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Better Than a Management Book

By Marty Nemko

There’s an army of management/leadership consultants. To keep themselves in business, they keep writing new books offering new magic pills which, in turn, get them new consulting gigs. Otherwise, managers would simply rely on the books they’ve already read and the consulting advice they’ve already gotten.’s current four bestselling management/leadership books indeed are old wine 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. The 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: "Executiion 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.

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 borrowed a lot of their 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 their advice on the relevant strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then create a goal that’s exciting as possible for your workgroup and sell it—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, less accountability requirements—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 improvement isn’t happening fast, 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. Emailing a group is often more efficient than a meeting. When you must have meetings, keep them 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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