How I Read About Management

booksUntil the internet, most of what you read about managing people at work was at least average.

Now, on average, it’s pretty terrible.   I’ve written a bit about this before.

Your best go-to resources are human beings who have relevant experience.   True yesterday, true today.

This is a mantra I’ve been chanting in emerging organizations since the 00s.

In 2014, I posted my people management “syllabus.”   (Ironically, on the internet.)

It’s a list of articles, books, and videos I’ve used with leaders as they develop their People skills.  It’s an adjunct to my #Management Intensive program.

It’s also out there on a Google doc for anyone to fork and use.

After posting the syllabus, when reading, I started to consider, “Should I add this to the syllabus?   Why?”

Here’s a bit more of my thinking:

  • Is it true — in my lived experience?
  • How will it be useful to someone who is learning to manage people?
  • What experience lends credibility to the author?
  • (Do I have any qualifications, caveats or disclaimers?)

Truth  Human nature will out.  Once you’ve been managing people for 10,000 hours, you’ll see patterns in how you work with people:  there are a limited number of common management “use cases.”

So you won’t find anything on my syllabus about “Working with a Psychopath.”  Those articles abound.  It’s an unlikely problem, and one you shouldn’t borrow.

Usefulness  A good resource should be evergreen:  true 20 years ago, and likely to hold true in the future.

It’s got to be practical, tactical, and harmlessly generalize-able to situations that will be encountered by most emerging managers.

I also consider whether someone could use the resource in the absence of human intervention.  So, “How to fire someone” isn’t on my syllabus.

Big stories that illuminate an idea or a concept can also be useful.   The Devil Wears Prada (film) has some fantastic management lessons.

Credibility   I like resources from experienced leaders.  People with specific technical expertise, or a wealth of topical academic research.   I also follow a couple of journalists who cover leadership/management, writers who seem to just get it.

You won’t find much from people with less than 10 years of leadership experience.  Maybe some of the less experienced voices you see opining on the internet are #management visionaries.   Time will tell.  For now, I’m counting them as “learning in public.”

Qualification  A participant in my #Management Intensive shared a resource on conflict resolution.  Using case studies, the authors set forth a framework and suggest practical action.

One case study is pretty nuanced.   In my view, it’s better fodder for real life discussion with an experienced manager or HR exec, and not a jumping off point for an emerging manager.

It’s a wonderful book.  I’ve been wrestling with whether to include it — with this caveat.

The syllabus is a living document.   I’ll continue to refine my inclusion criteria.  Writing this blog post will send me back to take a harder look at the syllabus.

Because I’m learning in public, too.

Many thanks to Mike Useem and Ed Bernbaum, who taught me so much about learning and teaching from stories.   Gary Chou, on learning in public and whose syllabus gave me the idea to post my own.   Tressie McMillan Cottom, whose blog post How I Read “Between the World and Me” inspired me to think about how I was reading/recommending.

Subscribe to my monthly-ish email, Anne Libby On Management, here.

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