Monday, April 28, 2008

What To Do When You Become The Boss - Bob Selden

Having been on both sides of the management/employee relationship and having to cope with some pretty awful bosses in my time, I was curious to see how Bob Selden’s book, What To Do When You Become The Boss: how new managers become successful managers, would tackle the subject. Would it be something I could relate to as a former manager and as a former employee? Would it be useful to me if I became a new manager, or a new employee?

The answer is a resounding “yes!” Selden uses decades of personal experience and research into management practices to very effectively guide readers – both new and experienced managers – along the path to success. This well thought-out, well organized book breaks down the varied responsibilities most managers have to face, not only when new but also over the course of their careers, into an easy-to-understand, easy-to-apply, comprehensive, and practical aid. Topics range from the more general, how to be an effective leader and manager, to the more specific, dealing with your employees, your co-workers (your own bosses and peers), and yourself. The one aspect of the book that I particularly appreciated was the author’s emphasis on the welfare and happiness of employees as complete people rather than treating them merely as obedient workers.

As a new manager, I was thrust into a position with virtually no management training. Like the author, I was able to rely upon the guidance and experience of subordinate co-workers to teach me the ropes and make my life easier. However, when it came to certain jobs, such as interviewing new employees, working on projects such as budgets or rewriting standard policies and procedures, or leading meetings, I was pretty much on my own. No one explained to me nor showed me techniques for how to get the most from my employees, how to schmooze with the higher ups or establish a supportive network of peers, or how to be an effective communicator. It was trial and error. Sometimes, I was successful, other times not. Had I had this book, or been trained by someone using the suggestions and wisdom shared in the book, I believe I would have been more effective, and happier with my jobs in the long-run. Had my managers been trained with the ideas in the book, I might have stayed in the jobs I quit because the bosses didn’t have a clue of how to deal with people, didn’t know how to positively motivate me, said one thing but did another, didn’t hold certain people accountable, or didn’t allow people to do their jobs without micromanaging. I have even been thinking of anonymously sending a copy to a former boss!

This is a great book with lots of practical advice, sample forms, “rules” to follow, and techniques to use. In fact, many of the suggestions also apply to daily life. For example, I was quite impressed with the section on time-management and the management of one’s email. Procrastination combined with opting to work on what the author calls “comfort tasks” can be anyone’s downfall, whether one is employed by a company or self-employed. One can only hope that most managers are interested enough in the quality of their management skills to take this book seriously and implement the plans and ideas discussed within. Bob Selden’s What to Do When You Become the Boss should be part of the orientation package given to every new manager, regardless of how high up the corporate ladder they are starting.
By Lise Hull
The Sunpiper Book Review