The quality of everything that follows

As a long-time manager, I still feel like there’s so much I can learn and, more importantly, share with the new managers that I work with. In my reading journey, I’ve settled on a current trifecta of management books that I share based on the experience of the manager that I’m working with:

Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

Best bet for new managers. While there are definitely a few good tips for more experienced managers, Zhuo does the best job I’ve seen in a while of walking through what it’s like to be a new manager. She acknowledges the challenges without talking down to her readers and provides a steady stream of pragmatic suggestions. She’s also got a section on what to do when your team grows and you suddenly find yourself a manager of managers–something that happens frequently to people where I currently work but that few places address. You can get some of that advice in this article she published in Harvard Business Review.

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Well known and with a new edition coming soon, Radical Candor is what I share with people who have managed a little and are looking to raise their game. I appreciate Scott’s focus on the human side of management (the tag-line is “Being a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity”). Some of the structure she puts in place for providing radically candid feedback can feel a bit forced, but the core message is important

Your ability to build trusting, human connections with the people who report directly to you will determine the quality of everything that follows.

Another principle that resonated me is making sure to stay connected with what your team is doing on a very practical level.

The responsibilities you have as a boss take up a tremendous amount of time. One of the hardest things about being a boss is balancing these responsibilities with the work you need to do personally in your area of expertise … Keep the “dirt under your fingernails” … If you get too far away from the work your team is doing, you won’t understand their ideas well enough to help them clarify, to participate in debates, to know which decisions to push them to make, to teach them to be more persuasive

I’ve found that team members appreciate that I try to stay current on the work they do. And for the more technical folks who work for me, I ask plenty of questions to understand what they’re doing, but I’m also very honest when the conversation has moved beyond my ability to actively contribute. I don’t want them wasting time teaching me details I don’t need to know, when I can help them through framing the larger conversation and issues and let them–the experts–work out the details.

Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

One of my all-time favorites. Multipliers is the one I share with my more senior managers, the ones who are managing managers or teams of experienced professionals. It’s thoroughly researched and eminently practical. Wiseman focuses on taking your management game–and your team–to the next level. Every time I pick it up, I’m reminded of concrete actions I can take to build a better team.

Between the three of these, I have something for every type of manager. And paging through them, I can usually find something I need to remember for myself.

Published by William Gerke

William Gerke is a Boston-based talent professional, author, and human being.

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