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Becoming a Better Boss: Why Good Management is so Difficult [Hardcover]

Julian Birkinshaw
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Sep 2013
An employee's-eye view of what makes a great boss—and how you can become one

Whereas most books on managing people approach the subject from the perspective of a manager of an idealised organisation, Becoming a Better Boss takes a real-world approach, looking at the topic from the perspective of an employee in a real-world organisation—dysfunctions, warts, and all. Focusing on the choices individual employees make every day in getting work done, this book reinvents the practice of management one employee at a time.

Author Julian Birkinshaw stresses the importance of taking management seriously, reveals where management practice often goes wrong, and dives deeply into the worldview of employees. He then explores the common personal biases and frailties of managers and discusses the vital importance of experimentation to overcome the limitations and idiosyncrasies of a particular organisation. Throughout, he supports his assertions with case studies from a wide and varying range of management experiments and situations at real companies.

  • Written by a leading authority on strategy, management, and innovation who is also the author of eleven books, including Reinventing Management
  • Introduces a new approach to management focused on real employees and actual situations
  • Includes case studies from real organisations
Between the stress of deadlines and the demands of today's business environment, it's easy for managers to lose sight of the importance of people management. Becoming a Better Boss not only shows managers how to lead effectively, but why doing so is vitally important to every organisation's success.

Frequently Bought Together

Becoming a Better Boss: Why Good Management is so Difficult + Managing to Manage: The Essential Guide to People Management + First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels
Price For All Three: 48.17

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1st edition (20 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118645464
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118645468
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.2 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Julian Birkinshaw is Professor and Chair of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School, and a Fellow of the British Academy.

He has PhD and MBA degrees in Business from the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, and a BSc (Hons) from the University of Durham.

Julian Birkinshaw's main area of expertise is in the strategy and organisation of large multinational corporations. He is the author of twelve books, including Becoming a Better Boss (2013), Reinventing Management (2010), Giant Steps in Management (2007), and Inventuring: Why Big Companies Must Think Small (2003).

Product Description


"Birkinshaw writes persuasively and with a disarming lack of pretension, sprinkling practical advice throughout. But the best aspect of this truly excellent book ... is that the author recognises most management studies ignore the reality of workplaces." (People Management, September 2013) "This thoughtful, nuanced book advises managers to see the world through the eyes of the employee.... The author has some powerful supporting witnesses." (Financial Times, September 2013) ‘Becoming a Better Boss is a very engaging and informative’ (IEDP, September 2013) “It’s a good read and discusses many of the familiar issues that crop up when trying to get human beings at work to do what you want.” (B2B Marketing, October 2013)

“Nobody else should write about – or pronounce upon – our management crisis without reading this first.” (Public Net, November 2013) “…a wake–up call to managers, reminding them of their most important asset – people – and how to engage with them” (Dialogue, December 2013) “Some books take till halfway to get to the ‘good stuff’; Julian Birkinshaw starts even before page 1. I suspect it will be considered a ‘classic’.” (Financial Advisor, April 2014)

From the Back Cover

There are hundreds of books on management. This is not just another book about what makes an effective manager. Becoming a Better Boss highlights why well–known advice on good management is so rarely heeded.  By focusing on management through the eyes of an employee, Julian Birkinshaw gives us insightful and helpful advice on what we might do differently – both as individual managers of others, and as architects of the organizations in which we work.  To achieve this, the author has spent time working “in the trenches” to remind himself what life as an employee feels like, as well as interviewed hundreds of employees and managers and undertaken surveys which have received responses in the thousands. The resulting book is a radical new look at what makes good management which is applicable to both manager and employee. It takes managers out of their comfort zone and shows how you can do things differently. It shows how the employee can help themselves be managed more effectively and explores the limitations and pathologies of the organizations we work for.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking 16 Dec 2013
By Michael Sutherland VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Becoming a better boss looks at why so many bosses today are ineffective. Examining the gap between knowing best practise and putting it to work, Birkinshaw's book looks what has historically held bosses back from working with their employees better - essentially, understanding how to manage from their perspective.

Birkinshaw looks at ways of doing this, how to overcome organisational inertia and cites examples of organisations which have done this effectively.

It's a thought-provoking, useful guide which certainly got me thinking and stimulated a number of thoughts about how to apply it in my job and where I could be a better boss. It also spends a chapter at the end looking at where the working world is going and why an employee-centric organisation is necessary now and in the future.

