Worst mistakes: Avoid errors of new managers

First-time managers are generally nightmares to work for. They are people who got promoted by doing a non-management job well, and they probably have little experience in management. Here are four of the mistakes that will undermine a new manager the fastest.

1. Focusing on tasks instead of people.

 Before you were a manger, your number-one job was to accomplish tasks. You were someone with skills to get something done. Maybe media buying, or programming, or selling. Now your number-one job is to help other people to accomplish the tasks in an outstanding way.

Sure, you'll have tasks. You'll have weekly reports, budgets, planning. But your tasks are secondary to helping other people to do their tasks.

Ideally, you should be able to show each person you manage how to see themselves differently so that they are able to produce at a higher level than they ever imagined. For one person this will mean you need to teach organization skills. You will help another discover what she loves to do and then set her up doing it for you. Each person wants something, and you need to find out what that is. Then help them get it.

2. Being slow to transition.

You can't do your new job well if you're still doing your old job. Delegating your old job should take three days. You find people who are taking a step up when they accept pieces of your old job so that they're excited. You give them an explanation of how to do it and tell them where to go when they have questions.

You're going to tell me that one day is not enough, that you have a very complicated job. But think of it this way: If you died today, your job would be delegated in a couple of days.

Delegating is not enough, though. You have to stop caring. If you are no longer on a project because you got a promotion, then you have to stop obsessing about how the project is doing. Remember how quickly the girl who dumped you hooked up with her next-door neighbor? You, too, need to move that fast.

3. Forgetting to manage up

Managing up means steering your team to hit goals that the people above you care about. Figure out what matters to your boss, and your boss's boss, and make that stuff matter to you, too, because you can only impress your boss with your management skill if you are accomplishing things she cares about.

And be loud about your accomplishments. Set measurable goals for yourself, and let people above you know that you're meeting them.

Do this it right off the bat. The saying, "People judge you in the first two minutes they meet you," is true for management, too. So give people reason right away to think you're doing a good job.

4. Talking more than listening

My sister-in-law, Rachel, has been a manager for a while. But she just accepted a position where she's managing three times the number of people she had been managing. Her first step was to go on a sort of listening tour of the organization. She had lunch with people to find out what matters to them, she sat in on groups and even visited some people at home, all in the name of figuring out what matters to whom, and how she should set up goals for herself.

Consider your own listening tour. After all, there's no way to figure out what people want without getting them talking. And the most annoying thing about any manager­ new or seasoned­ is when they just won't shut up.