It’s far too common that a strong individual contributor is promoted to a management role and leadership assumes they’ll transition to being an effective people leader on the strength of their prior performance. That mindset typically results in a sink-or-swim situation, where those new managers are left to figure out how to make the transition on their own, without the tools, resources and guidance they need in their new position.
With that in mind, here’s my guide to avoiding management mistakes and being a successful manager in 2023! My hope is that by learning from these common pitfalls, you’ll be equipped to avoid them and find greater success for yourself and your team.
Mistake #1: Ignoring Employee Feedback
Your employees are your first customers. They have in-depth experience with your company, its processes, what works well and what’s causing friction. But sometimes, managers don’t seek out (or, worse, actively ignore) their employees’ valuable feedback and insights.
To me, that’s like steering a ship without a compass.
By disregarding employee ideas, concerns and suggestions, you not only miss out on potential improvements but also create a disengaged and demotivated workforce. Instead, actively encourage employee feedback and be transparent about how you incorporate it into your decision-making.
There are a lot of ways you can do this — physical, anonymous suggestion boxes; skip-level meetings; employee surveys; and more. At my current company, we use an anonymous email system that employees can use to send in any concern or complaint without their name attached to it, if they choose.
Bottom line: Make sure your employees feel heard and valued.
Mistake #2: Lack of Clear Communication
Did you ever play telephone growing up? In the workplace, miscommunication can have far more serious consequences. When messages are distorted or important information is withheld, it can lead to significant disruption.
Clear communication is the key to great teamwork and effective decision-making. Look at a company like Zappos, where open and transparent communication is embedded in their corporate culture. It’s a great way to ensure organizational alignment from the top down and keep everyone on the same page, on issues both big and small.
Mistake #3: Micromanagement
Micromanagement is the bane of every employee’s existence. It feels like being held back from professional development and advancement opportunities and often is a sign of either a lack of trust or an overinflated ego. Micromanagers not only drain the creativity and autonomy out of their team members but also limit their own — and their company’s — potential for growth.
It’s usually not intentional, but micromanagers tend to thwart big ideas. When you have someone in a specific role, empower them to do what they do best and encourage them to bring their best new ideas to the table. They may not be what you would come up with but have the humility to accept that that might be a good thing. Trust and autonomy in the workplace make a beautiful pairing.
Mistake #4: Neglecting Work-Life Balance
In the pursuit of success, many managers fall into the trap of neglecting work-life balance. Burning the midnight oil might make you feel like a productivity superhero, but it won’t last long before burnout kicks in.
More and more companies have recognized the importance of emphasizing a healthy work-life balance (it’s even the idea behind my new podcast[LINK]). But it takes more than just a top-down company policy.
Ask yourself: Do you set an example of healthy balance at work? Are you sending work emails in the evening and creating an expectation (implied or otherwise) that your employees should be checking their messages when they’re off the clock?
Set and maintain healthy work-life boundaries for yourself and for your team. By actively promoting employee well-being, you’ll find increased productivity and better overall workplace satisfaction are a natural result.
Mistake #5: Failure to Delegate
You might not think of yourself as a control freak, but especially if you’re a new manager, you might find it hard to transition some of your previous workload to your team. As with micromanagement, a failure to delegate not only burdens you with an overwhelming workload but also robs your team members of growth opportunities.
Trust in the abilities of your team, assign them tasks accordingly and watch them flourish. You have enough responsibilities as a people leader; if you don’t delegate well, you’ll hurt your own development in your role as well as stifle your team’s ability to grow and develop in their roles.
Mistake #6: Lack of Accountability
When mistakes happen, it’s tempting to point fingers and play the blame game. But here’s the truth: lack of accountability breeds a culture of fear and hinders growth.
Rather than instilling a culture of fear around making mistakes, foster a culture of ownership and accountability, where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities and transparency is championed.
I love to say “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not working.” Understand that people make mistakes and use your role as a manager to serve as a coach, helping people understand the impact of a mistake and how to avoid it in the future. It will serve you — and your team — better in the long run.
Mistake #7: Inadequate Recognition
Picture this: you give your all to a project, but it feels like your efforts have vanished into thin air. Not the best feeling, right? I know — I’ve been there myself.
Inadequate recognition is a significant management mistake that can leave employees feeling undervalued and demotivated. By acknowledging and appreciating your team members’ hard work, you create a work environment that breeds loyalty and drives success.
Mistake #8: Lack of Innovation
Innovation is essential for progress. Yet, many managers fall into the trap of sticking to the same old routine, fearing change and missing out on opportunities for growth. Embrace the spirit of innovation and encourage your team to think outside the box.
Think of companies that are famous for their innovation — Apple comes to mind for me. A common trait of these organizations is a commitment to pushing boundaries, which often results in industry-wide disruption. For Apple specifically, their ongoing pursuit of innovation has revolutionized technology and transformed the way we live and work on a global scale.
Look for ways you can challenge the status quo, either yourself or by encouraging new ideas from your team. Work to create an environment that nurtures creativity and experimentation. Remember, the path to success often lies in daring to be different.
Mistake #9: Underestimating Emotional Intelligence
Let’s be honest, we’ve all worked with that boss — the one who’s brilliant on a task but has zero ability to read a room or ground their team during a crisis. Being able to solve complex problems easily is great but not if you have to sacrifice having a healthy, cohesive team to do it.
Don’t fall into the trap of underestimating the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. If you do, it can lead to a veneer of success with a hollow, disengaged team under the surface.
Mistake #10: Managing Tasks, Not Empowering Individuals
If you’re in leadership, you owe it to yourself and your team to ask yourself this question: Do you want to be a project manager or a people manager? The two are very different roles with different requirements.
A common management mistake is focusing on tasks instead of empowering individuals. Being a leader isn’t about ticking off items on a checklist; it’s about recognizing the unique skills and potential of each team member and empowering them to shine.
Champions the idea that success lies in taking care of your employees and empowering them to take care of your business. You have a team for a reason — you can’t do it yourself, nor should you want to. Don’t look at your team members as cogs in a machine — see them for what they are. Valuable, strategic, insightful partners working with you to achieve a common goal.
Wrap-up: Avoid These Management Pitfalls for a Successful 2023
So, there you have it, the top 10 management mistakes you should avoid to ensure leadership success.
Remember, the path to effective management isn’t paved with micromanagement, lack of feedback or neglecting EQ. Instead, it’s about fostering open communication, embracing innovation, recognizing efforts and empowering your team.
Take these lessons, apply them to your management style, and watch as your team grows into much more than just the sum of its parts.