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Can First Time Supervisors Avoid Rookie Mistakes?

In the public sector, first time supervisors are being promoted into positions as a result of attrition, retirement, and the like. Now is the perfect time to address some issue new leaders may face to help them potentially avoid making rookie mistakes.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, spoke with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program. He discusses common mistakes first time supervisors make in the workplace and addresses how new leaders can avoid making these mistakes.

What Is the Most Common Rookie Mistake?

The most common mistake is not just for new leaders, but experienced leaders as well. Many leaders assume their team knows what they are thinking and where they are headed. Fox finds, “We spend so much time operating out of a set of goals, strategies, and objectives that we assume everyone knows what we are thinking about, even when we have not done a good job communicating that idea. I think as a rookie and experienced leader, you want to make sure that you have established the right conversations to be transparent. This includes regular team meetings, regular check-ins with your direct reports, and making sure that what is going on in your head is actually coming out of your mouth.”

What Are Some Other Common Mistakes?

1) Confusing your old job with your new job as a leader. Fox states, “Oftentimes, when individuals do something really well and get promoted, they think they need to do their old job plus their new job, but in fact, it is the responsibility of the leader to open doors for their employees and maximize their skills and talents. The goal is not to do their jobs for them.”

2) Being a micromanager. Fox says, “Chances are good that if you are promoted you can probably do the job of your employees better than they can. The difference is not simply doing their work, or redoing their work, but teaching them how to do it better. It is important to adopt the mindset of a teacher, coach, or mentor in order to be a successful leader.”

3) Not developing a successor. Fox asserts, “Sometimes individuals view successors as threats, particularly if they are new to the role, but there is nothing better than having someone to back you up. We all encounter surprises in life that we do not expect, good or bad, and it is important to have back up.”

How Important is Communication in Leadership?

There is nothing more important than communication for a senior leader. Arguably, it is probably 50-percent of their job to communicate why they are doing what they are doing. Fox finds, “This is further reinforced by the data from the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. We look specifically at employees’ views of senior leaders and what we found is that at the place they take the greatest hit is around providing information.” Leaders who are transparent and encourage open communication, versus holding their card close to the vest, inspire a work environment where employees feel fully engaged and feel like you are making a difference.

How Should Leaders Manage Supervising Their Friends Once Promoted?

Fox states, “This can be an incredibly awkward situation, particularly when there is competition for the job with colleagues. The best approach you can take is to sit down and have a candid conversation with the individuals that did not get the promotion. Together, you need to recognize that the situation is not easy, but it is important to figure out the best way to work out the situation so the whole team succeeds.”

What Do You Think?

What are some common mistakes of rookie leaders?

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