Author: Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1422163894, 284 pages

Even great managers face unprecedented challenges in an economic climate characterized by constant innovation, chaos and general unpredictability. Harvard professor of business administration Linda A. Hill and business writer Kent Lineback offer a lucid blend of cogent theory and practical strategies. They educate and inspire novice and experienced leaders who want to practice the fundamentals of good management. getAbstract recommends this deftly organized, clearly presented, practical guide primarily to new and middle managers but also to anyone who aspires to be a great boss.

Introduction to the “3 Imperatives”

Stepping into management or taking on greater leadership responsibility is a life-altering event that’s as transformative as becoming a parent. Whatever your level of experience, you might wonder if you have the mettle, courage and skills for the job. Becoming a good manager forces you to confront your beliefs about your work; your interactions with people; and the loyalty you have to your subordinates, your superiors and your company. The process takes years. No shortcuts can circumvent the hard work of learning how to gain and exert the influence you need to make other people “more productive as individuals and, especially, as a group.”

As you develop managerial skills, you will face “inherent paradoxes” that confound good management, such as being accountable for other people’s work or having to manage both the immediate present and the distant future. You will also need to cope with the dynamics of generational differences, cultural diversities and “ad hoc work groups.” Successful managers sow a “seed of progress” in each small interaction within a “fluid, hectic, fragmented and discontinuous” environment. They use the 3 Imperatives — “manage yourself, manage your network and manage your team”— to achieve the critical goal of influencing others.

“Completing your journey”

Turning into a great manager is an ongoing and long process that requires you to learn from your mistakes. On a scale of one to five, rank your current management ability in the 3 Imperatives:

Imperative One: Manage yourself

You must understand how to use authority, how to set boundaries with staffers while building caring but professional relationships, and how to build the trust that good management requires:

“I’m the boss!” Abandon the idea that your success depends on exerting “formal authority.” Your staff members want an authentic relationship with you, even though you are their boss. If you form such connections, you’ll enjoy higher levels of compliance, greater commitment to individual and group goals, and a sturdier willingness to participate in change. Hierarchical structures that place managers above their workers are not as effective as structures that place managers amid their staff as the “hub connecting all the pieces.” Wielding formal authority benefits both parties only when you earn the right to exercise it appropriately by meeting your obligations to your workers in return for their willingness to heed your leadership.

“I’m your friend!” At the other extreme, neophyte managers mistakenly try to be friends with their direct reports to gain their trust, respect and cooperation. Be forewarned: Forming close personal ties is a recipe for disaster, especially when you must discipline or terminate workers. Being your employees’ boss and being their friend should be mutually exclusive for several reasons: Friendship exists for its own sake, not as a means to an end; bosses and subordinates are not equals, while true friends are; bosses cannot befriend all their employees equally; and, of course, friends don’t make each other change their work practices, report on their progress or be accountable for their goals.

A healthy boss-subordinate relationship should be more amiable than antagonistic, with both parties appropriately concerned about each other’s lives but at some distance. Think about your rapport with teachers, coaches, lawyers and other professionals. You want to trust their expertise and unbiased advice, but an overly friendly connection could cloud your perspective… 

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