that you’re building toward. Here are the top 3 ways to build trust in a team.
#4: You forget to interview fellow leaders in similar positions.
Other people have been in your shoes before. Don’t forget this. Take advantage of the fact there are other managers in your organization that have been new managers, at some point. Ask to grab a 15-minute coffee meeting with them, and hear about their experiences first hand. What about the organizational culture should you know about that’s harder to pick up at first brush? What are regular meetings or best practices for things they do with their own teams? What were the biggest challenges in their own roles that they didn’t anticipate? While having these conversations, keep in mind that you also have an incredible opportunity to show how much you appreciate the wisdom of folks who are also working alongside you in the same organization, toward the same goal. Be gracious and grateful — their advice for you can make your first 30 days as a new manager exceedingly better than what it would have been otherwise.
#5: You express your desire to be the best manager for your team — not to be the best manager for each team member.
I was recently on the phone with a CEO who I’m coaching one-on-one. He very recently had become the CEO in his organization, and as we discussed his first 30 days on the job, there was one piece of advice I shared that particularly resonated with him. He told me, “Claire, you know, I was planning on letting the team know that, yes, ‘I want to be the best CEO possible’… But what you recommended was even better: You suggested I emphasize that ‘I want to be the best CEO possible for you.’ That distinction is important.” And he’s right — that distinction is massively important because of the degree that each individual on your team varies. Each person you work with has different work preferences, communication styles, past work experiences, personality dispositions — and so be the same “best manager” for all of them doesn’t really work. Instead, during your first 30 days as a new manager, zoom in on being the best leader for each individual, if you truly want to support each team member in the best way possible. Effective leadership is not one-size-fits-all.
#6: You avoid saying “I don’t know.”
The last thing you want anyone on your team to think is that you’re the wrong person the job. And so, as new managers, we avoid muttering “I don’t know” as though it’d be the kiss of death on our career. However, our reluctance to admit that we don’t know something can backfire. Why? Because face it: As a new manager, you don’t know everything. It’s impossible. And everyone knows this. So instead of puffing up your chest with non-answers or scrambling to make rash decisions, own up what you don’t know — and then, of course, figure out what you need to know so you do know 🙂 As a new manager, saying you know more things than you do only hurts your decision-making — and your credibility. Get comfortable admitting that you don’t know everything. That you’re learning. Your honesty will make not only for better team outcomes but also show your team you’re worthy of their trust. They’ll know you’re being real with them.
Accept that you won’t be perfect in your first 30 days as a new manager. No one is. So instead of wringing your hands while reading this list, thinking “Oh man, how am I going to remember to not do all these things,” come to terms that you are going to be learning throughout this entire process. You likely are going to make mistakes that aren’t even on this list.
But, you can begin by perhaps focusing on one of these leadership tips for new managers here. One by one, you can start to apply them, and put them into practice.
One by one. Step by step. That is how we all get better as leaders.
✨ If you’re looking to avoid making beginner mistakes as a leader, you may want to take a peek at Know Your Team. Our software gives you the tools to run one-on-one meetings, get feedback, and build rapport with your team – along with a knowledge center based on data from 15,000+ people and a community of 1,000+ managers to learn from. Give Know Your Team a shot today.
Claire is the CEO of Know Your Team – software that helps you avoid becoming a bad boss. Her company was spun-out of Basecamp back in 2014. If you were interested, you can read more of Claire’s writing on leadership on the Know Your Team blog.