Sooner or later in your career (and most likely later, for obvious reasons), you're going to become the boss. Whether it's through a promotion, or a new hire, you will suddenly be in the top spot. Now, the buck really does stop with you. And while it's fantastic to have those new powers and responsibilities, it can also be very difficult to adapt to the new role. Here are 15 rookie mistakes you should avoid when you become the big cheese.
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1. Playing favorites with friends
You may be promoted into a leadership role, or hired from the outside, but one thing is certain; either you'll already have friends around you, or you'll make new friends quickly. In either case, be careful with these friendships. It's difficult, and sometimes almost impossible, to separate a great friendship from a working relationship.
If a good friend does something at work that is bad for the company, you have to come down just as hard on that person as any other employee. If they don't deserve a promotion, don't give them one. And remember, friendships will be scrutinized. So if the colleague you play golf with every weekend genuinely deserves that raise or promotion, you better make sure you have everything documented.
2. Trying too hard to be liked
New bosses are sometimes like puppies: They run around the office, happy all the time, desperately trying to get a smile out of everyone. It's not going to work. In fact, it will most likely become annoying after a while, and if you keep going, downright disruptive.
You do not have to be liked, or loved, by your staff. If you do the job well, and treat them as valuable employees, that will come naturally without buying breakfast every morning and telling jokes at the water cooler. Let your skills speak for themselves. You are not there to win a popularity contest.
3. Trying too hard to be feared or respected
On the other side of the coin is desperately trying to be feared or respected. Now, trying to be feared is just not a good idea. Sure, some people love the thought of being the most terrifying person at the board meeting, but does that make that person a good boss?
Respect, on the other hand, is something every good boss should get from the staff. However, it cannot be taken. It has to be earned. Your deeds, decisions, and performance will dictate the kind of respect you get. No one is going to just give you great respect out of the gate (unless they are looking for a quick promotion).
4. Changing everything -- even things that work
In sports, when a new manager joins the team, a lot of changes are made. Often, these are unnecessary changes, including axing players who are great simply because they are part of the old regime. The same can happen in a business environment.
As a new boss, you have to look at what is working, and what isn't. There will be systems in place that have taken years to perfect. If they aren't working, fix them. If they are, concentrate on something else. The same goes for people. Know who the bad apples are -- don't throw the good ones out as well.
5. Making impossible promises
Presidential candidates who get elected fall afoul of this one all the time. "Elect me, and I'll do X, Y, and Z." Then they get the job and find out there's a lot more involved than they ever considered. The same goes when you become the new boss.
Do not make promises that are impossible to keep. You may think you really can fix the unfixable, or from an outsider's perspective, the very easily fixable -- but sometimes there are forces at play that you cannot beat. Get the lay of the land first. Ask around. Find out what the employees want fixed, and then dig into the systems that can make it happen. Then, and only then, can you make promises you have a good chance of keeping. Doing it blindly in your first week will not bode well. You'll be the boss who couldn't get things done.
6. Taking on way too much
Take on too much, too soon, and you could jeopardize the position you just landed. It's better to take on a few tasks and do them well than to say yes to everything and do a mediocre job. What's worse, the employees will think you don't trust them to do the jobs they have been doing for years if you start interfering in their work. So, analyze the tasks available to you, and delegate the jobs you don't need to be involved with. You'll have a lot less stress, and the staff will trust you more.
7. Focusing on short term benefits
In this case, benefits are not health, vision, and dental. Rather, these are immediate benefits to the company and staff. Perhaps you see a few easy fixes, and get them done. However, you may well be throwing duct tape on a much bigger problem. In the short term, yes, people are happy. But if you have simply kicked the can down the road, you will have to pick that up at some point. And by then, the problems will have only grown larger.
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Look at the bigger picture. Yes, it may be easy to fix the poor cafeteria choices, or unsightly wallpaper in the break room, but you may be using money that could help a bigger problem; one that will have a much greater impact when it's solved.
