When I Was Called Average
May 18, 2017

Ten Symptoms of New Managers

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Organizations exert tremendous psychological pressure on newly hired or promoted managers which causes them a sense of insecurity. The new managers who lack proper leadership skills and/or support from their managers react to this pressure in various but predictable ways. The following 10 symptoms can help you spot a manager who needs help.
1. Even if it ain’t broke, I will fix it anyway
Many newly appointed or first time managers tend to create unnecessary tension for themselves (and their teams) by trying to create value too early in their new role. Many seek “quick wins” even if that means fighting the wrong battles. I have seen adverse results from managers who stuck their nose where it did not belong. It is no longer a surprise for me when I hear a new manager preaching about changing that weekly meeting from Monday’s to Thursday’s and then trying to explain the strategic value of this crucial intervention!
2. You like my shirt? Wait to see me roll up my sleeves
While managers are mainly hired to orchestrate the efforts done by their team members, many of them fall into the trap of doing rather than managing. On many occasions, managers are mistakenly appointed solely for their technical capabilities or their record of success as individual contributors. This fact is well known for many newly appointed managers, hence comes their dependency on the same success factors in a completely new and very different role.
3. A top talent in the team? Let us set some expectations out there!
The nightmare of some insecure managers is having an internal threat. Ineffective new managers create virtual opponents and start fighting imaginary windmills. They fear to be overthrown by one of their own subordinates – after all they are insecure about their new position and they probably think they did not deserve it. The team member who should be a great asset in the manager’s success is now perceived as a disruption jeopardizing what could be mutual success.
4. Forgetting that black belts were actually white belts who did not quit!
Rookie managers are impatient and not committed to develop their existing team members. They fail to recognize the strengths in favour of focusing on the weaknesses of the individuals. With the common short-termism of new managers, they frequently assume that talent sourcing from outside is faster than internal development. Inexperienced managers make the mistake of trying to change the composition of their team too early, and usually before even understanding the capabilities and need for development of the existing cadre. More dangerously, managers follow the concept of “Let me call my cousins to get this job done” – cousins here refer to people they worked with in the past!
5. Having 2 ears & 1 mouth was intentional
Time after time, managers underestimate the value of listening – deep, thoughtful and real listening. Newly hired managers think their war stories will inspire the new team at the expense of having productive conversation with those who will write their destiny in the new job. If managers could just stop talking and listen more, their people will simply tell them. The staff can tell them what they want, what are the problems, what could be the solutions, and how important political games are played based on their experience in the organization.
6. Information is power… There is a power cut in the house.
With fewer resources at hand to assume power, the power of having access to information is vital. Some inexperienced managers take advantage of their exposure to more information than their team to assume a power position. The ability to block access to information is generally overestimated by managers. Sooner or later people will know it, it will be much better if people know it from their managers rather than from the “jungle telegraph”.
7. Assertiveness: The Slippery Slope
Many new managers find it challenging to maintain a balance between being a “push over” and being too strong with their direct reports. As they are still in the process of building the trust with their team, they question every interaction and encounter. Before saying a no, they wonder if they will be perceived as lacking the “will-do” attitude which results in them taking on unnecessary tasks for themselves and for their team. Some managers are also afraid of saying yes too many times not to be perceived as a push over. This confusion can create added stress for those managers limiting their chances of success. On the other hand, well established managers demonstrate an assertive behaviour where they say No when needed and Yes when necessary but they always ensure they are polite, honest and direct manner in the process.
8. We are a Relay Team, but I will be the one crossing the finish line!
The insecurity of the new appointment drives managers to try conquering the podiums – any podium as long as they will be in the spot light. This does not only make the manager act selfishly but self-destructively as well. It demotivates the team and makes everyone work for their own agenda which kills the last hope of synergy. The drive to be recognized early on, makes managers as far as they can get from leadership. To better visualize this reflect on this quote from Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
9. Can’t convince you? No problem, I will play the “Management said so” card
Ken Blanchard once said “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Some new managers have neither. A minority of those managers play a very dangerous game of “The management wants that”. Needless to say that direct reports who have been in the company longer than their managers, probably have informal accessibility to “The Management”. Very quickly managers who use this style will lose their integrity.
10. The Smartest Person In The Room.
The assumption that managers are smarter than their employees is a recipe for failure. If subordinates recognize this attitude in their new manager, his or her chances of success diminish dramatically. The team will apply a passive pressure on their manager by waiting for him to come up with the solution – even when they already have it. On another note, if managers truly and accurately find themselves the smartest in a team they should probably be concerned with which team they are asked to lead.
As in medical science, these symptoms merely inform a diagnosis and professional support could greatly improve the situation. If you are the director who is hiring a new manager, please reflect on those observations and preferably have a conversation about them with your new recruit. If you are a direct report of such a new manager, dive deeper than the surface and help your new boss overcome the temporary insecurity. Finally, if you are that newly hired or promoted manager, believe in yourself – at least try to – and if you need help then let us talk.
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