Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that knows that being a "boss" is a totally new game, 29 Sep 2010
This review is from: What to Do When You Become the Boss: How New Managers Become Successful Managers (Paperback)
There are thousands of books on management, many of which offer a simple formula for success as a manager. Yet two things remain true: (1) a significant proportion of employees do not think their manager is competent in leadership or interpersonal skills, and (2) most managers are still appointed for their technical or operational skills rather than their ability to manage other people.
There is no simple formula for being successful as a manager. Managing other people well involves insight, empathy and a measure of boldness. Managers need to make judgements about complex matters and strike the "right" balance between tasks, business goals and care for people. It is not a skill that is natural for most people; it has to be learned, and not in the same way that technical skills are learned.
Bob Selden's book, What to do when you become the boss, does not fall into the "simple formula" category. But, as its title might suggest, it offers a straightforward pathway to competence as a manager. It provides a solid treatment of the major aspects of the management role. It addresses cognitive skills (related to the tasks that managers carry out, such as setting standards and goals, selecting people, running meetings and appraising performance) and emotional skills (interpersonal skills such as establishing relationships, motivating and influencing), and underpins this with values (respect for others and integrity).
This is primarily a book for the practising manager who wants to learn the management craft, not an academic text. It has been written with a strong consideration of different learning styles, and this is made explicit at the outset. Whether you consider yourself to be an activist, a reflector, a theorist or a pragmatist, this book caters convincingly to your style.
The wealth of experience that sits behind this book is evident in many ways. For example, it gives due importance to context. Management is not an activity that can be carried out without an understanding of the organisational context - the business and people factors. Managers need to know that what works here may not work there, and they need to know why that is.
Topics are dealt with in discriminating fashion. The book takes a clear position on issues rather than giving weak praise to all humanistic approaches. For example, it observes that not all "teams" are really teams, and sometimes they don't need to be. The section on feedback takes a forthright approach rather than urging blandness through fear of giving offence.
What of the title? Isn't it politically incorrect to refer to "the boss"? Rather than endorsing the term, Selden seems to be suggesting that we haven't come very far in the last few decades, and the ideas in the book are what we need in order to move beyond the image of the autocrat who is devoid of interpersonal skills. The book is a valuable handbook for learning how to make this transition.
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