I thought I was going to be an awesome manager.
Well…because I knew what I “liked” and “didn’t like” as an employee. And because I was the captain of a couple teams in high school and held a few leadership positions in my fraternity.
Okay…so not a ton of a experience, but a full-tank of confidence.
Does that sound familiar?
Unfortunately for my first direct report...I sucked.
Ultimately, he was let go, not because of his incompetence, but due to mine. It was a humbling experience, one that taught me invaluable lessons about leadership, self-awareness, and personal growth.
While I understand there is no better teacher than experience, my purpose & goal is to better equip and prepare first-time managers (or the leader of the 1st time manager) so we can limit the number of sacrificial lambs.
In this blog, I'll share my journey and the crucial takeaways I gained from my early missteps as a first-time manager.
Confidence and Competence:
My previous experiences had fostered a sense of overconfidence within me. I believed that my positivity, work ethic and ability to influence others would naturally translate into effective management. However, I soon realized that managing others requires more than just enthusiasm and confidence. It necessitates a deep understanding of the role, clear communication, and the ability to adapt.
Overestimating Transferable Skills & Experience:
My first direct report had more professional & life experience than I did. As a result, I assumed that he knew how to do the job, even though he’d never done it before. I overestimated his transferable skills and experience and presumed that teaching him the basics of the job was beneath him.
Valuing Differences Through Understanding Strengths:
I made the mistake of thinking what came naturally to me came natural to him. To compound things, I assumed that he wanted to be led & managed just like I wanted to be led & managed. As a result, he didn’t receive clear direction or coaching on several critical areas of his job.
Embracing Continuous Learning:
My early failures as a manager were tough to swallow, but they served as a wake-up call. I realized that I had much to learn about managing people. I began reading books on leadership (Buckingham, Blanchard, Pink, Lencioni, Gordon), attending workshops (StrengthsFinder, Situational Leadership), and seeking guidance from experienced mentors (Baptiste, De Angelis).
Resilience and Growth:
Seeing my first direct report get fired was a painful experience, but it was also a turning point in my career. I chose to view it as an opportunity for growth rather than a failure. I learned to persevere, adapt, and evolve as a manager.
In Conclusion: My journey as a first-time manager was far from smooth, but it was a transformative experience. It taught me humility, the importance of self-awareness, and the value of continuous learning.
Today, I look back on those early missteps with gratitude (and some guilt), as they paved the way for my growth as a leader.
If you're a young manager facing similar challenges, remember that leadership is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the lessons learned from your mistakes, and you'll emerge as a stronger and more effective leader in the long run.
Let’s just hope there are not too many sacrificial lambs along the way.
Carver Peterson helps growth-minded leaders of B2B professional & technical services firms achieve predictable and sustainable revenue growth through a refined strategy, defined process and aligned structure.