My First Time Leader Mistakes Part 1

As it is the case for many promotions around the world, my first promotion to a managerial role was based solely on my technical ability, knowledge, and production volume. I had no prior management or leadership training.

Just like any newbie, I was bound to make mistakes. Here are the first 3.

I – Kept Doing It All (Forgot to Delegate)

After several years of being on my own, I got in the habit of feeling important by doing. The more the responsibilities, the harder I worked and the more time invested. My motto was “since I’m responsible, I have to do it”.

As time went on, and the workload tripled, the Law of Significance slapped me on the face. If I wanted to get it all done, I had to start relying on the team around me.

Going at it alone caused:

  • Lack of team development.
    • If I’m not sharing my tasks with others, how can they learn?
  • Lack of engagement from the team.
  • No personal management skill development.
    • Leadership must be practiced, knowing and doing are totally different.
  • No personal time or social life, and high stress.

Lesson learned: delegation frees my time for better things and develops others.

II – Assumed I Would Have More Influence

My first instinct when promoted was assuming I had a place at the table. I couldn’t be more wrong.

Misconceptions I had:

  • A Sr. in front of my title made me important.
  • Everyone would listen to my ideas.
  • My decisions were final.
  • My way was better than others.
  • I lead others follow.

What I learned:

  • Sr doesn’t mean anything when attached to the word “analyst”.
    • I was still young in my career and didn’t know much about the big picture of the company. I was a small fish in a giant pond.
  • For others to listen, I must first listen to them, understand their ideas, and show I care.
  • There’s always someone with more experience and a better understanding of the issues.
    • My small view of the business prevented me from seeing the impact my decisions made on others’ work areas.
  • Someone else always come up with a better way to do it.
  • Following was really more compliance and bare minimum production.
    • The title only works for a few months. After that time, people can call your bluff and figure out what you really know.

III – Forgot to Control Emotions

The new title gave me more spot light time. As such, my emotional reactions had a higher impact than before. Any negative emotions immediately decreased my influence and trust from others.

Lesson learned:
Leaders set the standards for behaviors. As such, as soon as my promotion was effective, I forgo the option to show negative behaviors, attitude, and communications.

What are some of the mistakes you made as a first time manager? Check in next week for part 2.


3 thoughts on “My First Time Leader Mistakes Part 1

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  1. Your comments show an incredible insight into your “infant” state as a new manager and that you have grown considerably since. One of my first lessons was to understand the necessary separation between being a manager and being a friend. Conversation changes at so many levels: confidentiality, the ability to share fears or complaints, the ability to be vulnerable and even the ability to bounce ideas. It all changes. Friendship endures, but the nuances of the friendship dramatically change.

    1. Chris, I totally understand the delicate line between manager and friend.

      My approach will always be relationship first. Friendship or not, a relationship of trust and care will always be the primary goal. Friends are those willing to let you feel hurt. They are the ones that force you to consider weaknesses and mistakes. They simply tell you the brutal truth.

      With this in mind, I always try to call them out when they are letting me down as a friend and a leader. Why? because I believe if I can tell them how they are failing with their job responsibilities, and I at some point, make them better people and, ultimately, better workers.

      I heard John Maxwell say “I don’t have to be friends with you, but I just have to work with you”. In my mind, this is really the last resort response. I can achieve a lot more by attempting to build a friendship with you. Because friends have trust and can talk about anything. If I can achieve that in a work environment, I will have engagement through the roof.

      If I can be your friend at work, I can help you succeed at work. There might be cases that as a friend, I may have to fire someone, but I will make sure to make that very clear way before reaching that point. In the end, we are all humans in need of love and care.

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