The Manager’s Answer Book: A book review by Bob Morris

The Manager’s Answer Book: Powerful Tools to Build Trust and Teams, Maximize Your Impact and Influence, and Respond to Challenges
Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem
Career Press (June 2018)

“So much of what we call management consists in making it more difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

I agree with Drucker’s observation: Too many executives diminish the efficiency and effectiveness of those whom they supervise, either with neglect or micromanagement. Here’s another Drucker observation that also applies to both leaders and managers: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

The most effective managers are results-riven and have developed a combination of  so-called “hard” and “soft” skills to earn the respect and trust of those with whom they are associated. Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem provide in their book an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help managers in any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — to accelerate their own personal growth and professional development while helping others to do so. Decision-making may be the most important of the hard skills whereas empathy is certainly among the most important soft skills.

The material is carefully organized and presented within seven sections. Mitchell and Gamlem devised asd make excellent use of a clever structure: they pose 15-22 questions in each of the first six section and seven in the last, then respond to each. Some of the most valuable material is provided in Section 3 and then in Section 6:

3, Building and Managing Your Team: “People management is an important part of your job. From hiring to firing and everything in between — such as onboarding employees, setting goals and expectations, providing feedback, rewards, recognition, and retention –this section covers these and other issues you need to know about being an effective leader of people.”

6, Avoiding Potential Land Mines: “It could be easy to get caught in situations that could backfire or explode — conflict and change and risk, oh my! Then there’s managing remote workers, telecommuters, and generations, as well as understanding external requirements, to name a few more.”

I urge those who read this book to highlight key passages and keep a lined notebook near at hand to record comments, questions, page references, and checklists (e.g. a “To Do” list of what to do and when to do it). I also think this book needs a final “Now what?” section or equivalent in which to suggest to their reader (a) how to determine which of the material is most relevant to the given circumstances (only the reader can make that determination but probably needs help doing so) and (b) how to enlist the support of others to set the right strategic objectives, formulate an action plan, and then assist with its implementation.

This book will be especially helpful to those now preparing for a career in business or have only recently embarked upon one as well as new managers who would be well-advised to spend 80% of their time observing and listening and only 20% speaking.

I also recommend this book to those who have direct-reports. Insofar as supervising others is concerned, there are no head-snapping revelations in this book but an abundance of invaluable reminders. Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem are to be commended for the scope and depth of their business acumen. Also, for their pragmatic approach to management.

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