Five mistakes that every first-time manager makes

You're good at your job. You work hard and you achieve. And then one day, your boss gives you a completely new job, with totally different priorities and responsibilities, and just assumes that you'll be good at that too.

Being promoted to manager for the first time is a huge step, and requires a new approach to the way you work. But a lot of first time managers don't receive any training in their new role. Kevin James is the Director of the North Leadership Centre at Newcastle University. He's trained hundreds of first time managers, and he's seen the same mistakes many times. Below are common statements from first-time managers - and why you need to avoid them.

Number 1: "I've found my management style."

Are you coercive? Democratic? Coaching? A snarling demagogue? Well, apart from the demagogue one, the truth is that you have to be all of them. "If you find yourself frustrated by a member of staff, it might be because you have different ways of seeing the world", says Kevin. "As a manager, your job is not to make them do it your way, but to get to understand their mindset so that you can get the best out of their particular style. The best way to do that is to think carefully about the people you work with, and to have a variety of management styles at your fingertips".

Number 2: "He'll turn it around soon."

If you've been promoted internally, you're probably now in charge of some people you consider your mates. And what was endearing dopeyness, is now underperformance that you have to deal with. You don't want to bite the bullet, so you convince yourself it will get better without you addressing it. It's one of the hardest situations for a new manager, and one that a lot don't deal with well.

"The important thing", says Kevin, "is to separate the issue from the person. You're not having a go at the person - it's not you against them. It's the quality of their work against an impartial standard. Once you've done this, you can work together to see how you can bring the work back to the required quality. But it will never get better if you ignore it."

Number 3: "I just can't keep it all in my head."

If you're the kind of person with total recall and an uncanny instinct for organisation, maybe all your tasks and projects are safely locked up in your brain. The higher you go though, the more tasks there will be, and sooner or later this will become impossible. The important thing is not to panic, and to get yourself a system.

Kevin recommends getting all the information out of your head, and into a workflow system, making time to review your projects weekly. Get your hands on a copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen - it'll make you think about your processes when a new task lands in your inbox, and help you deal with it effectively. "It all sounds simple, but it's amazing how many new managers just don't have a system for getting things done."

Number 4: "We're all about getting things done."

Results are important. Your team is there to achieve tasks, and ultimately that will be how you are all judged. But if you pursue results to the exclusion of all else, you'll end up with a disgruntled team and rapidly diminishing returns.

Now you're a manager, you have to find a way of marrying the bottom line developing individuals, and developing your team. "Dealing with conflicting priorities is a big part of being a manager", says Kevin. "You have to look at the long-term view at times, and develop the capacity of your team. So you might want to entrust tasks to more inexperienced members of your team, to give them the chance to improve and develop".

Number 5: "I gave him/her a raise, so s/he's bound to be motivated."

Well, no. That's not how motivation works. When it comes to getting discretionary effort (making people go the extra mile), low wages can demotivate people, but that doesn't mean that higher wages will equal better performance. The same goes for working conditions. If there's rising damp and a cockroach infestation, people's motivation will plummet. But once conditions go above a reasonable level, all the mahogany desks and scatter cushions in the world won't get you that extra effort.

So how do you get people to go above and beyond? Giving them a challenge is important, but the key thing is recognition. "Don't wait until the performance review" says Kevin. "Give recognition whenever it is warranted".

We hope you have found these tips useful. Why not have a look at our team leaders programme to see if it can help you avoid this mistake.