Manager Mistakes

Have you ever managed anyone? Then you could probably write this post too. Have you ever been managed by someone? Then you could write this post as well.

I’ve managed people in a few different companies and roles now. Like any position, management is learned skills that you have to both figure out and be trained on. Unfortunately, making mistakes in management skills directly affects people as opposed to simply business metrics.

Here are some management mistakes I’ve made and am seeking to learn from.

Thinking that what got me here will get me there

Often people become managers because they have done very well as an individual contributor and the next logical step forward in their career is managing.

I put a lot of thought into it I wanted to be a manager, and decided yes. I’d make that decision again. I enjoy managing people and removing roadblocks from their path so that they can be more successful with me than without me.

However, the skills and drive that take people from being a very strong individual contributor to a manager can very quickly become a liability as a manager. Be very very careful with how much of your ambition you share with your team. They care about you making them successful, not about you being successful.

Sharing too much down the chain

As a manager, it’s your job to make your people more successful. For ICs, success is making the numbers move, and this means getting projects completed. To get projects completed, they have to work cross-team functionally.

Your job as a manager is to navigate when they need to know the challenges they will face with working cross-team. This should remain only focused on the specifics of getting work done and how to navigate the organization and different teams. These conversations should never turn personal.

Conversations about roadblocks and your personal issues with someone should never go down the chain, only up. I learned this lesson the very hard way and am still trying to recover from it.

Let me reiterate that this is about personal issues, not the state of the business. If key metrics are down or you are in danger of losing a key customer that your team is responsible for retaining, you absolutely need to tell the team. But please, keep personal issues to yourself and your manager.

Directing not leading

I have control issues. I’m a confident person (I’ve been called cocky, which I generally have taken as a compliment but am rethinking that position). I’m also a generalist and generally smart enough to understand how something works and what questions to ask to get it done.

This can be liability as a manager depending on your team. You also shouldn’t blindly trust people, but as they earn your trust then you should let them run with their products and trust the feedback system set up (weekly 1:1s in our case) to be kept in the loop.

If you feel the need micromanage, ask why. Has the person not yet proven that they can be successful? Have that conversation with them and tell them what you need to see to back off.

Avoiding Manager Mistakes

You’ll never avoid manager mistakes. We all make them regardless of our experience. The important thing is that you learn from the mistakes you make, own them, apologize, and move forward.

If you are a manager of managers, then you are responsible to set them up for success. Not just success in the sense of moving the metrics, but also how to deal with questions around compensation, work expectations, HR issues, feedback, etc. These are some of the manager skills that are not learned as an individual contributor.

What manager mistakes have you made and what did you learn? How did you recover?

2 thoughts on “Manager Mistakes

  1. Biggest mistake I’ve made is trusting completely until someone shows they can’t be trusted. A bit of the inverse of your micromanagement scenario. The problem with my method is by the time the employee shows me that I’ve given them too much leeway, the damage is done and it’s a LONG road to redemption.

    1. Yeah that’s a tough one. The line between trusting and quality control is really hard, and I think moves depending on the role and the person. Some people are very talented but need some training. Actually, everyone needs training. The challenge is knowing who to trust with what and when. Though that applies in all of life!

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