8. Refusing to ask for help
You are the boss. You are in charge. But you're not infallible. You don't know everything. And let's be honest, if this is your first week on the job, how could you?
Many managers consider it a sign of weakness to ask for help, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Ask for help when you need it, providing it's something you shouldn't already know (you don't want to ask how to use a spreadsheet if you've just been taken on as head of accounting). If you don't know where a department is, ask for directions. If you don't know how a particular system or process works, call a meeting with the people who do. Then, bring your expertise to the table.
9. Firing and hiring the wrong people
It happens all too often, and it's a blight on corporate culture. A new manager is brought in, and immediately they begin firing people that rub them the wrong way, and hiring people they worked with at other firms. While it's fine to bring in people you know can do the job well, give people a chance to show you what they can do. It should take months to really figure out who is a good employee, and who is treading water. Some people may be excellent, but in the wrong department. Others may have been given inadequate training, or have been buried with enough work for three people. Scope things out before pulling out the pink slips.
10. Micromanaging every single operation
One of the biggest bottlenecks that a manager can create is to insert him or herself into every single transaction. A boss is not supposed to get into the weeds in that way. Rather, a boss sees things from a much greater height, and lets trusted employees get their hands dirty on smaller operations. If you insist on seeing every part of every process, and ask to be CC'd on every email, you will create tremendous animosity. And you'll slow everything to a crawl.
11. Being the center of attention
As far as you're concerned, you did it. You got the job. You got the big promotion. You are the star of your show, your family is proud, and your friends are buying drinks at the bar. Enjoy it, but leave that at the office door. You do not want to have meetings telling everyone all about you, your likes, dislikes, favorite TV shows, preferred color of socks, and all the industry awards you've won. Think of this as a date. You want to spend the first few weeks being insanely interested in your staff. They are your first priority. You want to be fascinated by their issues, and their hopes and dreams. This is not your show.
12. Fearing failure
Failure is essential in every business. You cannot learn how to do something right until you've done it wrong -- usually, several times. But managers who are new to the company or the role fear failure. They believe that mistakes are weaknesses, and that can quickly lead to dismissal. Don't fall into that trap.
You have to reach for the stars, and to do so, you must risk falling flat on your face in the dirt. However, you will succeed far more often than you fail, you'll gain the respect of your staff, and you will make great strides for the company.
13. Stalling on big decisions
Your staff knows the big problems that you're facing. They probably know them so well, they're just waiting for you to fix them. But don't lead them on. If you know that someone has to be fired because they are awful at their job, don't stall for months because it's hard to do. If you need to upgrade the equipment, but know it will cost a fortune, address it head on. Let people know you're working on it. By making excuses and stalling, you will lose the respect of your employees, and will become known as all talk, and no action.
14. Ignoring small issues that can make a big difference
You know what they say about a stitch in time. It is just as applicable in the workplace. When you find out about small problems or issues, deal with them. For instance, you may discover that there is animosity between two members of staff. If you ignore it, it grows into a much bigger problem. Perhaps one that can only be solved by letting one of them go. But, by addressing it early, and clearing the air, you can stop that small issue from becoming a big one. Whether it's a system or process, personnel, equipment, or anything else related to the day-to-day operations, don't ignore those small problems. Before you know it, they're enormous.
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15. Not getting up to speed on personal issues
A new boss is not expected to know everything about every employee in the first week. But, a quick one-on-one with the team to find out any personal situations that are relevant to the job is essential. For instance, one employee appears to be off his game. He's not attentive in meetings. He's withdrawn from the rest of the office. It seems as if he's just not a good performer. But as it turns out, this is a great employee who just suffered a tragic loss in the family. This is an immediate paradigm shift. Now, this behavior is not only understandable, it's something you can help with. Make it a priority to know your staff, and their problems and concerns, within the first few weeks.
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