I suppose there is an almost limitless number of mistakes that managers can do and do make, it’s the nature of any work by and about people. My list today is from the perspective of someone that often gets to watch teams work – the outside observer.
1. Thinking their team is their focus. Lots of things change when you move into management, and maybe the hardest one is to understand that your peers have changed (to other managers). Managers get paid to drive teams, grow them, protect them, but it’s common to see that carried way too far to the point that they become an org within an org, a team that lives and fights for the good of the team. Without losing sight of the people, managers get paid to deploy resources, and that means understanding and supporting the needs of all the other teams – even if it means using, misusing, or abusing their own team to drive toward the collective goal. Said differently, your team is now the other managers. That means building relationships and understanding their challenges and needs,all without being any less vested in the team you manage.
2. Having their own agenda. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen clear and concise guidance from above ignored by a manager because they thought it was wrong. Not ethically wrong mind you,just a bad decision. The right way to handle this is to hash it out, argue your case, try to get the decision/direction changed. If you cannot win that argument, you have two choices; make the best of it and give it your full support, or leave. There’s no middle ground. Don’t agree? Imagine that you are a manager and you give clear directions that are ignored – why would you keep that person?
3. Failing to stop bad behavior. Every team has at least one, the person who always comes through in the crunch, that knows all the history…and is often a horrible pain in the ass. These are often people that grew up with the company and/or the manager. Fixing that kind of thing is hard, and it doesn’t feel like a win – but it is, for two reasons. The first is that you’re showing the team that you’re willing to hold everyone accountable – fail to do that and it will breed resentment (and copy cats) over time, destroying their trust in you and their sense of being a team. The second is perhaps more interesting – sooner or later the world will change, either with you (the benevolent manager) moving on, or with them moving on. In either case the next manager will not be inclined to tolerate that behavior, and the fix hurts – it’s not uncommon for the offender to be ejected. The worst part is, they usually don’t realize how far they’ve strayed from the middle of the road, asking “why didn’t you tell me this was a problem?”.
Avoiding all of these doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a good or successful manager, but you cannot be good or successful over the long term if you make these mistakes and fail to fix them.