Needed: crash course in management
September 25, 2020 7:03 PM   Subscribe

In a quite short amount of time I'm going to be expected to hire and manage humans in an office context. This is not a thing I've ever done, expected to do, or wanted to do. What are some resources I could use to get very quickly up to speed on How To Hire and Manage?

I have been a longtime reader of Ask a Manager but honestly, I need something way more basic than that. Like I will certainly eventually need scripts for tricky one-off situations but I need something to teach me, like...what is a good employee, even? What do I do on the direct report's first day? How do you assign work to a person? How do you,

I've spent my entire career holed up in a room looking at words and sentences and never speaking to anyone if I can possibly help it. So I'm really starting from absolute zero on this, and it seems safe to assume that I will be given no guidance or training by my own manager. I've never held a management role in any respect and completely loathe the prospect with every fiber of my being. I will be finding a new job as soon as is humanly possible, but in the meantime, I'd really rather not ruin some recent graduate's brand-new career by being fully incompetent.

posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Work & Money (10 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Alison Green's Managing to Change the World actually isn't a terrible place to start and if you like her voice already it's well worth a read.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:17 PM on September 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

You might be happier if you substitute the word "manage" with "teach," "mentor," "inspire," or even the scarier "lead." What will your team be doing? Is there anything good in that work (for you, your employees, other people, the world? Try to hire people who are good humans and who want in some way to participate in the work, who show some evidence of being capable and who are diverse, not all the same. Then, teach/mentor/inspire them to do the work. Find out what their goals and dreams are and connect the work to their goals and dreams however you can. Advocate for your team to the higher ups. Remember birthdays and kids' names. Celebrate achievements, nominate people for awards. If the work is terrible, try to find ways to make it suck less. Don't say racist, sexist, or sexy things even as a joke.
posted by shadygrove at 8:09 PM on September 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

In agreement with shadygrove above.

Nonviolent Communication, the book, as well as a course in the same help a lot in being careful with communication. Helping you slow down and work with emotions without getting overwhelmed by them.

Asking more questions then giving answers helps.

Learning Kanban is a lightweight way to keep track of team tasks. Have a full team check in once a week to look at tasks together and discover where people are stick and can be helped

Start a manual (or SOP). You can start with a Google Doc and every time you find you have a procedure that needs to be done more than once, write up how to do it with links and pictures. Eventually you'll see that a bunch of the things in the doc are things new people need to learn. So you'll show that to them.

Ask for your team's advice. Your job is to help them, not control them, not be right all the time.
posted by jander03 at 9:09 PM on September 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For the mechanics of how to manage people One Minute Manager is a good introduction. For interpersonal stuff Radical Candor is good.

If you need someone to talk to feel free to send me a dm: I've been a manager and/or coach for 20 odd years and I'm happy to share anything helpful.
posted by mikek at 9:10 PM on September 25, 2020

Honestly like half the job is boring and practical. For example, hiring: in a medium-size organization, maybe you write a job description, decide or discuss the compensation range, figure out how and where to post the job, nudge when it hasn't been posted yet, read resumes, schedule interviews (HR may help) ideally getting others involved for a wider perspective (HR needs to know who to schedule), gather consensus among interviewers, schedule more interviews and try again, discuss how to get the job posting more attention, repeat the last few steps for weeks if not months, make a decision, make a soft offer before a formal letter to work out the salary and start date, arrange for the letter, nudge when no one is generating the letter, etc., etc.

Much the same goes for interviewing: I mean, there's plenty of useful stuff to read on this, but if you haven't been a first interviewer before, there's also plenty of routine and practical icebreaker stuff, like you have to step the candidate through what your organization does, what the job entails, etc., encouraging questions along the way. Onboarding a new hire is full of similar stuff: if in an office where will they sit, does IT know they're coming and when to have equipment ready, what kind of tour/virtual tour will you give them, is there some material they can read on day 1 to get up to speed, can you explain their first 90-day deliverables in a way they'll understand by day 2, and so on.

So to a large extent I wouldn't build this up as more than it is. You just want to find some well-motivated people and help them do their thing in a way that makes both them and your organization happy. The bigger picture is more complicated, but aiming to be practical, helpful, receptive to input, even a bit boring, but also similar to some better manager(s) you've had covers most of that too. You have gobs of time to figure out how you might very gradually--if you stick with this--mix and match ideals like this, this, or this in a way that works for your team. For your own day 1, the role is way, way more mundane.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:16 PM on September 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

When I first was promoted into management, my boss gave me Managing For Dummies. It covers a lot of ground, and while it's not going to do everything, it was a good place for me to start.

There appear to be PDFs available online, although I'm not sure if there are supposed to be :-)
posted by Gorgik at 10:55 PM on September 25, 2020

Response by poster: You might be happier if you substitute the word "manage" with "teach," "mentor," "inspire," or even the scarier "lead."

Lord no, if anything you've made it worse! The absolute last thing I should ever be doing is teaching or leading anyone. I'm in full-scale burnout and actively loathe the company, my colleagues, and the work we do. I just need to survive until the pandemic winds down somewhat and I can find a new gig.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:06 PM on September 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Considering your addendum - you could simply do the best you can for the people who report to you. Forget the "manage" and "lead" and "inspire" (not to put too fine a point on it) bullshit, and just show them the ropes and practice being a good listener. In general people want to do an okay job, so just help them do that. The ones that don't, well, they will let you know soon enough one way or another, and in those cases there are no hard and fast rules either. Try to have some kind of fun ... if it's all shit anyway, why not fun shit, hurrah?
posted by labberdasher at 11:52 PM on September 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For is a cringily-titled but really good book for new managers.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:59 AM on September 26, 2020

Best answer: I sort of think you should back away from Management Theory, which you seem to have a lot of anxieties and feelings about, and just go at this from a principle of First Do No Harm. Since this is a temporary position for you, and you don't need to impress those above you or keep climbing your way up the ladder, you don't actually need to be the greatest manager of all time, right? You just need to be good enough. So, I think, a lot of the work aiming at people who want to be in management as a career won't be useful - and might be actively stressful - for you.

My guess is that if you take a step back, and regard this dispassionately, you have all the information you need to get started. A good employee is one that has the credentials and experience to do the work required, and also has enough people skills that having them in the office won't make everyone else miserable. On the first day, you need to explain to the direct report what their job is, and how to do it, and make sure they know how to get around the office without getting lost. When it comes to systems for distributing tasks, if there's one already in use, you should learn it; if there isn't, you can institute one yourself...but maybe you should just try using your common sense and a piece of paper for a few weeks, until you know how things work, before trying to get everyone to adopt an elaborate system that you yourself don't yet know how to use.

Your current manager sounds absolutely awful - what could possibly be worse, in a manager, than your employees thinking they can't ask you for help with how to do their jobs - so a good rule of thumb is to not be like her! Don't terrify people, or yell at them, or blame them for your shortcomings, or trample all over their work/life boundaries, and you'll be doing better than 95% of the managers I hear about.

If I were going to recommend you one book to read, it'd be David Graeber's "Bullshit Jobs" - I'm self-employed now, but when I read it, I looked back on all the work stress I'd felt in my life, and was like...why was I so worried about all of this? Most jobs are largely bullshit. Be decent to people, be honest about what you know and what you don't, be as clear as you can about what you expect, and try to keep your negative feelings about your job from negatively affecting them, and I think you will do great.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 10:58 AM on September 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

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