An extremely insightful book to what it means to become a manager, particularly for “new” managers (e.g. been in management positions for a year or two). I highly recommend this to anyone involved in “management”, particularly where you have to lead people.

The book deals with the transition, of a new manager, from an individual contributor/ specialist to being a manager. Though the research involved people in brokerage & IT industries, the problems & issues faced are the same — trust me, I know.
The value of this book, I feel, is not so much in revealing anything new (most managers would instinctively know what the issues are when working with a team). What it did for me was to give me assurance that the trials and tribulations that I’ve gone through (some of which are daily occurances) are normal. That told me that I AM NOT ALONE! — for management is a lonely business.

It also made me pay more attention to certain aspects of my job as a manager. This book took me sometime to finish (440 over pages) but a very readable book. Not overly academic.

Notes/ excerpts from the book (in bold) – Words in [ ] parenthesis are my own:

p3,6,8 – [In essence, there a very simple premise to being a manager. The Job Holder (i.e. subordinate) essentially does things with individual competencies while a Manager has to get things done through otherss. The manager’s work is therefore highly dependant on their job holders’ competencies. In many ways, it does reinforce the notion that effective managers focus much of their efforts in supporting and developing the capabilities of their job holders.]

p15/ 21/139 – [new mgrs “did not appreciate the distinction between being primarily responsible for people rather than the task” – This is significant. Hence the tendancy for managers is to micromanage (or at the other extreme, being too “hands-off”) at the expense of developing staff competencies.]

p140 – [Managers, being competent individually, suddenly find that they are at the mercy of the subordinate’s competency. Often, managers are also surprised that the subordinate is less skilled and motivated than they (the managers) were. The manager’s competency is somewhat reduced, which is definitely scary & therefore stressful. Which was why some managers don’t want to delegate because of the perceived further loss of power.]

P43 – [Learning how to be a manager was a formidable task. The managers in the study reported that they had to make sense of complex, often conflicting, and demanding expectations from both subordinates and their own bosses.]

p44 – “what it means to be a manager: in their own words” – [Table showing the different levels of expectations by different levels of people in the organisation. What was clear was that there was little overlap. E.g. New managers saw themselves as administrators but their subordinates expectation of the manager was to ensure the subordinate’s “personal agenda were fulfilled”. The manager’s bosses saw the new manager as a business person.]

p88 – [Managers were often “promoted for their technical competence, not their mgt or interpersonal skills. Getting things done through a significant number of other pple takes a diff order of skills from working w just two or three people”; – “learning to exercise formal authority & to create a productive, satisfied workforce” was another challenge]

p116 – [On accepting diversity (i.e. Live w the good & not-so-good staff) – “you have a whole range of pple who are very marginal or poor performers, who have no business being there, all the way up to pple who can operate on their own.” – This really sounded familar to me!]

Chapter 5 – [The inexperienced subordinate wants guidance; experienced ones want cooperation]

p133 – [On managing the problem subordinate – most new managers deem this as most stressful. It’s very true. I’d say experienced managers also see this as a problem.]

p134 – [On non-performing subordinates – the most difficult situation was when the subordinate lacks ability or motivation. Or sometimes, the manager was the problem, as in having much too high expectations on their subordinates]

p. 167 – [Prime qualities the managers saw as part of managerial character:

  • Self confidence;
  • Willingness to accept responsibility;
  • Patience;
  • Empathy;
  • Ability to live with imperfect solutions

Most said such factors of temperament were critical in making the transition successfully.]

p.178 – Acquiring managerial competence meant sacrificing some of their technical competence. As managers learnt to delegate, their technical knowledge and ability grew obsolete [Which meant managers must upgrade skills and knowledge like everyone else]

p. 181 – managers had to learn that their subordinates were not all as motivated or competent as they themselves had been. Thus a major managerial responsibility was dealing with the problem employee.

Chpt 8 – “Critical resources for the First Year” – [Something HR peopel should note to get ideas or insights regarding the support structures for managers. E.g. peer networks were more critical than formal ones, e.g. between Job Holder and Reporting Officer.]

p 227 – Becoming a manager is both an intellectual and emotional exercise.

p229 – Becoming a manager required a profound psychological adjustment – a transformation. To make the psychological adjustment, they had to address four tasks:

  1. Learning what it means to be a manager;
  2. Developing interpersonal judgement;
  3. Gaining self-knowledge;
  4. Coping with stress and emotion.

Becoming a manager was largely a process of learning from experience. New managers could only grasp their new role and identity through action, not contemplation. The transformation was iterative, slow, difficult, both intellectually and emotionally.

p231 – The process of developing a manager is a paradoxical proposition. Those responsible for it cannot tell new managers what they need to know, even if they know what to tell them. And the (new) managers cannot understand what they have to say [until they have experienced it, which by then might not be as insightful – reminds me of this joke that says experience is something that you have when it’s too late]

Chapter 9 – [Suggests ways to ease the transformation. Includes the content of mgt training, pedagogy.]

p 237 – “Is Management Really for Me?”

p. 238 – Criteria for selecting managers:

  • Technical,
  • Human,
  • Conceptual,
  • Analytical competence,
  • (Those who) find managerial work intrinsically rewarding,
  • (Those who) exhibit the managerial character
  • Display self-insight,
  • Penchant for learning,
  • Learning from experience,
  • Introspective and show resilience under stress.

p. 239 – How to select managers

p. 241 – Many companies found that motivation is the most common mistake for managerial failure. Have they sought or initiated tasks that were managerial? Do they seem to enjoy thinking about and working on people problems?

p244 – [Should also develop the new manager’s superiors. Equip senior management to be better coaches.]

p283 – chapter 11: Building an effective team

p309 – [offers a sort of checklist, questions that a person can ask themself to assess their own suitability to be a manager.]

p325 – Mangement development should be viewed as ‘Development of the fittest’ rather than ‘selection of the fittest’. It means encouraging self-directed learning, sponsoring stretch-assignments

Chpt 12 – [In developing a person, do you give an important task to someone who needs to develop these skills, or to one who already can do it (and thus assuring greater chances of success?) ]

p328 – it is not about throwing them into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim; it is about matching the indiv dev needs and capacities to a well-sequenced set of specific, meaningful opportunities. These allow performers to acquire expertise while also establish relationships with people who can help them make the most of those relationships.

p337 – Appendix: [Research design and methods. Explains her research strategy and methods, background. The research strategy can be desribed as “evoluntionary, qualitative, descriptive, and inductive.” Includes a cover letter, the interview agenda, detailed explanation of how she went about observing, following them around.]

Becoming a manager: How new managers master the challenges of leadership/ Linda A. Hill
Call No.: 658.409 HIL -[BIZ] (Business section)