As readers of my blog, you know that I like to meet intriguing people, and I share some of those meetings with you on these pages. I met author David C. Baker first through reading his book, Managing Right For the First Time: A Field Guide For Doing It Well. I liked his book because it was focused on providing managers with tangible tools/knowledge they needed to be successful. I could also see this as a tool a mentor could use in helping a manager learn and grow in their role.
A little about David (although a full bio can be found on his website) – He was born in Michigan, but lived in San Miguel Acatan, Guatemala with a tribe of Mayan indians until he was 18, after which he moved to the United States. He went on to earn advanced degrees in ancient languages and theology. He has consulted with more than 650 firms, and has written three books, including Managing (Right) for the First Time and Financial Management of a Marketing Firm. His work has been discussed in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fast Company, Inc., Forbes, CBS Business Network, MarketingProfs, and BusinessWeek. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Julie. David plays racquetball, rides fast motorcycles, loves photography, and enjoys aviation (as a helicopter and airplane pilot).
It is a worthwhile read and a great addition to any leader’s toolbox, which is why I interviewed David. My only advice is that this book is best read in a group of two or three so the peer/mentor support can be used to help apply the things that you will learn about management and leadership. As I was preparing for the interview, Inc Magazine recognized David/his book as a 2011 Best Book for Entrepreneurs. Now I cannot say I found him first. 🙂
Book Giveaway: In addition to the interview, I am giving away five (5) copies of his book. (Information below on how to qualify)
Here is my interview with David . . .
You have worked for a long time helping people become better leaders and managers. What moved you to write this book?
I was speaking at a conference in Atlanta to 700 new managers, and I began to ask them what they were struggling with, thinking I might adjust my presentation to address those particular needs. Then at the end of the presentation I said, “You know, this seems like such a big issue with so many common themes, that I ought to write a book about it.” I then gave them my email address and asked them to submit their struggles. I received about 150 emails.
Since your book was published in 2010, what are some ways you have seen it used by individuals and organizations?
It’s been a little surprising, because the primary audience was intended to be the person who was managing others for the first time. But from what I can tell, it’s had more impact on existing managers who would like some guidance on how to do it well.
What is the biggest mistake you see new managers make? What is your message to them?
The biggest mistake by far is to misunderstand the fact that a promotion means that you “do” less and “manage” more. Someone who is not so much promoted but “sentenced” to management hides in the “doing” and ignores the managing. That’s the fatal mistake. What makes it particularly sad is that very few people complain about bad management—what they complain about is no management.
What is an emerging trend you see around the role of managers in the last 5 years?
One would be learning how to manage remote teams, either permanently living/working somewhere else or just working from home from time to time. Another would be the flexibility that employees value in their jobs, to attend a soccer game or a doctor’s appointment. Finally, I think the culture in an organization is far more important than it used to be, especially as benefits are stripped away, pay increases are curtailed, and the workloads have increased.
You mention parenting being a part of your experience as a manager. What is a personal example of how a parenting experience helped develop your skills as a manager?
I think primarily it’s been about just talking over things. It’s easy to live in the same house but never really talk about meaningful things. As a friend of mine says, you only feel tension about the things you DON’T say, not the things you DO say. So addressing things in an honest, straightforward, truly listening sort of way as a parent has helped me a lot as a manager.
A discussion of competency building is often the focus of new manager training, but not a big part of what you share in this book. Where do you see it fitting in?
There are tools out there that help a manager first be self-aware, and then if they are successful, they will transfer to that developing a management style that matches the style the managed employee prefers. It’s a shame, really, but there’s a criminal lack of attention to management and leadership skills in undergraduate work. Yet you have graduates who want to “change the world,” not realizing that their best chance at doing that is through their management style, one by one.
From a technical standpoint, I don’t think managers need to be super competent, and I certainly don’t think they need to be the most competent person in the department. That’s a huge fallacy. Some of the most well-run (and largest) companies in the world are led by good leaders, not competent technicians.
If you were going to make sure a new leader read two chapters of your book, which ones would they be?
Chapter 12 on a performance review you might enjoy, and chapter 14 on being a leader they want to follow.
You end your book with a compilation of advice from current managers. What is the best advice you have received in your career and who provided it?
I invited a friend, Michael Gerber, the author of “The E-Myth Revisited,” and I’ll never forget his emphasis on working on the business instead of in it. To me, managing is about working on the business.
Thanks David for a great interview.
If you would like to win a copy of David’s book, Managing Right For The First Time, here’s what you need to do to qualify:
- RT this post on Twitter or Share on LinkedIn
- Comment on this post
- Make sure I have a valid email address (I ask for it when you post to my blog)
All posts made by the end of this week(week of Jan. 16) qualify – and from that I will randomly select the 5 winners.