A leader is a dealer in hope.
April 29, 2009 9:58 AM   Subscribe

I need your all-time best snippets / excerpts / misc. bits-of-wisdom regarding leadership and management (of people, specifically).

OK, so I walk into the business section of my local bookstore and the titles on leadership/management technique are seemingly endless, and half or more of them seem to be the bestsellers.

Sift through the dross for me - what's the best advice / guidance / wisdom / et. al. you ever got - be it from a book or an alternative source. Book recommendations are fine but I'd like to understand why you are recommending it - what in it worked for you in real life? Give me some of the bait to get me hooked.

What tips and tricks helped you grow as a people leader, how did you execute them, and what happened?
posted by allkindsoftime to Human Relations (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Let the people do their jobs. The chances that you are better at their jobs than they are are very slim.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:05 AM on April 29, 2009

"It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead."
- Robert Greenleaf, on the foundations of servant-leadership.

See: http://www.greenleaf.org/. Also see Men's Wearhouse and Southwest Airlines for examples of major companies putting the SL principles into action.
posted by Roach at 10:06 AM on April 29, 2009

Not a book, but one of the most memorable, and useful, lessons I got out of a management training class, was the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand demonstration.
posted by nomisxid at 10:53 AM on April 29, 2009

Alter/match your management and leadership style to each person in order to gain the most from them. Someone who is a straight-shooter wants to be communicated the same way, whereas a sensitive soul needs more pats on the back. This is the single best piece of advice I have ever received from a mentor and it works.
posted by cyniczny at 10:54 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Executive EQ blew me away. It's about being open and honest with employees, and connecting with them (as others have pointed out, critical for success as a manager).

It's also just a good book about how to be sensitive and connect with others in general, even if they aren't your employees.

The book contains a lot of anecdotes about connections and looking past the surface, which are things that most would agree are important, but are hard for managers to put into practice. Reading it, examples, and the explanations about why things work is what made this book one of the more impactful and useful things I've come across as a manager.
posted by Gorgik at 11:51 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Vision without execution is hallucination.
posted by ambient2 at 12:24 PM on April 29, 2009

Praise in public, criticism in private.
posted by WPW at 12:35 PM on April 29, 2009

Loyalty is a two-way street.
posted by x46 at 1:01 PM on April 29, 2009

This may seem weird, but I use a fair few Positve Parenting techniques - tell people what they need to do, not what they shouldn't be doing (simple example - "Remember -submit that by Thursday" rather than "Don't forget your deadline!"), set achievable targets, direct the energies of misbehaviour towards more productive ends. It may seem almost patronising (and I'd be horrified to admit to my staff that's where I picked up my techniques), but adults respond to direct communication and validation just as much as kids do.

I'd also second public praise, private criticism. Keep perspective in hard times by emphasising things that are going right before trying to fix things that are going wrong.

I'm only managing a small group of people, so YMMV.
posted by Jilder at 1:23 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and don't ask your staff to do anything you would not be willing to do yourself (working weekends, skipping lunch, taking on extra workload).
posted by Jilder at 1:24 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The best government is that which governs least. -- Thomas Jefferson.

Modern translation: Don't micromanage. Trust.
posted by scratch at 1:45 PM on April 29, 2009

this might be something interesting for you to listen to about leadership and management, very apropos of the crisis of late:
"Something happened to management culture decades ago and now being a Master of Business Administration, especially from Harvard, is rather on the nose. MBA, it's being said, can also stand for 'Mediocre but Arrogant', or 'Management by Accident'. Reporter, Stephen Crittenden."
posted by talljamal at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2009

The One Minute Manager is pretty good. Basically it tells you to praise & reward employees immediately for anything good they do and give them a little slack to learn on their own if they mess up.

My experience as a manager has taught me:
Be organized
Communicate goals clearly in concise speech or writing
Praise more than you criticize
Don't be afraid to be harsh if someone's deliberately/lazily underperforming
Stay out of the way
Praise the hell out of people's successes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:45 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Management is always the problem" -- literally written on the wall as part of a mission statement.
posted by mdiskin at 5:42 PM on April 29, 2009

Work with them as partners. Trust in the fact that the jobs will get done. You get a lot more mileage from someone giving you what you ask for then giving you what you demand.
posted by ptm at 5:42 AM on April 30, 2009

Use the seven-to-one rule. Seven instances of positive feedback to each criticism, it really does work. Always, always tell people how much you appreciate what they're doing, and BE SINCERE about it. To build a successful team, you must have all members on your side. I think a quarterback/sports analogy works very well, just don't cross over that line into just being a cheerleader. The ability to roll up your sleeves and pitch in to HELP DO THE WORK is very valuable in getting other workers to follow you. Clear communication is always the key. Don't leave anything unsaid, make sure that everyone understands exactly what you expect, and repeat-repeat-repeat the positive. Remind workers of past successes, make sure they know you believe in their ability to get the job done. In negative situations, follow your heart and head. You don't have to be unpleasant, just truthful and straightforward. If a team member disappoints you, let them know. Again, clearly and concisely, in private. The biggest challenge for me personally was giving them the opportunity to grow by piling on the responsibility. They can't learn unless they are challenged, and they learn by occasional failures, just like you did.
posted by raisingsand at 6:10 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've really benefitted from Patrick Lencioni's The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Its written in a narrative form which is interesting as he not only tells you the concepts, but you see them play out in his story. Basically, he breaks down the things that prevent teams from being productive, and shows how each "dysfunction" leads to the next.

I believe it goes something like:

Lack of Trust -> Lack of Participation -> Lack of "Buy in" -> Lack of Accoutability -> Lack of Results

Its a good read, and I believe it really does speak to critical issues that most teams face.
posted by jpdoane at 1:49 PM on May 5, 2009

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