Recommended Reading for Kicking Ass at Work?
December 12, 2016 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books or blogs to read before I start a senior CS / sub-team supervisor job in January. Things about organization, interpersonal relationships, de-escalating situations and longer term planning then I have a test Tuesday

Basic specs, small ~30 person insurance-y claims involving replacing broken items across 8 time zones, and angry people. Evening shift. Every 11 weeks is a 4 day on call pager for over night panic escalations and half days requiring you to be somewhere with wifi or data.

I've been advised I am responsible for tracking tons of long term on-going projects as well and interacting with other teams. I have never had any work projects longer then a few days, some of these have gone into years. Management noted there is a tracking ticket system but everyone is allowed to use whatever.

As well I'm worried about moving from 200+ employees to a small team with a single man. I've heard a lot of office politics nightmares and most of these people have been here for 5+ years and may not respect me coming in.

So, besides Ask a Manger, what recommendations do you have to hit the ground running?
posted by Liger to Work & Money (9 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
For books, Crucial Confrontations might be a good one. It looks like there's another one that might fit your situation even better called Crucial Accountability, but I haven't read that one personally to vouch for it. But Crucial Confrontations is good for handling situations where people break promises, lie, or otherwise don't meet expectations.
posted by Caravantea at 6:30 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Getting Things Done by David Allen. I cannot overstate how good it is.
posted by teatime at 6:47 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am pretty sure that Crucial Accountability is the 2nd edition of Crucial Confrontations. Accountability probably sells better than Confrontation :). I echo @Caravantea -- it is good stuff.

You also might want to check out the Manager Tools Podcast.
posted by elmay at 7:54 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Read the Ask A Manager blog - convenient archives by topic and an active community of helpful commenters. Open thread for advice on work issues is posted every Friday. And buy the author's book for managers. Perfect intro guide.
posted by cessair at 7:58 PM on December 12, 2016

Seconding Getting Things Done. Making It All Work, a sort of companion book also by Allen, may be useful too. The books pitch a whole "system" of task management (which I do employ myself), but even if you don't want to deal with the whole thing, there are still useful tips and tools you can pick up and implement on their own.

I'm in the middle of Works Well With Others by Ross McCammon, and it's enjoyable so far. Entertaining and thoughtful.

If podcasts are helpful a good friend of mine started one earlier this year called How To Be Awesome At Your Job, aimed specifically at young professionals. I've been impressed with the caliber of guests he's gotten already, including the aforementioned David Allen, and taken some useful advice away from it even though I'm a bit aged out of the target audience.
posted by brentajones at 8:35 PM on December 12, 2016

Your biggest new challenge is going to be to set slightly-aggressive but achievable short-term milestones for longer projects (and then others, and then others) and keep those irons in the fire. Even - especially! - when it seems like the due date is plenty of time away. And investigate why they aren't being met. People will have legitimate-seeming reasons. You must help them remove those obstacles and hold them accountable for the thing they were supposed to do. Little milestone slippages accumulate to result in a disaster at the end. This is the not-fun part of the job. Use GTD strictly at first to not forget all the things.

Chances are you will have to manage limited resources to prioritize more important work and work due soon, but not completely starve projects that are due later. Or maybe sometimes series is better than parallel ops. This is a black art that no "system" can fully explain. Someone will be unhappy no matter how you choose, and they will tell you.

The supervisor doesn't have to know more. It's ok to ask someone who works for you, "what do you think we should do?" It's even ok to mostly follow the advice you get unless you think it's horrible. But don't let it turn into a democracy.

Don't worry, if it were easy it wouldn't be so satisfying when you (mostly) win. Don't get discouraged and give up before you get those first couple of addictive successes. They make the rest worth it.
posted by ctmf at 8:44 PM on December 12, 2016

I agree with Crucial Accountability - there is a whole series, but that one, Crucial Conversations, and Influencer were my favorite. I also recommend The First 90 Days and How to Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For (terrible title but a great perspective for a new leader). Some kind of project management book might be a good idea as well - GTD is good for personal tasks but I don't find that it translates well to group projects. I'm about to start Interactive Project Management which was recommended to me by a Pm I respect a lot.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:32 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I read Surviving Dreaded Conversations not long ago and thought it was really good. I've also heard that Reinventing Organizations is supposed to be really interesting, but I haven't read it, so I can't vouch for it personally.
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:01 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hear the Support Driven community, about providing customer support and running support teams, is really helpful -- probably a good idea to join their online community and check out their resources.

On understanding and changing organizational processes: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Switch has a lot of good ideas and case studies about how to change institutions, companies, families, and yourself. I predict this will be helpful as you're trying to standardize on a ticket system.

On understanding and accepting your own power as boss: Lauren Bacon's blog post "The Accidental Boss: Making Peace with Power".

On persuading your colleagues to change: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton. When we are in authority, we want to respectfully and calmly negotiate with and teach others. This book helped me see how to do that, with principles and practical examples.

This is a bit of an oddball, but consider taking a look at Florence Nightingale's On Nursing. Nightingale focuses on executive energy, attention, and putting the proper processes into place such that patients (employees) have the resources and quiet they need to get better (do their work). Once you get to a certain administrative level, instead of solving problems ad hoc you have to think strategically and scale up. As she puts it, a manager's question is, "How can I provide for this right thing to be always done?"

Others' suggestions sound good too. Best wishes.
posted by brainwane at 5:14 AM on December 16, 2016

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