Common First-Time Manager Mistakes
Blindspots that have straight-forward solutions
Stepping into a manager role for the first time brings new learnings which are unique to each person. Still, there are some common examples of blindspots for first-time managers that should be anticipated and prepared for. In our podcast The Everyday Leader, we hear from managers about their career journey and management experience. Here are 3 learnings from several of these managers about common mistakes when they first stepped up into a management role:
Not letting go of and handing over previous roles and responsibilities: As an individual contributor, a large portion of your job is likely execution-focused. When you transition into a manager role, you become more of an accountability partner. You will be expected to provide guidance, help with resources, and contribute to the strategy and vision of the organization. Because of this, it is important to take a step back and think about your new role and how your responsibilities are shifting. It’s important to know when to pull back from a hands-on operational role. Délice Fatiro from Resonate in Rwanda initially found it difficult to reduce the amount of training she was doing on her own, but eventually realized that she would have a bigger impact on supporting the other trainers and found ways to develop trust in their abilities. She now approaches her work with a mindset of how she is going to help her team do it, rather than do it herself.
Not proactively seeking out feedback: For a number of reasons, it can be easy to forget to build in regular ways to collect feedback, whether that’s based on strategy or your performance as a manager. The 360-feedback model is a popular way of doing this. However, if you do not have such a structure in place, you can have one-on-one meetings with each individual to discuss this. Feel free to ask your former manager to provide context where necessary. You will find that a self-assessment and manager assessment will paint a clearer picture for you. You will also identify areas of development in which you may be able to support your team. It's important to show your team that you are cheering them on. Hillary Sang from Apollo Agriculture in Kenya tells us about his “baptism by fire” experience in managing one of his first field teams and how an open culture of rapid feedback helped him recognize and correct challenges he was having with his team around timelines and communication.
Not leveraging your team’s strengths: Naturally, when you're an individual contributor or part of a team, we tend to focus more on our skills and strengths. As a team leader, you need to take time to understand your team's strengths and weaknesses. This will inform what type of responsibilities you will allocate to individuals in the future. Once you have an understanding of your team member’s strengths, you can plan to delegate various responsibilities or get the team additional resources to ensure that you are meeting your goals. Set the cadence for your check-ins where you get to chat and stay up to date with where your team is at with day-to-day responsibilities as well as their professional development.
CoffeeChat is a Future of Work technology company on a mission to democratize access to coaching support for the estimated 15 million managers working across Africa. Founded in early 2019, CoffeeChat has worked with dozens of companies to facilitate access to both professional coaches and peer coaches. CoffeeChat was featured in the HolonIQ Africa EdTech 50 list in 2020 and was ranked as a top startup during the Village Capital Future of Work Africa program in 2021.