The 4 Most Common New Manager Mistakes

new manager mistakes new managers mistakes

While the transition to a management position is exciting, it also isn't easy. Whether it is you or a colleague that is taking on this new opportunity, a leadership role puts one in charge of organizational aspects that present new challenges. Avoiding these 4 common new manager mistakes will help new managers successfully transition their relationships, skillset, and role within an organization.

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Span of Control: How Many Employees Should Your Supervisors Manage?

Span of Control How Many Employees Should Your Supervisors Manage supervising employees effectively ideal span of control

How many employees do your supervisors manage? Has your organization considered the effects of what narrow or wide supervisory and managerial spans of control mean for your employees and the levels of support and empowerment they receive on-the-job?

Have you considered how your decisions regarding the number of levels of reporting in your organization and given to your supervisors and managers influence job satisfaction, communication practices, and your overall organizational culture? The structure of your organization matters for these reasons and more.

Defining span of control

Span of control refers to the number of subordinates that can be managed effectively and efficiently by supervisors or managers in an organization. Typically, it is either narrow or wide resulting in a flatter or more hierarchical organizational structure. Each type has its inherent advantages and disadvantages.

Narrow Span

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Have more levels of reporting in the organization, resulting in a more heirarchical organization
  • Supervisors can spend time with employees and supervise them more closely
  • Creates more development, growth, and advancement opportunities
  • More expensive (high cost of management staff, office, etc.)
  • More supervisory involvement in work could lead to less empowerment and delegation and more micromanagement
  • Tends to result in communication difficulties and excessive distance between the top and bottom levels in the organization

Wide Span

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Have fewer levels of reporting in the organization, resulting in a more flexible, flatter organization
  • Ideal for supervisors mainly responsible for answering questions and helping to solve employees problems
  • Encourages empowerment of employees by giving more responsibility, delegation and decision-making power to them
  • Tends to result in greater communication efficiencies and frequent exposure to the top level of the organization
  • May lead to overloaded supervisors if employees require much task direction, support, and supervision
  • May not provide adequate support to employees leading to decreased morale or job satisfaction

Optimal span of control

Three or four levels of reporting typically are sufficient for most organizations, while four to five are generally sufficient for all organizations but the largest organizations (Hattrup, 1993). This is consistent with ERC’s survey findings as well. Ideally in an organization, according to modern organizational experts is approximately 15 to 20 subordinates per supervisor or manager. However, some experts with a more traditional focus believe that 5-6 subordinates per supervisor or manager is ideal. In general, however, optimum span of control depends on various factors including:

  • Organization size: The size of an organization is a great influencer. Larger organizations tend to have wider spans of control than smaller organizations.
  • Nature of an organization: The culture of an organization can influence; a more relaxed, flexible culture is consistent with wider; while a hierarchical culture is consistent with narrow. It is important to consider the current and desired culture of the organization when determining.
  • Nature of job: Routine and low complexity jobs/tasks require less supervision than jobs that are inherently complicated, loosely defined and require frequent decision making. Consider wider for jobs requiring less supervision and narrower for more complex and vague jobs.
  • Skills and competencies of manager: More experienced supervisors or managers can generally be wider than less experienced supervisors. It’s best to also consider to what degree supervisors and managers are responsible for technical aspects of the job (non-managerial duties).
  • Employees skills and abilities: Less experienced employees require more training, direction, and delegation (closer supervision, narrow); whereas more experienced employees requires less training, direction, and delegation (less supervision, wider).
  • Type of interaction between supervisors and employees: More frequent interaction/supervision is characteristic of a narrower.  Less interaction, such as supervisors primarily just answering questions and helping solve employee problems, is characteristic of a wider. The type of interaction you want your supervisors and managers to engage in with their employees should be consistent with the control they are given.

In addition, special consideration should be given to the direct reports of executive and senior management levels. Typically, the number of direct reports for these individuals are lower than supervisors and managers as too many direct reports at these levels can complicate communication and lengthen response time for crucial decisions.  

Sources:

  • Bell, R. R. & McLaughlin, F. S. (1977). Span of control in organizations. Industrial Management.
  • Davison, B. (2003). Management span of control: how wide is too wide? Journal of Business Strategy.
  • Gupta, A. (2010). Organization’s size and span of control. Practical Management: Transforming Theories into Practice.
  • Hattrup, G. P. (1993). How to establish the proper span of control for managers. Industrial Management.
  • Juneja, H. Span of control in an organization.

