Book Summary: Managing (Right) For The First Time

What occurs if we don't master the art of management?

Typically, the outcomes are grumpy bosses, angry staff, and mediocre business outcomes. After all, we're people, and management is fundamentally a human activity.

So, how do we go about being effective managers?

In his book Managing Right for the First Time, David C. Baker says that excellent management stems mostly from who you are as a person and the encounters you've had being managed.

There's a better chance you'll be a competent manager if you've made the appropriate decisions as you've responded to the situations you've faced. Baker goes on to provide us with critical pointers on how to build on this basis to become skilled, calling it a "handbook for doing it well."

Lesson 1: Starting Out

Two runners starting out in a race at the starting line.

As a result of a promotion, many of us find ourselves in a managerial position. The first thing we'll notice is how divisive our climb will be.

Our fans will be energized, and they will adore us more than before. Our critics, on the other hand, will have a different narrative to tell. They'll be even more adamant in their opposition to us, though they'll most likely keep it hidden.

How can you persuade these people to change their minds? Baker cautions us against overreacting.

  • First and foremost, we must accept that we have critics.
  • Second, we should avoid doing acts that empower our critics. There is no fire if there is no fuel.
  • Third, we should neither demean nor offend adversaries by utilizing our newfound influence.
  • Finally, we must focus on doing the right thing. After all, we're here to manage, and that should be our primary emphasis.

Baker recommends that we keep a journal of our first impressions, starting from the first day. These can be used as a guide and even to assist future managers we may appoint.

People are searching for two things, according to Baker, when we become managers.

They want us to be ourselves, not some idealized vision of who we think "we" should be.

They want to see how self-assured we are. They don't expect us to be perfect all of the time, but they also don't want us to pause before making a decision.

They want us to work together. Not overly collaborative in the sense that everyone has equal clout, but cooperative in the sense that the folks in the trenches typically know what they're talking about and are thus actually worth listening to.

They want us to map a course for the department with just enough information to see the broad contours of a goal. But not so much that it appears that we require their approval of every single detail.

Finally, they want us to feel hopeful. Optimistic people are taking on the issues head-on and excitedly going forward.

Lesson 2: Early Discoveries

A investigator finding diamonds in the stash of stones, just as when someone becomes a manager for the first time.

One of the first findings we'll make, according to Baker, is that some of our earlier feedback as employees (not managers) was unjust whining. We expressed our opinions regarding management choices, as do all employees, without having all the facts. We failed to extend to our managers the same level of trust that we now demand.

Good managers will always be misunderstood, but it does not give them permission to tolerate it. If most of the employees "misunderstand" us, it's a dead giveaway that we're the issue, not them.

Baker predicts that the second early discovery we'll make is that managing may be lonely. Baker says we'll be doing a variety of activities to feel lonely.

The first step is to choose, the second is to assess the consequences of those decisions, and the third is to be honest and self-aware enough to confess your loneliness. So loneliness is actually a positive indicator - we should be doing all three of these activities.

The third early insight is that "doing," and "managing" something have nothing in common. Some of the world's most successful businesses are led by people who don't know how to execute their jobs.

They recruit well, teach well, and lead well, resulting in an expert manager in charge of a group of highly valued specialists.

The fourth early realization we'll make is that the stresses we've been under are insignificant. Pressure will now come from many directions, and we'll have to learn to balance all of these opposing demands.

The increased assumption that we are ultimately accountable for things being done correctly will put pressure on us. Pressure will come from people we're in charge of, each with their own agenda regarding their hours, compensation, responsibilities, workspace, perks, training, clients, and so on.

Lesson 3: 5 Areas of Management Focus

A manager analysing the financial performance of her department.

Baker divides management's basics into five categories.

No 1: Minding the Financial Performance

As a captain or manager, your first job is to steer the ship. That entails keeping accurate records of your company's or department's financial performance against industry benchmarks, forecasting, and making sound financial decisions.

No 2: Hiring/Molding Key Staff

Finding the appropriate personnel is actually more challenging than finding the right clients. Of course, when we make a mistake with workers, the stakes are higher than when we make a mistake with clients. Then it's up to us to discover and nurture the finest.

No 3: Positioning/Closing Opportunity

We must ensure that our business or department has a very clear and distinct market positioning based on deep knowledge that sets us apart from practically other firms or departments.

No 4: Strategizing for Clients

According to Baker, the greatest approach to be active with clients without being their daily go-to person is to bounce in and out of the relationship as we help them construct the strategic element of their product or service marketing plan.

No 5: Implementing for Clients

Baker claims that if we manage the first four priorities properly, there's almost no way we'll have time for client implementation work. However, if we do, he predicts that we'll be doing the same things that brought us into the field in the first place. He does warn us, though, that we should only dip our toes in those waters if we're doing a fantastic job with the first four criteria.

