New Manager Mis-Steps

Guest post by Kathy McDonald News, Stories

Robert* was making Janice* crazy.  He hired her for her research skills but then delegated only menial tasks, and kept her out of the loop on the most strategic projects.  He invited her to join him for a conference presentation, but then expected her to watch him present rather than present with him.  Robert kept promising a pipeline of interesting projects that would keep her engaged, but then never made time to share what those projects were.

Becoming a new manager is an exciting time in career advancement.  It is also often accompanied by anxiety around how to do the job well.  Gallup research of employee engagement finds that 70% of team member disengagement is driven by the manager.  Clearly more managers could use support in management fundamentals to get the best out of their team.

From doer to delegator:  What Robert missed in becoming a new manager was that his role was changing.  He was still trying to do his old job, rather than growing from doer to delegator.  He needed help in learning what his new role entailed and how to divvy up the team’s work in a way that leveraged each team member’s strengths.

No longer the Lone Ranger:  Robert was also used to working independently so he didn’t consider how his tendency to put things off until the last minute would impact his team.  Calling on Janice to scramble at the last minute due to his lack of planning was creating resentment.

Creating a flight risk:  Feeling underutilized and at risk of having her skills atrophy, Janice began looking for another job.  Sensing Janice’s disengagement, a senior leader stepped in and put her on a strategic organizational project that gave her an opportunity to shine.  It gave Janice a reason to stay and see if things would improve.

An organization shouldn’t have to risk losing key talent to course correct.  Organizations need to help new managers build skills in unfamiliar areas including delegating, building team motivation and managing projects across a team.  They also need to help new managers understand how their role is changing so that they know what is expected to succeed.  In this case, sadly, without that support Robert went from feeling like a star as an individual contributor to an under-performer as a manager.  With the right support and direction, both he and Janice can thrive.

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

For more strategies on how to effectively transition into a supervisory role, join us in the Training Room for Management 101: Moving from Doer to Leader, a brand-new class where new nonprofit managers can learn the fundamentals so they can lead with confidence.  The first installment of this 3-part training series on November 16th will cover topics that include the biggest mistake new managers make and how to avoid it, setting clear expectations for team members so all know what success looks like and the top time-management tools. This training is ideal for those that are new to managing and those that would like to deepen their skills in effectively managing others.


Kathy McDonald is the assistant director for network partnerships for the Florida College Access Network. Kathy has helped individuals, leaders and teams find and leverage their strengths for the last 18 years. She is an experience workshop leader and speaker, developing adult professional development programs for numerous organizations including Accenture, PwC, the City of Chicago, and the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

She is co-author of CREATING YOUR LIFE COLLAGE: STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING THE WORK/LIFE DILEMMA (Three Rivers Press). Kathy holds an MBA from Northwestern University and is a certified leadership coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Happily married for 25 years, Kathy is the proud mother of two teenagers and currently 3 dogs (small, medium and large) and is an avid gardener, though she admits gardening in Florida is a contact sport.

Kathy’s training approach is to ensure participants walk away with actionable tools and resources while creating a space that encourages learning and growing together.