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Book Summary — On Managing People

Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads

1. Leadership That Gets Results

1. Coercive Style

  • “do what I say” approach
  • effective in turnaround situations, natural disaster or when working with problem employees

2. Authorative Style

  • “come with me” approach
  • states the overall goal but gives people the freedom to choose their own means of achieving
  • effective when business is adrift
  • works less well when leader working with team of experts who are more knowledgeable than the leader

3. Affiliative Style

  • “people come first” approach
  • effective for building team harmony or increasing morale
  • exclusive focus on praise can allow poor performance and without much advice

4. Democratic Style

  • “what do you think” approach
  • impact is not as high as you might imagine
  • by giving workers a voice in decisions, you build org flexibility and responsibility and help generate ideas
  • But the price is endless meetings and confused employees who feel leaderless

5. Pacesetting Style

  • “do as I do, now” approach
  • setting high performance standards and exemplifying as leader
  • very positive impact on employees who are self-motivated and highly competent
  • but others can feel overwhelmed by such demands for excellence and resent

6. Coaching Style

  • “try this” approach
  • focus on personal development rather than immediate work-related tasks
  • it works well when employees are already aware of their weaknesses and want to improve but not when they are resistant to change

The more styles leaders exhibit, the better.

2. One More Time — how do you motivate employees?

  • Negative physical KITA — physical, no good
  • Negative psychological KITA — does not lead to motivation, but movement
  • Positive KITA — exert a pull not a push

How do you motivate?

  1. Remove controls — increase accountability
  2. Give responsibility end to end
  3. Make info available directly rather than sending through manager
  4. Enable people to take on new, more difficult tasks
  5. Assign specialised tasks that allow people to become experts

3. Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome

How to Reverse

  • establish expectations early
  • regularly challenge your assumptions — what are the facts? is it really that bad?
  • convey openness, letting employees challenge your opinions
  • choose neutral location and acknowledge tension
  • agree on weaknesses and strengths — facts not feelings
  • unearth causes of weakness
  • identify ways to boost performance
  • agree to communicate more openly

4. Saving Your Rookie Managers from Themselves

Delegating is the biggest struggle for rookie managers — the natural reaction is to “just do it” because that’s what got them promoted.

  • losing stature — who gets credit?
  • abdicating control — how will I make sure it’s correct?
  • overburden staff — fear of resentment
  1. Get them to understand their own role — it’s a new job
  2. Lead by example
  3. Explain that developing staff is as important as financial results
  4. Encourage to take small risks by playing on staff’s strengths
  5. Help break complex projects into small chuncks
  6. Emphasise open communication
  7. Introduce to other managers
  8. Have him/her prepare agendas — will help organise thoughts
  9. Encourage conscious comportment — constant awareness of image
  10. Express feelings behind closed doors
  11. Keep from undermining own authority by pushing things down
  12. Explain strategic thinking
  13. Focus on long term big picture
  14. Request written plans documenting strategic goals
  15. Give constructive feedback
  16. Role play giving feedback

5. What Great Managers Do

This is exactly the opposite of what great leaders do. Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalise on it. Their job is to rally people towards a better future.

Instead of trying to change your employees, identify their unique abilities (and even their eccentricities) — then help them use those qualities to excel in their own way.

  1. Continuously tweak roles
  2. Pull triggers that active employee strengths
  3. Tailor coaching to unique learning styles
  1. Analyser — give ample classroom time, role play, time to prepare for challenge
  2. Doer — assign simple task, gradually increase complexity
  3. Watcher — have shadow top performers

Uncovering Strengths/Weaknesses

  • What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past 3 months?
  • What was the worst day you’ve had?

6. Fair Process

  1. Engagement — involving individuals in decisions by inviting their input
  2. Explanation — clarifying the thinking behind the final decision
  3. Expectation clarity — stating the new rules of the game, incl performance standards, penalty for failure and new responsibilities

7. Teaching Smart People How to Learn

  • single-loop learning — thermostat that increases temperature below 20 degrees
  • double-loop learning — thermostat that thinks why is it set to 20 degrees and if there are better ways

8. How (Un)ethical are You?

  1. Implicit Forms of Prejudice — bias from unscious beliefs
  2. Biast that favors one’s own group
  3. Conflict of interest
  4. Tendency to overclaim credit


  • Gather better data
  • Bid your workplace of stereotyping cues — images and language
  • Broaden your mindset when making decisions — put yourself in other people’s shoes

9. Discipline of Teams

Five Characteristics of Team Discipline

  1. Meaningful common purpose
  2. Specific performance goals
  3. Mix of complementary skills
  4. Strong commitment to how work gets done
  5. Mutual accountability

Building Team Performance

  • Establish urgency, demand performance standards and direction
  • Select members for skill and potential not personality
  • Pay particular attention to first meetings and actions — first impressoins
  • Set clear rules of behaviour
  • Set and seize upon immediate performance oriented tasks and goals
  • Challenge the group regularly with fresh facts and info
  • Spend lots of time together
  • Exploit the power of positive feedback, recognition, and reward

10. Managing Your Boss

  • Compatible work style
  • Mutual expectations
  • Info flow
  • Dependability and honesty
  • Good use of time and resources

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Goal: Read and summarise one book a week

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