Three Mistakes to Avoid During New Manager Transitions

Posted on: August 19, 2020, by :
Desk with glasses, notebook, and cup of coffee.

Bad Transitions Don’t Just Happen

Several years ago, I witnessed a management transition. Everyone was excited. The transition was needed and a few steps rushed. A strong sense of optimism developed about the new manager’s potential. It seemed as if the majority of the trusted, senior leaders and managers were convinced that this was the right manager at the right time.   

In hindsight, the mistakes are clear. Hope and desire for progress got too far ahead of the facts. Key points this manager advocated for went unheard, seemingly because no one wanted to hear them. It’s not uncommon.

Bad transitions don’t just happen. They come from flawed thinking.


To protect yourself from the type of thinking that leads to poor transitions, avoid the three mistakes below.

Mistake 1: Knight in Shining Armor

The name of this mistake comes from stories that involved a knight in shining armor who arrived to save the day. A hero or heroine was desperately needed and everyone rallied around the knight. As you gather data to inform your transition, be on the lookout for the knight in shining armor. You may be able to make numerous contributions in your new position but you shouldn’t be expected to be the perfect fit. No one is perfect. You cannot be all things for all people. Make sure that’s understood. Yes, highlight how you can add value but be clear about the challenges that lay ahead.

You cannot be all things for all people.

Most new managers have confidence. We have a good idea of how we can contribute in the new role. We tend to gravitate toward using the strengths we have that align with our new responsibilities. We get so convinced that we have what it takes to be successful, even if our thinking isn’t entirely correct, that we underestimated the challenges we must work through. This is a classic example of flawed thinking.

That’s the type of thinking that we need to steer clear of. Be confident, but not overly so. For instance, don’t fail to acknowledge the obstacles that may prevent you and your team from achieving your goals. You need to acknowledge your potential and the reality of the situation.

Mistake 2: The Wrong Fit

When things go right, it’s easy to affirm what’s working. This practice can help us understand what we value and why. It can also contribute to poor decision-making when we overemphasis aspects based upon time or other factors with a high probability of change.

When I worked in the entertainment industry, digital video discs and compact discs were extremely popular. The market was strong for both formats for quite a number of years prior to the shift in format due to the release of the iPod® and streaming services. It turned out many missed the timing for change and wrong decisions were made, costing the local economy a few thousand jobs.

It’s easy to focus on what’s working. You need to anticipate challenges and do risk assessments. You lose more from being a wrong fit than you do forgoing an opportunity.

Mistake 3: Rushed Decision-Making

The sense of urgency that can surround filling a position can be costly. Once urgency becomes a predominant factor during the search process, mistakes from flawed thinking are more likely to occur. Position requirements can be reprioritized once a potential candidate is discovered and statements like, “she’ll grow into the position” can be made and relied upon.

Hiring teams are not immune to this type of pressure. The key is to realize that these situations are not common. While organizations want to fill vacancies as soon as possible, candidates can succumb to the pressure and excitement of being considered for a position, even when the position requirements exceed their abilities. 

As a new manager, step back from high pressure situations as much as possible and see if alternatives appear once you’ve had the opportunity to gather and process information. Then ask yourself, “if we can’t implement our preferred solution, what are the best options?”

To position yourself for a successful transition into your new position, you must approach decision-making differently. Be proactive about discovering options, anticipate challenges before they become problems, and contemplate scenarios when time permits. Doing so will help you make better-informed decisions.


Desk with computer.