Book Reviews

 
Human Resources

Managing People

Author: Byron Lane
Publisher The Oasis Press
Publication Date: 1996

Reviewer:Joel Klebanoff
Joel Klebanoff, is a writer and marketing communications consultant specializing in the information technology industry. He is president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc. He is also author of BYTE-ing Satire: A light-hearted poke in technology's eye.

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The introduction to Managing People suggests that people are typically promoted to their first management positions because of their technical skills. However, they usually have no prior experience managing people and, therefore, lack the necessary people skills. The book’s goal is to overcome this deficiency.

Each chapter deals with a different people skill. The first, Thinking Strategically, appears, at first glance, to be concerned more with your own thought processes than with managing others.

The book suggests that strategic thinking involves the ability to “see interrelationships rather than linear cause/effect sequences, and see all change as a continual process rather as a series of snapshots of isolated events.” It puts this into a people management context by explaining how strategic thinking affects collaboration and teamwork throughout the organization.

Chapter 9, Managing Stress, is also more internally focussed. It looks at the stress you face in both your working and personal lives and how you can, not eliminate it, but reduce it, cope with it, and better manage it. In keeping with the theme of the book, this chapter also looks at how you can be a manager who creates a low-stress environment for both yourself and the people around you.

The other chapters are specifically related to your interactions with people at work and managing those interactions to improve results:
  • Collaborating
  • Team Building
  • Communicating
  • Motivating
  • Delegating
  • Goal Setting
  • Evaluating
  • Understanding Culture
  • Becoming Multicultural
  • Changing
  • Transformation
Every chapter begins with a questionnaire to help determine where you stand in that particular people skill set. The middle-matter in each chapter presents the relevant concepts, issues, and skills. The chapters end with an exercise to help you put the principles into practice.
Throughout, you’ll find extensive lists and descriptive text of dos and don’ts related to the various skills. Rather than a theoretical essay, these are practical suggestions that you can likely put to work immediately.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines manage as:
  1. To direct or control the use of; handle.
  2. a. to exert control over; b. To make submissive to one’s authority, discipline, or persuasion.
  3. To direct the affairs or interests of.
  4. To succeed in accomplishing or achieving, especially with difficulty; contrive or arrange.
Given that definition, the title of this book is somewhat misleading. The book is not really about managing people, but rather about involving, engaging, and enabling them to perform well as individuals and as members of a group.
I try to keep book reviews impersonal, but your reaction to this book will vary depending on your background and nature. You must, therefore, know a little bit about me to determine whether your reaction will be the same.

While I have been a marketing communicator for the past 12 years or so, I spent about 10 years before that as a computer programmer/analyst – okay, do the math, I’m not a member of Generation X, Y or anything after that. Whether cause or effect, my earlier programming experience makes me predominantly one of those linear, logical thinkers – a group that the author seems to think needs to be drastically reformed or, at least, kept in its place. If you, like me, take pride in having a mostly rational and scientific mind (although there are those who question my rationality) then you will likely find some parts of this book a little too touchy-feely.

The first chapter talks of things like affirmations, centering, and other vaguely New Age concepts. Furthermore, I don’t know how many readers will bother to make and use the deep relaxation tape suggested in chapter nine. However, if you can get past that or, better yet, if you’re into that, you’ll find several valuable insights that will help you maximize the value generated by the people who work for and with you.