Laura Johnson on the common mistakes new managers make
Experts say the first 90 days in a new job is the make or break period. I think they’re being generous – especially when it comes to new managers. First impressions are made far quicker than this and are notoriously difficult to change. So beware, any early mistakes you make as the new manager on the block could become part of your lasting workplace legacy and form the foundations of your fortune (or fate) in a new job. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid at all costs.
Being over-zealous with your ideas
You left the interview room buzzing after the panel seemed to lap up your proposal to shake up the department. Once you’re offered the job your brain goes even further into overdrive and by the time you’re entering reception on day one, you’re armed with a detailed strategy and prescriptive implementation plans. You’re ready to build your new empire.
Is your new team ready for an extreme makeover though?
Probably not. In reality, even teams that welcome change don't want it thrust on them overnight. In fact they don’t want it thrust on them at all; they want to feel involved in it. So speak to people first. Assess the personalities and strengths of your team before you share too many of your opinions. Gather their views on the merits and shortcomings of existing processes and structures. Make suggestions but at the same time invite their ideas and expertise too. By doing this you’ll dodge being labelled an egomaniac know-it-all and gain their respect.
Being over generous with your personal information
As a new joiner, speculation about your capability, personal life, wealth and general likeability is automatically entered into the office gossip circuit. Any morsel of information you impart at this stage will be scrutinised and micro-analysed to allow the office masses to evaluate your acceptability. Name-drop the public school you attended and expect to be pigeon-holed as posh. Scatter your desk with photographs of you on exotic holidays or outside your impressive abode and risk being labelled a show-off. Boast about the top of the range Jaguar you’ve splurged your company car allowance on and expect team members to be asking for payrises before the end of your first week. Instead keep to the safe topics of the weather, last night’s television and other small talk until you feel more established in your role.
Being their buddy not a boss
It’s important to set boundaries in the first few weeks. Take everyone out for drinks on more that two consecutive occasions in your first few weeks and you’ll be expected to whip out your credit card every time you set foot in a bar. Make yourself available 24/7 to the office moaner and you’ll become their agony aunt for life (or a villain when you get tough with them). Allow yourself to get dragged into office gossip in an effort to fit in and expect to find yourself facing some tricky ethical dilemmas. Obviously you want to build strong, positive relationships with your new colleagues and feel like one of the team, but be careful to draw a professional line you’re happy with from day one.
Feigning too much confidence
You're the new boss so you want to be regarded as a knowledgeable professional your team will admire and look up to. But unfortunately you have to accept when you first join a company others will know more than you. For starters, they’ll know if a change you’re about to throw yourself headlong into implementing has been unsuccessfully attempted before. They’ll know how to book a meeting room and who likes sugar in their tea. They’ll know who is the best person to contact to raise a purchase order number and can translate the company jargon and acronyms that have got you scratching your head. Admitting you’re lacking in knowledge might feel uncomfortable but faking confidence is far riskier. However, asking for help could earn you brownie points. Seeking the advice of others actually indicates you respect them (which earns you respect in return).
And finally, indulging your ‘tell reflex’
The urge to impart your opinions without essential editing can be strong in leaders. As can a penchant for barking out orders. But you’d be wise to take control of your ‘tell reflex’ in your early days in a new organisation. Instead focus on learning and building your understanding of your new company and team. So ask questions, listen in on office small talk and resist the temptation to start ‘telling’ until you’ve found your feet.
And remember, Rome although wasn’t built in a day, your reputation on the other hand could be damaged beyond repair in this time. So tread carefully when in unknown territory.