Gini Dietrich

AMA: The Best Books to Help People Learn How to Manage

By: Gini Dietrich | July 16, 2021 | 
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AMA: Helping New Managers Learn the Art of ManagementWelcome back to another Ask Me Anything, a weekly series where we talk to our friends, our viewers, and our community about all of their pressing needs, questions, wants, and desires.

Let’s take a look at the mailbag to see which questions are burning this week.

Here’s a good one:

We have a team member who’s new to management and is currently supervising one team member to dip her toe in the management waters. She’s doing a great job so far, but I’d like to continue to build her confidence and give her some additional resources for when things get tough. What are your favorite books, articles, podcasts, blogs, resources, training sources, and such for those new to overseeing a direct report.

(If you can’t view the video, click here and you’ll be magically transported.)

When You Have Zero Management Experience

This is a really good question because, especially in agencies and in the work that we do, we’re not necessarily trained to be a manager. We’re certainly not trained to be coaches.

One of our clients talks all the time about how everyone needs to be a player and then a player coach and then a coach.

You can’t be promoted to the next level until you’ve mastered the one before it.

I really love that analogy because, while you’re learning to coach, you’re also still doing the job so you’re in the thick of understanding how to lead by example, how to collaborate, and how to build consensus.

In my own career, I was never taught how to manage or how to lead. They just said, “Here’s a team. Have at it.”

There was no mentorship or professional development or coaching so I mimicked the work of some of my supervisors—or I stayed away from the things the really bad ones did.

That, of course, is not how you learn to be a player coach and then a coach, and, for me, it cost me a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of relationships as I figured it out in my own business.

Best Books for First Time Managers

As I did that, I hired coaches, I joined a peer group, and I read a ton (still do). Some of my favorite books, combined with what others have recommended, are listed below. I put them in the order that I would read/recommend them to others.

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People. The description of the book makes me laugh. It says you will learn how to make people like you and how to win people to your way of thinking. That sounds really manipulative, but the truth of the matter is that it helps you learn how to collaborate and build consensus without resentment.
  2. Rocket Fuel. This is a foll0w-up book to Traction (one of my favorite business books of all time) and it discusses how to build your team under visionary or integrator (or both) leadership. It’s written for the leaders of the organization, but I have my team read it to both understand how our leadership team functions and to help them decide which path is more suited to their own career goals.
  3. Radical Candor. This book is billed as building radically candid relationships with team members that enable bosses to create a culture of compassionate candor, build a cohesive team, and achieve results collaboratively.
  4. Crucial Conversations. This book helps people understand how to prepare for high-stakes situations, transform anger and hurt feelings into powerful dialogue, make it safe to talk about almost anything, and be persuasive, not abrasive,
  5. Drive to Thrive. This book will help you effectively manage your team by building the right team culture and putting the right processes in place. It explains the key team management, building, and self-growth concepts with practical examples brought from the author’s experience at Microsoft and Amazon.
  6. The Coaching Habit. I love this book because it draws on the power of the question. By asking questions and listening, you get far more out of people than you do if you spend the whole time talking. It teaches you how to use questions such kickstart, awe, lazy, strategic, focus, foundation, and learning.
  7. The First Time Manager. This one teaches first-time managers everything they need to know to tackle challenges and take on new and unique responsibilities. I haven’t read it, but my friend Ken Jacobs recommends it and says everyone who has read it has come back and raved about how good it is.
  8. The Making of a Manager. This is a modern field guide packed with everyday examples and transformative insights, including how to tell a great manager from an average one; how to build trust with your reports through not being a boss; and where to look when you lose faith and lack the answers,
  9. The Manager Moving from Boss to Coach. This book takes years of Gallup data and distills it into how to maximize the potential of every team member and drive organizational growth.

Truthfully, many of these books are for novice and veteran managers and leaders.

Whenever I need to have a hard conversation, I re-read sections of Radical Candor and/or Crucial Conversations…mostly because I’m a big ol’ chicken and I need to be reminded that it’s not that big of a deal.

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About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.