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10 Things Successful Supervisors Do Differently

how to be an effective supervisor how to be a supervisor becoming a supervisor 10 Things Successful Supervisors Do Differently

We've all had good supervisors and bad ones, and chances are we remember the characteristics of both pretty vividly. The good ones probably stick out as people who have made a positive impact on our work lives and who made us more successful in our careers. The bad ones probably showed us the type of supervisors that we don't want to be and the mistakes we don't want to make.

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Just Promoted to Supervisor? Here's What to Know About New Manager Training

training for new managers supervisors New Supervisor New Manager Training

Every organization faces the challenge of new manager training: transitioning an employee from team player to team leader. This transition from employee to supervisor is one of the hardest an employee must make in their career. After the promotion occurs, what should you do to make sure the transition goes smoothly and that your new supervisor is successful in their new role?

One best practice is to approach the transition like you would on-board a new employee. Would you expect your new employee to learn by trial and error? Probably not. Like a new employee, anticipate that new supervisors need both initial and on-going training and support to perform their new role and responsibilities. Similar to on-boarding, the more you develop your employee upfront, the less redirection is needed later. Here are some suggestions.

1. Clarify expectations and priorities.

Most new supervisors have little clarity regarding what their priorities and expectations should be in their new role and aren't prepared to be effective in their new role. As a first step, spend time discussing their new responsibilities and performance expectations and how these have changed from their previous role.

2. Discuss your organization's management philosophy.

Every organization has management norms and a certain style of leadership that supports its culture, so it's important to discuss with your new supervisor how your organization expects employees to be managed. This helps ensure that employees are supervised consistently throughout the organization.

3. Schedule them for new manager training sooner than later.

Schedule employees for supervisory training as close to the time of promotion as possible or even prior to the transition, particularly for softer skills (i.e. communication, conflict management, etc.). Make sure new supervisors are set-up with the most critical baseline skills they need to be successful on the job. This will minimize common new supervisor mistakes.

4. Brief them on managerial procedures.

Administering a performance review, conducting a write-up, handling employee leave, or dealing with a grievance are just a few of many complicated issues in which your new supervisor has never been exposed. Make sure supervisors are knowledgeable about correct procedures to handle these issues and can access the proper paperwork and guidance.

5. Coach them on critical conversations.

Your supervisor will soon find themselves in tricky situations such as dealing with an underperforming employee, high-performing but dissatisfied employee, employee who comes to work late, or a team that isn't working together. These situations require difficult conversations and often require new manger training. Consider counseling and role-playing with them on the right and wrong things to say in these conversations and how to handle and mitigate common employee problems.

6. Provide time to interact with other managers.

One of the best ways for your new supervisor to learn the ropes of management is to spend time with other experienced managers and excellent leadership role models who can encourage and guide them, listen to their challenges and frustrations, and help them learn through their own experiences.

7. Encourage self-awareness.

It's unlikely that your newly promoted employee has ever considered how their interpersonal style helps or impedes their effectiveness. As soon as they start managing people, however, the quirks of their interpersonal styles (how they deal with conflict, their communication preferences, their personality, etc.) become apparent. Provide tools to help them become more aware of their style and behavior and flex it to meet others' needs and become a more effective manager.

8. Redirect their natural reflexes.

Every new supervisor experiences some natural reflexes—including the urge to do the work themselves and impose their ways of doing things on others without building consensus or asking for input. New supervisors will need to be encouraged to fight their natural reflexes to go back to the tactics that made them successful in their prior role.

9. Suggest resources.

Recommend books, tools, articles, blogs, job aids, and other tools for your new supervisor to access in order to become a better manager. Better yet, create a library of these resources at your organization. This will also help your other managers in their on-going management development.

10. Observe their transition to identify additional areas of development.

In their first few weeks and months on the job, observe how their transition is going. Specific issues to observe may include how much (or little) they are delegating, how they are interacting with their employees, and their team's performance. Talk to the new supervisor and employees on the supervisor's team to gather additional feedback. If you notice issues early on and correct them, it's unlikely that they will escalate.

You can never fully prepare managers for all of the challenges they will face, but by providing training, guidance, and support to supervisors before they hit the front-lines you can set them up to succeed as new leaders.

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

Submit your contact information and receive instant access to a video highlighting our process and a brochure featuring our courses, delivery methods, and success stories.

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