30 Key Questions that Unlock Management: How do I...?

There have been many debates about the difference between leaders and managers. Leaders are often set up to be a higher form of life than managers.

  Indeed, the roots of the word “manager” come from a 16th century Italian word meaning to control horses, so it’s no wonder it gets a bad name. Leaders are often 

portrayed as the ones who do the high-end strategic thinking, whilst managers just deliver results by rote. I’ve never found this particularly useful distinction; I prefer to talk about the qualities of leadership and of management - and most people in charge of any aspect of organisations need to have a balance of both.

The model we use is based around research done on what makes for highly successful leaders in complex and fast changing environments. There are 11 leadership behaviours that, when done well, lead to success. However, there are some basics have to be in place before we begin to develop these behaviours. The person has to be skilled in whatever professional or technical discipline they are in. They also have to have core management skills.

Much of the coaching I do is with leaders who want to build their leadership skills, but what if they haven’t got the foundations right? Many of the books that we’ve covered in this Book Club are about leadership and so it is nice to find a really good, straightforward guide to core management skills.

The authors of this book have created a good format - it’s not a book you need to read from cover to cover, more one to pick up when you are struggling with a particular question. They cover 30 questions that represent the real management challenges that could derail anyone.

These are grouped into five areas; managing your team, your boss, your growth, your reputation and yourself. For each question, they show why it’s important, the consequences of not getting it right some practical tips, links to other resources, and some ideas to work on right now.

The book tackles some classic questions, for example, about dealing with poor performance. But it also challenges you to think about other, less obvious, aspects of management.

So, for example, in the section on managing your own growth there’s a piece around getting better at talking on a wide range of issues. We were running one of our leadership coach training programs recently and talking about the agreements that we all wanted to have in place to make the course successful. One participant wanted us all to agree that there was no such thing as a stupid question. We heartily agreed - how often do we see people afraid to ask a question for fear of looking stupid? In fact, questions that come from a beginners mind have often been the ones that challenge traditional thinking and lead to innovation and creativity. Colleagues who are experts appreciate it when you are curious and willing to learn about their subject. So by working on this topic, everyone benefits.

I like the style of the book; a mixture of good stories, sound advice, and interesting theory. I’ve struggled with many of these questions myself in my career and I still found new and interesting angles whilst reading the book.

Overall then, a valuable addition to the library, both for coaches and for the leaders and managers they work with.