Just a bunch of good things to read if you want to be a better manager

by Rachel

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

I recognize that my current job status — just partly employed — might mean this isn’t the ideal time to publish this post. But! Before I got laid off, I had been managing for three years, and in 2017 and 2018, my teams grew significantly and I began managing managers. I really liked managing and cared a lot about doing it well, so I was often looking for thoughtful, practical advice about being a good manager.

So even though I’m not currently a manager, I thought I’d share some of my favorite resources! (BTW, most of these are helpful for everyone with a job, even if you’re not a manager and/or have no desire to become one!)

Ask a Manager

Ask a Manager, written by Alison Green, is my go-to for all things work-related. If you aren’t familiar with Ask a Manager and want a funny and entertaining intro to the blog, here are a few posts I wrote while at BuzzFeed to get you started:

Those posts are on the wackier side, but I have truly learned so much from reading the more mundane AAM posts (plus the comments) every day for years. I also spent at least one Friday nights a few years ago going deep on the archives, which served as a pretty great crash course in how work works. (By the way, if you’re a manager, you may want to browse the being the boss tag.)

Beyond the AAM blog, I highly recommend Alison’s 2018 book, Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work. After I read it, I passed it around to my team so they could read it too. Alison knows so much about how businesses and professional relationships should work, and always gives practical advice in an empathetic and straightforward way. I recommend AAM for everyone, regardless of where you are in your career.

Get it on Amazon for $10.87 or find it at a local bookstore.

Radical Candor

The first time I read this post about radical candor, it sort of blew my mind. It’s not that I hadn’t been practicing something akin to radical candor before...but I had never thought of being direct and honest in these exact terms. It’s a concept I returned to again and again as a manager. And although radical candor tends to get all the attention, I think ruinous empathy is a really, really important concept that we should all be talking about more at work. I think about this quote — “The vast majority of management mistakes happen in the quadrant that I call ruinous empathy” — a lot.

The Mind of the Leader

The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results was one of my favorite non-fiction reads in 2018. It's genuinely inspiring and I immediately wanted to buy it for all of the managers I managed. The main idea is that the best leaders have three qualities: compassion, selflessness, and mindfulness. If you want to get a better idea of what it’s about/the tone, check out this podcast episode/transcript: "Leading with Less Ego” from HBR IdeaCast.

Get it from Amazon for $16.99 or find it at a local bookstore.

Harvard Business Review

Speaking of the Harvard Business Review, I really like HBR and the HBR IdeaCast. (They also have a bunch of other podcasts, but I haven’t personally listened to them.) TBH, it’s not a site I remember to check as often as I should, but I just signed up for a couple of their newsletters to get it on my radar every week. (See all their newsletters.) Here are a few articles I liked/saved in Pocket that you might like:

Jeff Weiner: Leading with Compassion

When my friend Millie — one of my best, most inspiring manager buddies — recommended this episode of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast to me, I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical. But! This episode turned out to be really great and is worth listening to. (If you prefer to watch instead of listen, there are also videos of the interview.)

Reorgs Happen

Finally, this one is pretty specific, but I love this Reorgs Happen deck created by Camille Fournier. My friend Rachel (a very good manager!) sent it to me a few years ago. It’s funny and well-done and extremely accurate, and I wish more managers thought about reorgs (and, really, any big changes at work) this way.

That’s all I’ve got! But I’d love to hear about the specific resources that you’ve found helpful with regard to management. Since I don’t have comments turned on yet, feel free to email me at rachel @ justgoodshit dot com. I’d love to put together a Part 2 of this post with your suggestions! ✨


Work, reading lists