Jewish World Review Oct. 14, 2004 /29 Tishrei, 5765

Marty Nemko

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Consumer Reports

Better than a management book | There's an army of management consultants. To keep themselves in business, they keep writing new books trumpeting new magic pills which, in turn, get them new consulting gigs. Otherwise, managers and leaders would simply rely on the old magic pills.

Coming up with a legitimately new magic pill is tough, so it's not surprising that's current four bestselling management/leadership books are little more than old pills in new bottles.

Because sells books, you'd expect its editorial reviews to have a positive bias. Yet here's what Amazon had to say about those four bestsellers:

Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book contains "no silver bullets… great companies had a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner." I need a book, let alone a consultant, to tell me that good managers hire and promote disciplined people?

Carolyn 101: Business Lessons from the Apprentice's Straight Shooter by Carolyn Kepcher. An Amazon review says, "It's not rocket-science, just a lot of common sense ideas." Here are some of those ideas. I quote them verbatim lest you think I've dumbed them down for effect:

"You're the one in charge of your learning curve."
"A bad apple with a bad attitude can compromise the team."
"Succeeding at difficult tasks is what will make you great."
"If one of us succeeds, we all succeed. If one of us fails, we all fail."

Anyone have a vomit bag?

Confidence by Rosabeth Moss Kanter The book's central premise: "The goal of winning is not losing two times in a row." The author is a Harvard Business School professor. You need to be a Harvard professor to know you should try to avoid losing two times in a row?

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy. A couple of its central exhortations: "Execution is what will determine success in today's business world." Duh. "The leader's most important job is selecting and training people." Duh.

Hey, I can give you more than that right here. And it won't cost you $29.95. I think I'll call it Nemko's Rules. My goal is for the rest of this column to be of greater value than all those bestselling books. See how I do.

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Rule 1: The leader's most important job is selecting and training people. Yeah, I just stole that from the previously mentioned book but those authors also used other people's ideas. This one's really important. It's worth stealing.

The rest of these ideas, however, are mine. Or at least I don't remember where I got them from.

Rule 2: Your first goal as a manager or executive is to establish a vision for your workgroup. Do that by first asking your stakeholders: perhaps employees, co-workers, customers, bosses — the whole 360-- for advice on the relevant strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then create a goal that's exciting as possible for your workgroup and sell it to them — inspirationally.

Rule 3: If you have good supervisees, don't micromanage. Require minimal accountability. Spend as much of your time as possible being a resource to your supervisees. Here's the speech I'd give to my supervisees: "My job is not to be a policeman. It's to make your life easier. If you need something to help you do your job better — resources, advice, an exemption from a policy — you ask and I'll do everything I can to get it for you."

Rule 4: Cut your losses. Spend just a little time trying to improve a bad supervisee. If you don't see quick progress, cut your losses and fire the person. Chances are, spending more time won't be worth it. And the longer you allow a bad employee to stay, the greater your risk of getting slapped with a wrongful termination suit.

Rule 5: Manage by walking around. Frequently walk by your supervisees' workstations and ask, "How are things going?" Take quick looks at their work. Make gentle, private, and brief suggestions — those are least likely to cause defensiveness. Avoid or at least deemphasize formal evaluations. They're time-consuming and usually cause more enmity than improvement.

Rule 6: Minimize meetings. A meeting is most appropriate for on-the-spot brainstorming. Most other times, emails or one-on-ones are more efficient. When you do run a meeting, keep it on a short leash: tight agenda, tight time limit. It's easiest to end on time if you schedule the meeting to end right before lunch or quitting time.

Hey, do I have the makings of a bestseller here? Whaddya think? How about hiring me as a $15,000 a day consultant like those authors? Aw, come on. Please?

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09/29/04: ‘Deep Down, I Don't Wanna Work’
09/14/04: How to tell what career you should choose
08/23/04: Nemko's Rules: A contrarian approach to career and job finding
07/29/04: Are you lazy?
06/17/04: We already send too many students to college
06/11/04: The case against work/life balance
05/13/04: The Dumbing of America … and how to make it (and you) smarter
04/26/04: Do you talk too much?
12/08/03: How Open-Minded Are You, Really?
11/05/03: Driven to an early grave
08/18/03: The Truth About Teaching
05/12/03: Today's #1 hirer
04/30/03: What Are You Good At, Really?
04/10/03: Career advice I'd give my child
03/04/03: Under the radar: The One-Week Job Search
02/11/03: The World's Shortest Course on Managing Diversity
02/03/03: The Good Employer
01/29/03: What do you want to be when you grow up?
01/15/03: Passion Finder
12/18/02: Curing procrastination
12/12/02: The World's Shortest Course on Self-Employment
12/05/02: Men as Beasts of Burden
11/21/02: Beware of going back to school

© 2003, Dr. Marty Nemko