Becoming a Better Manager

Written by Matt Drozdzynski

Matt Drozdzynski’s photo

Becoming a Better Manager

The lack of management is as bad, if not worse, than bad management.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about management. It’s one of the most underappreciated aspects of entrepreneurship. Everyone wants to a visionary, a leader, a builder, a doer. And no one wants to be a manager. There’s no other role in a company with so much stigma attached to it (it’s tied closely with salesperson for the most undesirable job title).

Maybe it’s because most people are terrible managers. For the longest time, I resisted the concept of management. I was of the opinion (cultivated by many prominent bloggers from the Valley) that if you hire great employees you don’t need to manage them. This sentiment has caused me to lose many weeks of productivity, tens of thousands of dollars and a few great employees over the years. Lack of management is as bad, if not worse, than bad management.

If you only have time to read one book this month, make it “High Output Management.”

This book by Andy Grove, former chairman and CEO of Intel, changed my outlook on how important management is in creating highly productive teams.

It will help you understand what a manager does. Andy introduces management with with this classic equation:

A manager’s output = the output of his organisation + the output of the neighbouring organisations under his influence.

In other words, a manager’s skills are and knowledge are only valuable if she uses them to get more leverage from her people.

When a person is not doing his job, there can only be two reasons for it. The person either can’t do it or won’t do it; he is either not capable or not motivated.

All you can do to improve the output of an employee is motivate and train. There is nothing else.

You will benefit from improving your management skills even if you’re in a role which isn’t traditionally associated with management.

Most specialists, be that engineers or designers, can be considered know-how managers with enourmous potential for influencing other teams inside your company. An engineer who supplies insight to a group of people struggling with a problem will affect the work and the output of the entire group. A designer who materially improves the onboarding flow can release the flow of the result of many months of product engineering work.

The definition of a “manager” should be broadened: individual contributors who gather and dissiminate know-how and information should also be seen as managers, because they exert great power within the organisation.

If you’re committed to increasing the output of your team, here are 5 books I recommend.

📕 High Output Management, by Andy Grove

This is a user-friendly guide to the art and science of management from Andrew S. Grove, the president of America’s leading manufacturer of computer chips. Groves recommendations are equally appropriate for sales managers, accountants, consultants, and teachers—anyone whose job entails getting a group of people to produce something of value.

Adapting the innovations that have made Intel one of America’s most successful corporations, High Output Management teaches you: what techniques and indicators you can use to make even corporate recruiting as precise and measurable as manufacturing how to turn your subordinates and coworkers into members of highly productive team how to motivate that team to attain peak performance every time Combining conceptual elegance with a practical understanding of the real-life scenarios that managers encounter every day, High Output Management is one of those rare books that have the power to revolutionize the way we work.

📙 The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies—neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist.

First introduced decades ago by the U.S. Air Force, checklists have enabled pilots to fly aircraft of mind-boggling sophistication. Now innovative checklists are being adopted in hospitals around the world, helping doctors and nurses respond to everything from flu epidemics to avalanches. Even in the immensely complex world of surgery, a simple ninety-second variant has cut the rate of fatalities by more than a third.

📘 Getting Things Done, by David Allen

In today’s world, yesterday’s methods just don’t work. In Getting Things Done, veteran coach and management consultant David Allen shares the breakthrough methods for stress-free performance that he has introduced to tens of thousands of people across the country.

📗 Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

📕 Mastering The Rockfeller Habits, by Verne Harnish

Business guru Verne Harnish’s firm Gazelles has brought hundreds of businesses to fast-growth profitability. Now he shares entrepreneurial secrets in this must-read business primer. Harnish has discovered John D. Rockefeller’s underlying strategy.


You’re welcome to email me questions or raise issues for discussion. Better yet, if you know of a good book on a related topic, please pass it along. And as always, if one of these books comes to mean something to you, recommend it to someone else.