In working with many new and inexperienced managers over the past 16 years, and in my own former corporate career, I’ve seen that it’s very common for unseasoned managers to feel great doubt and insecurity—and experience imposter syndrome—about their work and impact. I certainly did, the first few times I was in a managerial role. When we haven’t managed before and don’t have past successes to draw on, it can be a daunting experience, especially if we have no support from the top or within the organization. Many new managers feel they are going at it all alone, and that’s a frightening prospect where failure looms large.
Managers just beginning the process of leading others can find it a maze of confusing potential actions and directions, generating fear and anxiety about the best steps to take in their management approach and worrying about how they are coming across to others, and how effective they can truly be in attaining their big business goals.
I’ve also seen that many younger professionals (under 30) who are employed at rapidly-growing startups and other types of organizations have had their staff sizes explode at a rate they aren’t equipped for. They have shared that they feel shaky about their approach and their ability to succeed in attaining the high goals their leaders have foisted on them.
And they often feel they don’t have a strong or trusted “voice” yet in the organization, to be able to speak up and share their feedback on strategic direction, business goals, and what is and isn’t working.
Many have said to me something to this effect:
“I just don’t know how to manage managers or my huge team, and I’m afraid to come down too hard on them because I’m so new at this. This is my first time managing and I’m over my head.”
Many of these managerial problems correspond with what my research has revealed are the 7 damaging power gaps that negatively impact 98% of professional women and 90% of men.
These gaps are:
Power Gap 1: Not recognizing your special talents, abilities and accomplishments
People with this gap often think: “I’m not unique or talented in any way. I’m not even sure what special skills I have.”
Power Gap 2: Communicating from fear not strength
People with this gap often think: “I can’t speak up confidently, assertively, or with authority. I’m insecure about sharing my thoughts and ideas.”
Power Gap 3: Reluctance to ask for what you want and deserve
People with this gap often think: “I feel I deserve more (a raise, promotion, more support, etc.) but I’m afraid to ask for it and don’t know how.”
Power Gap 4: Isolating from influential support
People with this gap often think: “I dislike networking or even the idea of trying to find mentors and sponsors who could help me. It’s intimidating and very uncomfortable for me.”
Power Gap 5: Acquiescing instead of saying “STOP!” to unfair behavior
People with this gap often think: “It’s unfair what I and others here are going through and what I’m seeing around me, but I can’t challenge or change it.”
Power Gap 6: Losing sight of your thrilling dream
People with this gap often think: “This role or career is nothing like what I dreamed I’d be doing when I started out. I’m not sure I want this.”
Power Gap 7: Allowing the past to continue to define you
People with this gap often think: “I can’t shake off the upsetting things that have happened to me in the past at work, and it’s getting in the way of my work and performance now.”
Along with these gaps, there are five big mistakes I’ve seen unseasoned leaders and managers make, despite their commitment to their own success and that of their people, or their “smarts” and intellect. These mistakes fall into several key leadership categories, including communication, team building, standing up for what is needed, self-confidence, and more.
The top 5 managerial blunders unseasoned managers often make are:
#1: Failing to offer clear, effective communication and feedback
A two-way communication process with your teams and employees is essential if you want people to succeed in their roles. You need to meet with them regularly, share any concerns openly and clearly, and allow them to candidly discuss their projects, tasks, processes, what they may be struggling with, and what they need more help with.
And you want to elicit their direct input as well, on all manner of things that could be improved or modified for them to hit their goals successfully. Typically, under-performers know they are failing but don’t know how to adjust what they’re doing to improve.
If they feel afraid to speak their mind to you, or if they don’t respect you enough to be open with you, more problems will ensue.
Finally, if you have a staff member who is failing at their work and projects, it must be addressed. Talk to HR about your options, including putting the individual on a specific, time-based performance improvement plan and having a very straightforward conversation with them about what has to change, in specific terms, and by when. And share what will happen if the improvements aren’t made.
Tip: If you allow a non-performing individual to remain in their role without giving them the tools, training, and support they need to improve, you’re failing at your job as a manager, and you’re hurting your entire team. Take action now.