Lesson 4: Being a Leader Staff Want to Follow

A leader helping his staff to climb up the high mountain– which shows the qualities of being a good leader.

What steps can we take to become a leader that others desire to follow? Baker provides us a list of qualities that characterize a leader's attributes, not in any particular order, and any one of which might impair their effectiveness if lacking in any substantial proportion.

APPROACHABLE. A leader, who is essentially the optimum form of management, is approachable, even while delivering unpleasant news. The desire to listen first before reacting is at the foundation of approachability.

ARTICULATE. A leader doesn't have to be a master communicator or have a PhD to be effective. They must be able to communicate what they are thinking and feeling in English.

AUTHENTIC. A leader must appear to be the same person on the outside as they are inside. Employees can smell a rat, and that rat is frequently a leader who dresses up for work and pretends to be someone they aren't.

COMMUNICATIVE. Leaders are not only capable of articulating their vision, but they also do so.

COMPETENT AT A BASIC LEVEL. You should be confident enough to understand the problems and evaluate talent.

CONFIDENT. There must be a balance here: enough confidence to encourage those who follow a leader, but not so much confidence that they become misleading.

CURIOUS is closely related to being insightful and observant. The leader has a conviction, but they are always evaluating it against fresh knowledge in various scenarios to improve their learning and, as a result, their convictions.

DECISION MAKER. To be a successful leader, we must be willing to take risks. We must oppose momentum and make decisions about direction and speed amid confusion and ambiguity.

DIRECT. Being direct stems from a desire to truly communicate in a way that includes only the required information, with no extraneous information or clutter.

DISCIPLINED. Leaders have a strong sense of self-control. That is, they complete tasks, follow through on their promises, plan ahead, and execute.

FAIR. A leader's fairness is more likely to be shown when alone with another person and discussing a third party who isn't there.

HONEST. The last thing you need is a leader who says various things to different individuals, either out of fear of disagreement or in an attempt to consolidate control.

HOPEFUL. Even though they know all the details about the situation, great leaders are optimistic.

Lesson 5: Managers Recognize Their Weaknesses

A male manager understand and applies work-life balance in his life, which is a trait that can increase productivity.

Great managers, according to Baker, are aware of their flaws and obstacles.

Managers are willing to work with a minority group. Regardless of how you define the group, it is frequently incorrect. The seeming safety in numbers is illusory. This means that a leader will often look away from the majority of persons they lead and be content with minority status.

Managers are forgiving when it comes to major personal failures. Their own failings continue to plague them, keeping them humble and forgiving.

Managers are critical thinkers and pattern observers. They perceive the options and outcomes in a way that few others do, thus choosing the best course of action.

Managers have a tendency to be predictable. The ability of those they lead to predicting how a leader would think and act.

Managers have a certain goal in mind. They have a strategy, can express it, and then ensure that the seemingly random actions of a typical day contribute to the plan's implementation.

Managers are conscious of themselves. Self-awareness is a quality of good leaders. They are aware of their own inclinations as well as the impact of their actions on others.

Outside work provides the most excitement for managers. You want a leader with a more balanced life, one who understands the importance of work and life outside of work. Work/life balance is better for a leader who has an exciting life outside of work.

Managers are future-oriented. A vision of the future is necessary for a leader. Individual initiatives will be less likely to be purpose-driven if there is no vision of the future.

Lesson 6: Managing Crises

A male manager going into full control mode as a crises is happening. A quality which he should not portray.

According to Baker, the first incorrect reaction to problems we'll face is to go into high-control mode and try to clean up the messiness of the management environment.

This need to maintain control is our ostensible cure to feeling out of control. We believe that people aren't listening to us or following our instructions, so we tighten the screws, even more trying to force compliance.

The second mistake we'll make in response to problems is to return to the trade or technical competence from which we were elevated.

The urge to relieve some of the anxiety from the less comfortable locations drives this inclination to escape to a more comfortable area. However, sheltering behind a safe haven will not fix the problem.

It just serves to postpone the inevitable, making it much more difficult to confront when the time comes.

Making friends with employees is the third incorrect response to the issues we will face. That may sound strange to say, yet actual management responsibilities place us in difficult circumstances. When we deal with them, we have the potential to irritate folks who are only performing their jobs.

The difficulty with befriending workers is that we can't do it equally, so some people are left out. These "outsiders" believe they have been slighted and abused.

The fourth incorrect approach to the problems we will face is to "pull" on others for the sake of loyalty. Any allegiance we build will be fake, and in the course of doing so, we'll polarize the people who report to us.

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