What Great Bosses Know About the 5 Mistakes New Managers Make

Buyouts and layoffs have altered the management ranks of many newsrooms (as well as other businesses in this country). Veteran managers depart; fresh faces are tapped for leadership roles. New managers are stepping up at the most challenging of times, when resources are tight and change seems constant. Bosses must be at their best.

That said, old and new managers have one thing in common: very few had training for management. They were promoted because of their good performance in their craft, and perhaps for some demonstrated ability or interest in helping others. In these days of shrinking staffs, some folks who don't even aspire to management are being drafted to help fill holes.

Lacking training, new managers just plunge into the job. They often lack confidence. They always learn by trial and error. To help build confidence and minimize errors, let's identify some common traps that await the newly-promoted.

Here are five new manager mistakes:

1. Doing your old job. It's hard to give up what you're good at, especially in times of short-staffing. Keeping your hand in the daily work is comforting to you and helpful in the short-term approach to the team's workload. But it can keep you from teaching others how to do the work and from learning and practicing other aspects of management -- from strategy to scheduling to coaching -- that are vital.

2. Fearing "I don't know." Don't bluff. It reduces your credibility. If you don't have the answer to a question, acknowledge it, promise you'll find the information or answer and then follow up. People don't expect you to be an expert on all aspects of the operation when you're new. They'll cut you slack if you're honest and committed to learning and helping them.

3. Avoiding experienced employees. New managers often assume veteran employees resent or resist bosses with less work or life experience than their own. It's better to assume that experienced staffers want to know what everyone else does: What are you going to do for me -- or to me? Employees of all experience levels hope their managers will be good advocates for their work and agents of their success.

4. Mismanaging old friends. Your relationship with former colleagues changes when your first loyalty is now to the whole team, not just those with whom you shared a social life. But that doesn't mean you can't be friendly. You just need to be forthright about boundaries. As a boss, you can't unfairly favor old friends, or appear to. You can't traffic in the great gossip or diss the idiots in management as before. You're sometimes the bearer of bad tidings, from criticism to crummy work shifts or worse. If folks were true friends and you lead with integrity, they'll understand and adapt to the new relationship.

5. Mismanaging your boss. Know your boss well enough to have a solid fix on the span of your authority and autonomy. Understand your supervisor's values, goals, pressures and preferences when it comes to communication and decision-making. Your boss may not be perfect, but it's your job to make the relationship work, and in so doing, increase your effectiveness for your team.

New managers, and even not-so-new ones also struggle with "imposter syndrome." If you often find yourself thinking, "This is the day they find out I don't really deserve this job," then let me offer you some advice in today's podcast: "What Great Bosses Know about New Manager Mistakes."

Poynter's "What Great Bosses Know" podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter's leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information that's valuable for bosses in newsrooms and everywhere. You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U.

  • Jill Geisler

    Jill helps news managers learn how to lead her favorite people in the world - journalists. Good journalists, she points out, question authority and resist "spin." It takes exceptional leaders to build trust, along with the systems and culture that grow great journalism.


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