#2: Not engaging in appropriate boundary setting
For younger people, this can be a harder task, but it impacts seasoned managers as well. You need to be very clear about your boundaries (what you will and will not accept, tolerate and allow) and your non-negotiables. And when people violate your boundaries, you need to make sure that they understand that and tell them that has to change. Finally, you need to make it clear to the organization and other teams what your specific employees and team(s) need and deserve, in order to succeed.
Boundaries are the invisible barriers that separate you from your outside systems and the world around you. Boundaries define who you are, what you value and stand for, and they keep you safe and secure, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Having well-developed, healthy boundaries ensures that you’re protected from behaviors and actions that are injurious, disrespectful, or invasive. People with healthy boundaries know their limits and are able to enforce them with quiet strength and authority. Healthy boundaries allow you to move forward on a fulfilling and successful path, and help others around you to do the same. The more you can model healthy boundaries and effective boundary enforcement, the more others can learn this essential skill for themselves.
Tip: Be clearer starting today on what you need and want, and what your team needs, to succeed. This can be around work-life integration, how people should communicate with you, the timeframes expected for work to be delivered, and other parameters around what you need to achieve your goals. And it involves being very clear on what is not working. Identify who is violating your boundaries today and have a frank conversation with them asap to address that.
#3: Neglecting to foster a cohesive team that understands their role and the role of others
I’ve been astounded lately by stories I’m hearing of managers who fail to do what’s necessary to build a cohesive team. Yes, individuals are important, of course, but it’s teams and team efforts that typically make the largest positive impact in the success that’s possible for an organization.
A big error new managers make is that they manage individuals in a silo, failing to help those people understand how they fit into the bigger picture of what the company is trying to achieve, and how others on their team are contributing in important ways, through their specific projects.
Without meeting with your teams together regularly, they can’t understand what others are working on and why those projects are vital and how they impact everyone. Feelings of resentment, disconnection, jealousy, and misunderstanding can often grow between team members if they don’t have regular opportunities to come together and meet each other face to face to connect and share.
Creating a cohesive team also helps you maximize the great learning and successes that are happening. Team meetings can be a place to share best practices, ways to streamline efforts, pitfalls and problems to avoid, important milestones and developments, and more. Further, having your team meet together with you consistently builds new opportunities among the group for helpful mentorship relationships to emerge.
Tip: Start this month to schedule consistent team meetings with a specific agenda, and make it clear that attendance is expected by everyone (where feasible). Ask specific individuals to prepare quick talking points about their key projects and developments. Make sure to add in time to talk about how people are doing generally as well, in life outside of work.
#4: Failing to stand up powerfully for what they believe and think, to their staff, managers and leaders
Another challenge for younger professionals (according to my latest Power Gap Survey) and new managers is their reluctance to speak up and stand up to share their ideas, input, and constructive suggestions.
New managers often hold back and miss opportunities to contribute, fearing that their ideas or suggestions may not have merit. And they’re often intimated by more senior people. It’s critical that you begin to use your voice more powerfully now, and share your ideas and suggestions.
Tip: The time for holding back is over. Muster your bravery and confidence to speak up and share your ideas more openly, starting with your very next meeting.
#5: Not asking for the help they need
According to my latest survey, 71% of professional women claim that they are isolating from influential support, and an even greater number (83%) of professionals between the ages of 18 and 24 are not connecting with mentors and sponsors or building a support network to help them thrive.
One of the single most important things you can do to succeed in your career and role is get help when you need it. That includes fostering mentorship relationships within your organization as well as outside of it, and connecting with “sponsors.” Sponsors are people who serve as mentors and are happy to offer guidance and advice but they also have power, influence and clout.
Research has shown that women have three times as many mentors as men, but men have twice as many sponsors. It’s sponsors – high-level, influential people who can help elevate you and connect you with new opportunities that you can’t access on your own – who can truly help you move the needle in your career and advance and grow, and make the impact you long to.
Tip: Build a robust LinkedIn profile this month and begin to connect with inspiring professionals there, not only those who work in your company but also who are outside your organization and are making a powerful and positive difference in your field of work.
And make sure to ask for help when you need it. Don’t wait.