If I had one critique of the book, it would be that Birkinshaw may underestimate the power of inertia - he does mention it a few times, but unless all the bosses and organisations in the world read his book, the pace of change may well be slower than he hopes. However, this is very much predicting the future, so it's a minor critique if at all. Overall, very readable, very thought-provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and insightful 12 Dec 2013
By R. A. Mansfield VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's often difficult to approach management books without feeling that you'll have heard it all before.

But Julian Birkinshaw's book is different. He recognised that this is a problem and makes sure he goes above and beyond.

All his insights are backed up by both qualitative and quantitative data and his ideas are practical, rather than just being theoretical.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in improving their management AND leadership skills. Birkinshaw deliberately uses the word 'boss' to avoid people thinking it's only about one. Good read
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and enlightening 22 May 2014
By Mr. S. Sampayo VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I found this book an easy read and as a new manager, helpful. No book is going to change things overnight for you, but this one points you in the right direction and gives you something to work with. Worth a read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It has the potential to be very good! 17 April 2014
By Eleimon Gonis VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'll try to keep this short and sweet:

The author knows his field well enough to be professing on what works and what doesn't in management.
Equally, he takes a more bottom-up approach of management, its failures and its opportunities, instead of the more conventional top-down approach of other books.
The book is not just about managers as managers/people, but also about managers as agents of an organisation and as such they need to represent their interests.

Many could say that this is yet another book about management and becoming a better boss, but then again so are all the rest.
The writing style, although eloquent and free of jargon, is simple and does not strike as memorable.
As another reviewer has already pointed out, the author seems to underestimate inertia within organisations. I believe that it is a huge problem (but opportunity at the same time), which is not adequately covered.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful analysis and advice 31 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is not one of those books which gives you one message, and then repeats it throughout. It is a real original work, packed with new analysis and stories of how companies have put new ideas into practice.

It is not aimed solely at those running organisations but is packed with ideas and advice for managers within organisations. I loved the examples of how to sidestep the bureaucracy and implement ideas which give people more freedom and more capacity to implement change. My favourite is the story of how a manager at Roche experimented with getting rid of approval of expenses, and instead trusting people to self-evaluate their travel (while displaying their claims on the intranet). The result was not just a huge reduction in hassle, but the cost went down.

Julian Birkinshaw was rated one of the top 50 management thinkers in the world in the 2013 Thinkers50 list and this book shows the real original contribution he makes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A cut above average 25 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I don’t think there’s anything new in the book but the author’s strength is his ability to package the content effectively. The book is fluently written and easy to read. Ideas, concepts and theories are explained well. In several respects the content gets to the heart of what management is all about and highlights the need for self-knowledge as well as understanding of others. Whether this is as insightful as some reviewers claim is debateable. But there is no doubt that the book is a cut above average. Recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Common Sense Management 20 Feb 2014
By G. J. Oxley TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The market is filled with new-age management books that take a wider, often hippy-child look at management. These books impart NO USEFUL ADVICE!

This book speaks common sense and explains why handling all concerns of a business - the company AND its people - are so difficult - there's so many balls to keep in the air, while trying to hold onto your sanity!

Useful, down-to-earth advice.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read but also easy to forget. 20 Feb 2014
By Flickering Ember TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I enjoyed the ease with which I could dip in and out of this book, and its absence of jargon, It's a decent enough book, but it offers nothing new or groundbreaking so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it over any other similar books. Worth a read though.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing special
Some quite decent advice. Most of which is pretty obvious. This is a very short book. Which means that you don’t have to trawl through loads of waffle but also means that it is... Read more
Published 6 months ago by The Emperor
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it
I like how the author writes. It's an easy book to read, on an important subject, and he is both thoughtful and thought provoking.
Published 7 months ago by Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars Good managerial handbook
This is a pretty good book so far as management advice and techniques go- well written and with some genuinely thought-provoking observations and ideas. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Zipster Zeus
4.0 out of 5 stars A better boss makes a better world.
Being a good manager is one of the most difficult jobs there is. Some managers forget what its like not to be a manager. Or, perhaps, think it beneath them. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. M. A. Reed
4.0 out of 5 stars Not great, but a refreshing approach
With the plethora of management books out there on how to succeed at work, this book from London Business School professor Julian Birkinshaw takes a refreshingly different... Read more
Published 8 months ago by NeilC
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing approach, full of ideas and advise.
Becoming a better boss - why good management is so difficult

The book.

It is written by Julian Birkinshaw who comes with impeccable credentials. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. Richard The book boy
4.0 out of 5 stars Four star book
This book is described by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development as 'full of great case studies, models, and ideas about how to effectively manage and engage the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ms. C. R. Stillman-lowe
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