31 August 2012

Managing for People Who Hate Managing - Book Review

Honestly Managing for People Who Hate Managing (by Devora Zack) started off with a bit of a quirky feel that I had a hard time getting used to.  I wasn’t expecting a comfortable, humorous, and engaging approach; I was expecting more of the “I’m a hard core business professional – emulate me” approach that’s so often the case with professional development titles.  However, about 20 pages in, I was able to relax and let the material sink in.  Once I got used to the informal and somewhat “in your face” style of presentation, I found the text to be extremely conversational and enlightening. 

I think it’s important to note that from a management perspective there is often this focus on professionalism and over-academic communication (you know rigidity, lack of human emotion, and the separation of work from one’s personality).  The book ultimately bumps into the edges of that approach – which I think is excellent.  In my opinion, management is about dealing with and communicating with people rather than actually “managing” them (“managing” sounds way too much like directing the incompetent which is often not the case). 

The major theme within the book is the use of the “Thinker”/”Feeler” paradigm without highlighting one mental process as supreme.  “Thinkers” and “feelers” of course being two of the major categories which Zack uses to show that management is not one size fits all and that we must recognize individual styles in our approach to people. “Thinkers” are the introverted analytical types among us, while “feelers” tend to be the more extraverted and emotional folks.  It’s refreshing to see a management text not engage in dichotomies but to highlight the fact that all behavior exists on a gradient and no one is absolute.  I think this theme is extremely well-developed and it provides a lot of perspective.  In other words using “Thinkers” and “Feelers” without diving into the politics of which approach was more “work appropriate” really helped me step back and look at how I have dichotomized the concepts to legitimize my own approach to life.

Managing for People Who Hate Managing has an amazing potential as a professional development text that can be used in a group setting.  The presence of different thought paradigms extends its usefulness in such a setting because it would be nice to be in a group where someone could say, “Shut up “thinker” you’re missing the point, this is how we “feelers” see the world.” 

Ultimately this book is a really approachable tool for people that are leery of management as a concept.  I enjoyed reading it and I felt like I gained a lot from a personal development standpoint.  I found that the book was applicable to everyone regardless of their tenure in a management role.  Zack’s use of vivid examples, narratives, cheat sheets, and opportunities for self assessment gives Managing for People Who Hate Managing a highly interactive feel that puts the reader in charge of their own progress.  In contrast to other similar titles, Zack avoids any absolute declaration of subject matter authority and instead empowers readers with the opportunity to grow on their own, enabled with a new outlook.

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