Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: The Successful New Manager Randy's dream has come true. An insurance underwriter for the last four years, he can finally call himself a manager. His boss recently told him, "You've worked hard, the agents like you, and your results have been outstanding. So we're going to put you in charge of one of our underwriting units. Our hope is you'll teach your employees how you do it, and your success will rub off on them." Just like that, 10 employees now report to Randy. He walks into his new office (a real office, not a cubicle!) and looks around in a daze. He has wanted to manage a staff ever since he visited his division head's huge home many years ago and noticed how well a "boss" could live. And he figures that once he proves that he can handle a group of crusty, cynical underwriters and help them boost their results, the sky's the limit for him.
Who's Your Model?
Like so many new managers, Randy assumes that he can do the job better than others who've come before him because he realizes what mistakes not to make. He's had seven bosses in his career, and he knows exactly what they did right and wrong. The same thing happens when proud parents hold their newborn and declare confidently to each other, "Let's raise this adorable baby the right way, not like our parents did it!"
You may think you know what it takes to manage well. After all, you're an earnest straight-shooter who gets along well with a wide range of people. You like challenges and you dread boring routines. Experienced managers have told you that "every day is different" when you're in charge of a staff, and that sounds just fine with you.
But the real test of your management skillsrests on your ability to grow into the job. No newly minted manager can possibly anticipate what it's like to direct people. Each day brings weird scenarios you could never predict, from the clerk who bursts into tears for no apparent reason (what do you do?) to the disgruntled veteran who issues a veiled threat against you and your company (now what?). As perhaps you can tell, managing is more than setting goals and organizing people to accomplish them. Lots of things need to be taken care of between setting goals and accomplishing them.
There's no way this or any book can show you how to respond to every type of human problem you may encounter. But a book can help you sharpen your natural leadership skills and learn how to model yourself after effective managers so that you analyze how they would handle a similar situation.
By imagining how a top-notch manager would manage various scenarios, you give yourself a road map to follow.
The individual you admire most serves as your template. Even if you're not sure how this person would deal with specific issues or perform certain tasks, trying to picture such behaviors can help.
In deciding whom to model, consider your corporate culture. Say you work in a laid-back environment filled with brainy graduate students engaged in medical testing or software programming. In such a setting, you want to promote a calm, cerebral, and creative atmosphere where your employees can operate at their best. Trying to model yourself after a loud, hardcharging executive whom you admire will backfire, because those kinds of rah-rah theatrics will fall flat in such an intellectually driven office.
Also think about how you might choose the person whom you seek to emulate. You don't want to select a role model just because she's your best friend or you share certain interests. It's best to model yourself after a manager whom you respect more than like (though the two are certainly not mutually exclusive). You want to learn from someone who takes action decisively and exemplifies the kind of behaviors that you think would make you an effective manager.
Rating Your Leadership
The more you know yourself, the better you'll manage. If you lack a strong sense of who you are and what you believe, you'll get manipulated by more forceful personalities who can tell you're a pushover. They'll feed you what you like to hear. And they'll press your hot buttons when they want to rile you. You need to develop a strong spine to manage. If it hasn't happened yet, the day will come when you'll need to state an unpopular position and stick to it, despite disappointment from employees and even derision from bosses. You'll need to believe in yourself when doubts swirl around you, especially as the stakes mount and the pressure builds. That's when your reserves of poise and confidence will sustain you.
To gain self-awareness, take the following diagnostic tests. Your ratings will help you uncover the strengths and weaknesses that influence how you manage...