New managers sooner or later, discover that their role is even harder than they anticipated. They are surprised to learn that the skills and tasks required for success as an individual contributor and those required for success as a manager – are vastly different. They also become aware of the gap between their current capabilities and the requirements of the new position. Oftentimes they lean into more control and managing from authority; and sooner or later learn that is not the way forward.

In their roles as IC’s success depended primarily on their personal expertise and actions. As managers, they are responsible for setting and implementing an agenda for a whole group, something for which their careers as individual performers haven’t prepared them. Stepping into a management role, often is a painful process; however we don’t want to paint a bleak picture – as often the transition is harder than it needs be. New managers’ misconceptions about their role often lead to false expectations about the reality of managerial life. So what are the six misconceptions?

6 Misconceptions:

1. Managers have the Authority

New managers focus on the rights and privileges that come with being the boss. They assume the position will give them more authority and, with that, more freedom and autonomy to do what they think is best for the organization. 

The Reality is ALL about Relationships & Negotiation.

Instead of gaining authority, they become aware of all the interdependencies and now have to focus on building stakeholder relationships inside and outside the organization.  All of whom make demands on them and their team.  They spend most of the time here, unblocking, escalating, massaging relationships to build alignment, prioritize and help change things.  Unless they identify and build effective relationships with the key people the team depends upon; the team will lack the resources necessary to do its job. Even if new managers appreciate the importance of these relationships, they often ignore or neglect them and focus instead on what seems like the more immediate task of leading those closest to them: their subordinates and their tasks.

2. Authority is about Position & Title

New managers mistakenly believe their power is based on the formal authority that comes with their new position in the hierarchy. This operating assumption leads many to adopt a hands-on, controlling, autocratic approach.  This shows up, not because they are eager to exercise their new power over people, but because they believe it is the most effective way to produce results. New managers soon learn, however, that when direct reports are told to do something, they don’t necessarily respond. In fact, the more talented the subordinate, the less likely she is to simply follow orders. After a few painful experiences, new managers come to the unsettling realization that the source of their power is, anything but formal authority. 

The Reality is about Building Credibility by Gaining Trust.

Authority emerges only as the manager establishes credibility with subordinates, peers, and superiors by earning people’s respect and trust. Many aren’t aware of the qualities that contribute to credibility. 

They need to demonstrate their character—the intention to do the right thing. This is of particular importance to subordinates, who tend to analyze every statement and nonverbal gesture for signs of the new boss’s motives. 

They need to demonstrate their competence—knowing how to do the right thing. This can be problematic, because new managers initially feel the need to prove their technical knowledge and prowess, the foundations of their success as individual performers. But while evidence of technical competence is important in gaining subordinates’ respect, it isn’t ultimately the primary area of competence that direct reports are looking for. 

Finally, new managers need to demonstrate their influence—the ability to deliver and execute the right thing. We see new managers fall into the trap of relying too heavily on his formal authority as his source of influence. Instead, they need to build their influence by creating a web of strong, interdependent relationships, based on credibility and trust, throughout the team and the entire organization.

3. Managers must Control Direct Reports.

Most new managers, in part because of insecurity in an unfamiliar role, want compliance from their subordinates. They fear that if they don’t establish this early on, their direct reports will walk all over them. As a means of gaining this control, they often rely too much on their formal authority, which is questionable at best. Even if they are able to achieve some control, whether through formal authority or authority earned over time, they have achieved a false victory. Compliance does not equal commitment. If people aren’t committed, they won’t take the initiative. And if subordinates aren’t taking the initiative, the manager can’t delegate effectively. The direct reports won’t take the calculated risks that lead to the continuous change and improvement required.

The Reality is – Managers must focus on forging good individual relationships. The more power managers are willing to share with subordinates, the more influence they tend to command. When they lead in a manner that allows their people to take the initiative, they build their own credibility as managers and create an environment of commitment.

4. Managers should build Relationships with Individuals on Teams.

Managing interdependencies and exercising informal authority derived from personal credibility require new managers to build trust, influence, and have mutual expectations with a wide array of people. This is often achieved by establishing productive personal relationships. Ultimately, however, the new manager must figure out how to harness the power of a team. Simply focusing on one-on-one relationships with members of the team can undermine that process. During their first year on the job, many new managers fail to recognize, much less address, their team-building responsibilities. Instead, they conceive of their people-management role as building the most effective relationships they can with each individual subordinate, erroneously equating the management of their team with managing the individuals on the team. They attend primarily to individual performance and pay little or no attention to team culture and performance. They hardly ever rely on group forums for identifying and solving problems. Some spend too much time with a small number of trusted subordinates, often those who seem most supportive. New managers tend to handle issues, even those with teamwide implications, one-on-one. This leads them to make decisions based on unnecessarily limited information.

The Reality is a Manager should be leading & shaping the team.

When new managers focus solely on one-on-one relationships, they neglect a fundamental aspect of effective leadership: harnessing the collective power of the group to improve individual performance and commitment. By shaping team culture—the group’s norms and values—a leader can unleash the problem-solving prowess of the diverse talents that make up the team.

5. Managers must ensure that things run smoothly.

Making sure an operation is operating smoothly is an incredibly difficult task, requiring a manager to juggle. Indeed, the complexity of maintaining the status quo can absorb all of a junior manager’s time and energy.

The Reality is a Manager should be Making Changes to increase Team Performance

But new managers also need to realize they are responsible for recommending and initiating changes that will enhance their groups’ performance. This means challenging organizational processes or structures that exist above and beyond their area of formal authority. Only when they understand this part of the job will they begin to address seriously their leadership responsibilities. 

6. Organizational Change is Ordered from Above.

Most new managers see themselves as targets of organizational change initiatives, implementing with their groups the changes ordered from above. They don’t see themselves as change agents. Hierarchical thinking and their fixation on the authority that comes with being the boss lead them to define their responsibilities too narrowly. They tend to blame flawed systems, and the superiors directly responsible for those systems, for their teams’ setbacks—and they tend to wait for other people to fix the problems. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of their role within the organization. 

The Reality is that they Create the Conditions for Your Success

New managers need to generate changes, both within and outside their areas of responsibility, to ensure that their teams can succeed. They need to work to change the context in which their teams operate, ignoring their lack of formal authority. This broader view benefits the organization as well as the new manager. Organizations must continually revitalize and transform themselves. They can meet these challenges only if they have cadres of effective leaders capable of both managing the complexity of the status quo and initiating change.