Seven Surprises for New Managers

Common Management Misconceptions

Seven Surprises for New Managers

Learn how to deal with these common surprises.

© iStockphoto/sgame

Most new managers and leaders know that things will change once they're the boss, and that they'll have to apply a different set of skills to be successful in their new role.

However, despite being prepared for the challenges ahead, new managers can come unstuck in unexpected ways.

Michael Porter, Jay Lorsch, and Nitin Nohria explored common misconceptions about management in a 2004 Harvard Business Review article titled, "The Seven Things That Surprise New CEOs." Although they based their article on their observations from workshops for new CEOs, you can apply their findings to other management roles as well.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at each of the seven surprises, and we'll help you to be more prepared for them in your role, whether you're managing an organization, a department, or a small team.

Surprise One: You Can't Run the Company or Department

As a new manager, you first need to realize that you can't be directly involved in every project that your team is working on, and that you can't have a direct influence on everything that happens within it.

So your perspective has to shift from getting things done yourself, to getting things done through other people. (This sounds obvious – but many new managers struggle with this!)

To avoid the problems associated with this surprise:

  • Use delegation   effectively.
  • Only attend meetings that you really need to attend.
  • Question whether you need to participate in tasks, or simply be informed of their outcomes.
  • Be careful not to make too many decisions for people; when people come to you with a question, ask them what they recommend.
  • Give people the guidance and resources that they need to do their jobs themselves. This frees you up to do the job of managing and leading your team.

Surprise Two: Giving Orders is Costly

As a manager, you need to try to reach a situation where you don't need to tell people what to do, and can instead trust them to make the right decisions.

Some people may doubt their ability to make decisions. When this happens, they're more likely to come to you for approval of everything. This creates "manager dependency,"   and can make you a decision-making bottleneck, potentially stalling your team's progress.

Also, making last minute changes, or overruling decisions, can waste a great deal of time and resources, and undermines your people's confidence.

To avoid the problems associated with this surprise:

  • Communicate your organization's vision   and values  , keep people informed, and train and mentor them so that they have the knowledge and confidence to make decisions, based on what's best for the organization.
  • Create systems and structures so that your people understand what needs to get done, and how to do it.
  • Endorse effective decision making tools  , and demonstrate how to use them.
  • Let people know that mistakes are part of the development process, and that you'd rather they take some risks than risk indecision. (Clearly, this may not be suitable in all types of work, so use your best judgment.)
  • Recognize how placing trust in people   impacts your team's performance.

Surprise Three: It's Hard to Know What's Really Going On

No one wants to give his or her boss bad news. So the reality is, that by the time you get information, it may have had a few glossy touches added, and it won't necessarily be reliable.

However, you need accurate information to manage effectively, so you'll have to gather information from as many sources as possible.

To avoid the problems associated with this surprise...

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