Wattpad Co-founder and CEO Allen Lau is one of the newest contributors to INC.com, a leading site for business news, ideas, and inspiration.
His Column, Scaling the Future, will examine the challenges startups face in the innovation economy. It will also outline advice for entrepreneurs rooted in real world experience. An excerpt of his first column is enjoyable below and in full here.
At a fast-growing company, it's easy to find yourself thrust into a managerial role without a fully developed skill set. It's the reason so many new managers struggle to find their footing in leadership roles that frequently evolve.
4 Common Pitfalls For New Managers (and how to avoid them)
As a CEO with more than 20 years of managing people under my belt, I've made more than a few mistakes. I've also witnessed a multitude of new managers make some of their own. If you're new to managing a person or a team, you should avoid these four common mistakes.
1. You Think "Manager" Means Most Productive Individual Contributor
I first started managing people when I was 26. Before I turned 30, my team had grown to 30 developers. On paper, I was fantastically successful. In reality, I should have fired myself.
Why? I didn't realize that I had been given a new job, manager. To be an awesome manager I thought I had to produce more code than any other member of my team. This management style created more problems than it solved, but it wasn't until years later that I realized this.
These days I understand that a manager's focus should be to ensure a team works on the right things effectively. You'll avoid a lot of chaos when you adopt this focus.
Instead of trying to have all the answers or produce the most results, direct your team toward the result you're after with efficiency and care. In a way, you help (not teach or demand) others to fish while you steer the boat towards the richest waters. A strong manager leads a high-performance team in the right direction.
2. You Accept a Managerial Role For The Wrong Reasons
Facebook's VP of product design shared a great post that goes further into the unintuitive things you learn as a new manager. She points out that most companies position management as the only route for career advancement, thereby creating a chase towards the role for the wrong reasons.
If developing a team and genuinely caring about their performance doesn't sound appealing, you may want to focus on strengthening your skills as an individual contributor (IC).
That said, you can try management out before deciding. In my early career, I was a manager for a few years but switched back to an IC because I missed coding. With the pressure of leading a team off my shoulders, I could hone my technical skills (as well as develop my people skills).
Once you've tried both sides, think about what you want from your career. How can you find balance while you develop your hard and soft skills? Don't get caught taking on a role you're not passionate about. Too many people already take on this complex challenge for the wrong reasons.