Title – The Truth about Managing People
Author – Stephen P. Robbins
REVIEW SCORE – 5/5 *****
I first bought this book for an MBA class on organizational behavior. Compared to the dry, and sometimes boring texts on management, this book was really unique because of the bite-sized chapter. Very similar to Seth Godin (marketing and consulting) and Avinash Kaushik (web analytics and data visualization) as I am a huge fan of both.
As a new manager, I found this a valuable resource, especially since I don’t have direct reports but supervise a bunch of contractors from our vendor-partners. I also lead a 1000+ member meetup, and inter-disciplinary projects at work, which means I often have to lead without a title and persuade people to agree on conflicting agendas.
However, even early career professionals will benefit from the book because it makes you understand what skills and behaviors will help you accelerate your career. For new and experienced managers, there will be many “A-ha” moments when you finally understand why your colleagues, peers or even executive leadership behave the way they do!
This book essentially summarized the best research on management principles into short, usable strategies. There are sections on motivation, hiring, conflict management, so the book is like an MBA-in-a-box. Similar to “Tools of the Titans”, but shorter and more focused on managerial topics. So you will want to keep a copy handy and refer different chapters at different stages and situations.
Pearls of Wisdom from the Book:
Some gems that resonated with me, and things that you will learn:
 People skills matter! Merit, competency and hierarchy are baselines for success, but excellent people skills will propel you like nothing else.
 How to conduct realistic job interviews, to hire more efficiently.
 Making the most of appraisals, irrespective of which side of the table you are on.
 I never heard the term “buddy” system, even though my company has it (called “shadowing”). I definitely attribute my success to the fact that this helped me shorten the learning curve and socialize faster with key stakeholders.
 Visionary leadership matters. I think women managers especially get hindered by this, but the fact is that a lofty goal motivates employees to find workarounds and creative solutions for near-impossible goals.
There are many more strategies for being both an efficient manager and a brilliant leader, but I will let you learn those directly from the book!
What I disagree:
The only point I disagreed slightly was the chapter on “mentors”. Like Sally Helgesen (Women who Rise) and Lois Frankel (Nice Girls still Don’t Get the Corner Office), we need “advocates” not mentors to get ahead in the career ladder. Mentors are important, but most corporate programs haven’t morphed these into sponsorship, which to me, defeats the purpose of mentoring. Still, I do agree that mentoring is important, especially early in your career.
Overall, I love the book! Conversations with my managers and perceptions about me as a worthy leader, have improved since I started applying the principles in this book. In short, a Must read!
Similar authors – Tools of the Titans (Tim Ferris), Seth Godin’s blog , Avinash Kaushik’s blog Occam’s Razor – , Jack Welch, Robin Sharma, Carol Dweck (Mindset), Peter Drucker (Management/ Marketing), Adam Grant (Originals) .
TV shows – Not really applicable, but if you like Boston Legal and Shark Tank, you should test ride this book too!