The Biggest Mistakes New Managers Make and How to Avoid Them

By PeopleLeaders | People Leaders Podcast

man stressed in work

Transitioning into a managerial role can be both exciting and challenging. Based on our extensive experience working with new managers over the past 20 years, we've identified several common pitfalls that new managers should be aware of. Understanding these mistakes and learning how to avoid them can help you become a more effective leader.

1. Not Investing in Behaviour Management Skills

One of the most significant mistakes new managers make is not investing in behaviour management skills. Once labelled as "soft skills," these are crucial for understanding yourself and enhancing self-awareness. By improving communication and how you interact with others, you'll be more effective in your managerial role. Remember, you're not just managing your own work anymore; you have a broader scope that requires a higher level of communication and self-awareness.

2. Taking on Too Much Work

New managers often believe they need to do most of the work themselves. Accustomed to being high achievers, they find it easier to take up the slack rather than delegate. This approach, however, leads to burnout and frustration. Understanding that your role now includes managing others' work, and not just doing it yourself, is vital for long-term success and sustainability.

3. Not Being Open to Feedback

One major mistake is not being open to feedback. Seeking and accepting feedback, especially from those who report to you, can be challenging but is indispensable. Knowing your tendencies and recognising defensiveness when receiving feedback are essential steps toward personal growth. A vital strategy is to be proactive in seeking feedback and to remain open and vulnerable in these interactions.

4. Ignoring Red Flags

New managers might overlook minor issues such as grammar mistakes in reports or slight tardiness, thinking they are insignificant. However, these are red flags that, if not addressed, can lead to more significant performance issues. It is crucial to address these early on, thereby setting clear expectations and maintaining standards.

5. Lack of Understanding of the Business

Focusing on your immediate responsibilities while neglecting the broader organisational context is another common error. Understanding how different parts of the organisation interconnect and influence each other is essential for strategic thinking. Building a holistic understanding of the business can start with simple actions like having informal discussions with colleagues from other departments.

6. Failing to Clarify Expectations

Regularly clarifying expectations, both with your manager and your team, is essential. Expectations can change, and it’s important to ensure that you and your team are aligned with the latest requirements and standards. A good practice is to frequently discuss and confirm what success looks like for you and your team.

7. Inability to Cope with Change

Change is a constant in both business and life. New managers need to develop resilience and adaptability to cope with change effectively. How you respond to change sets the tone for your team. Managing change positively and strategically can significantly affect your team's performance and morale.

8. Not Focusing on Team Dynamics

Lastly, new managers often underestimate the importance of teamwork. Moving from an individual contributor to a managerial role means you need to work well within the leadership team and your own team. Understanding what motivates others, and adapting your communication style, are key to fostering a cooperative and productive team environment.


By consciously working on these areas, you can create your own leadership development plan. Even small improvements in each area can have a significant impact. The world needs better leaders, and by avoiding these common mistakes, you can become the kind of leader that teams will thrive under. Take control of your leadership development and strive to make a positive difference in your workplace.

If you have any other challenges as a new leader, we'd love to hear about them. Who knows, you might even inspire another podcast episode.

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