Sunday, April 13, 2008

Curl Up With a Book Sunday

Today's book isn't your typical curling up book, but I have been in an odd mood lately. Once upon a time, I was an Engineering Manager. Compared to my predecessor in that position, I did pretty well. Of course, he left the bar pretty low. By my standards, I don't think I did very well. I did learn a lot in that position. That's what happens when you volunteer for something for which you aren't ready and know far less about than you realize. Unfortunately for the people who worked for me, I learned most of my lessons by doing things wrong. I don't think I ever repeated a mistake, but I sure made some doozies. I am still surprised when I pass some engineers in the hall and they are able to say a courteous greeting and pass by without spitting on me. Okay, so I probably wasn't that bad, but I know I could have been much better.

After leaving that position, I have actively avoided any managerial responsibility. The teams that I have lead were always small and the people in them the sort who needed very little leading and mostly needed me to run interference so that they could go along and do the jobs at which they were expert. Now I find that there are a great many teams who need good leaders and I feel that it is again time to step up and take more responsibility. It is also time to apply those lessons that I think I learned. To help me on this quest, I have been devouring management and communications books. Some are good, some mediocre, and some, well, a waste of paper. Today's book was pretty good.

The most recent management/leadership book that I finished was Winning, by Jack and Suzy Welch. This is an easy read for a management tome. The points are clear and illustrated by concrete examples. Obviously, Jack Welch's style isn't for everyone. I don't think I have the killer driver instinct that he has, but there are gems in there for all managers. One of the pitfalls that we had more of when I was last managing were people Jack terms "sliders." These are the folks who did some good work once or twice, but pretty much just show up for the paycheck now. I really don't want to be considered a slider. With all the staff changes that we have undergone in my company, there aren't many sliders around. Jack is spot on when he notes that they are poison to a team. Everyone in a team needs to contribute and needs to be committed to the team. Most of Jack's advice is for people a bit higher on the food chain than me, but that doesn't mean that I can't adopt some of the gems.

Next up I think will be a book on communications or maybe generational workplace issues.

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