Managing Means Continuous Learning

Mikaela Kiner
Management Means Continuous Learning Many first–time managers are thrown into their new roles with little or no preparation. If you're one of them, hopefully you thrive on developing others and leading a team. With minimal (to no) training and the desire to get good fast, you're probably looking for tips to help you improve your managerial skills. Even if you're a seasoned manager, there's always plenty to learn. Here are four of my all–time favorite books and articles, with practical advice for managers looking to grow.

The Leadership Pipeline: Working Through Others

For years I had a copy of this book in my office. As an HR Business Partner I had countless opportunities to lend it to new managers. The beauty is how the book is laid out, following the path from first–time manager to senior executive. At each stage, the authors highlight the skills that have made you successful, what you'll need to give up as you grow, and the new competencies to focus on as you move up.

Here's a simple analogy about moving from star performer to first–time manager. It's like a star barista moving to shift supervisor (forgive my Starbucks example, I'm a native Seattleite). A star barista is fast, knows every drink recipe by heart, and can make them with her eyes closed. She juggles multiple drink orders and knows regular customers by name. Because she gets stellar reviews, her manager soon promotes her to shift supervisor. In her new role, she must avoid the temptation to jump in when the drink line is backed up. She's now in charge of overseeing the team, scheduling, stocking, taking inventory, and cashing out at night. Relying on her old skills and doing what's comfortable will only lead to failure. Instead, she has to embrace the challenges of her new role and rely on her team to keep the drinks coming.

Multipliers: Are You a Multiplier or a Diminisher?

For Liz Wiseman's groundbreaking book, she gathered extensive data about the traits of good and bad managers. When I heard Liz speak at a conference, she asked each of us to think about the best manager we knew and write down what made that person amazing to work for. My list included what you'd expect – he trusted me, challenged me, gave me room to make mistakes, was a high integrity leader, and valued my input. Then we did the same for the worst managers, who shared attributes like micromanaging, being hierarchical, and seeking credit. The responses of hundreds of participants in the room lined up with Liz's research. She smartly calls these managers Multipliers and Diminishers. You might have a laugh if you can spot yourself or someone you know on the Accidental Diminisher poster.

Who's Got the Monkey? The Art of Delegation

This classic HBR article explores the fine art of delegation. The monkey represents the task, and the exchange of the monkey between managers and team members shows how easy it is to wind up with the monkey. You may have heard of this one, after all it's been around since the 1970s. Regardless, it's worth revisiting. Though I was familiar with the monkey, when I re–read this a few years ago it made me realize one of my direct reports was an expert at delegating up. She would point out gaps in the company like the lack of clearly documented responsibilities for her role, and the absence of a guide on how someone in her position could get promoted to the next level.

Primal Leadership: Emotional Intelligence Matters

Another HBR gem, this article by Daniel Goleman links the emotional maturity of leaders to their effectiveness building teams and organizations. It reminds us that teams are attuned to the feelings of their leaders. When the boss's moods are unpredictable, it makes people uneasy. This isn't to say leaders should show up as emotionless robots. We need to be aware of how our moods and feelings impact others at work. One of my coaching clients stated that when leaders speak, it's as if they're using a megaphone. The same is true with emotions. When you share intentionally, are vulnerable, and recognize the impact on your team, you have an opportunity to increases the group's emotional intelligence.

Being a new manager is hard – don't go it alone. Please share your struggles and suggestions. What's been most helpful to you? How can we help you? Contact us for a free consultation.

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Mikaela KinerMikaela Kiner, CEO & Founder of Reverb, is a native Seattleite who's spent the last fifteen years in HR leadership roles at iconic Northwest companies including Microsoft, Amazon, PopCap Games and Redfin. She has an MS in HR Management with a certificate in Organizational Development and is an ICF credentialed coach. Mikaela delivers results by building trust and engaging her clients in creative problem solving. Clients appreciate her strategic thinking and hands on execution. You can find Mikaela on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. reverbpeople.com

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