5 Common Beliefs That Hold New Managers Back

When I started my first management role, my mental image of what a manager should be was of a sober professional dressed in formal business attire. In an effort to live up to that image, I wore high heels every day, and I hid my natural smile under a serious, thoughtful expression.

I quickly realized that the shoes and the frown weren’t making me a better manager — in fact, by not being myself, I was making it harder to build a rapport with my new reports.

Now, 10 years later, I’m supporting several colleagues as they transition into their first management roles. In working through their challenges, I’ve realized that everyone has preconceived ideas about what a boss “should” be and do — and that those ideas can steer even the best-intentioned individual off track.

Here are five of the most common assumptions new managers need to challenge:

1. “I Need to Be More [Outgoing, Serious, Aggressive, Mellow]”

As I learned in my experience, forcing yourself to be someone you’re not isn’t just a waste of effort, it’s counterproductive. If you’re not comfortable being authentic, the people around you will likewise be reluctant to open up to you about their ideas and struggles. Putting up a front also makes it hard to show your reports that you genuinely care about them — and letting people know you care is essential.

You can be quiet and introverted, outgoing and gregarious, or anything in between, and still be a great manager. It’s more important to understand your role, and bring your real self to it, than it is to act, speak, or feel a certain way.

2. “If My Reports Dislike Me, I Did Something Wrong”

I recently had to tell one of my employees that a project she’d worked on didn’t meet expectations. I needed her to make big improvements quickly, and for about 24 hours, she was very frustrated with me.

It wasn’t comfortable — I wanted to reach out to her, downplay the issues, and reassure her that everything would be fine. But, I knew she needed to feel empowered to turn the project around, so I kept my distance. When she delivered the final product, not only were we both pleased with the changes, but we realized that the experience had actually strengthened our relationship.

If you care about your reports as much as you should, you’ll want them to like you — all the time.

Remember, though, that your top priority as their manager is not to be liked, but rather to provide the support, guidance, and feedback that’ll help them grow. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t invested in their happiness, or even that you can’t be their friend — many of my current and former employees, and managers, have become cherished friends. It just means that you’re thinking more about their long-term than short-term happiness. Friendships develop and grow stronger because of the hard conversations, not in spite of them.

3. “Managers Tell People What to Do”

If you’re a new manager, chances are you were recently a very successful individual contributor. As an employee, you developed processes, habits, and tricks that worked well for you — and as a manager, you’ll feel compelled to instill those same habits in your reports.

But micromanaging their activities will limit their creativity and level of investment in their work. I’ve seen managers literally suck the life out of teams by picking apart every spreadsheet, email, and agenda.

Your job is not to tell your reports what to do, but to support them in reaching goals that you set together. Instead of instructing them on tactics, spend time talking about what they should accomplish by the end of the week, month, or quarter, and about what kind of support they need from you to get there. And then step back, and let them own the process.

Complete post published here by The Muse.

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