Her lessons are framed as short and practical tips (no stories or anecdotes) telling leaders to say the right things and to do what they say. For example, truth number 4: “The gaps in your work habits show up when you move up.” Otazo’s advice to rising executives is to keep up with scheduling, to delegate using quality standards and due dates, and to make decisions clear. The author’s use of phrases such as “conjuring,” “tricks,” and “sleights of hand” seems out of place in a book about leadership. Nonetheless, her tips are useful and easy to remember.
Bruce L. Katcher, author of 30 Reasons Employees Hate Their Managers, is a management consultant whose firm conducts employee opinion polls and customer satisfaction surveys for Fortune 500 clients such as Alcoa, Johnson & Johnson, and Revlon. The book is based on survey research and interviews with 50,000 employees in 65 organizations, mostly in the U.S. Every chapter starts with a statistic from this research, for example, “46 percent of all employees believe that management treats them with disrespect” or “50 percent of employees believe that the time they spend at meetings is not time well spent.” Not exactly big news, but seeing statements like this in print can be striking. When employees don’t feel free to do their job, Katcher suggests, it may be because senior executives are too controlling. His solution: Rate and reward senior executives on how well they delegate.
Two kinds of people will find value in these two books. Otazo and Katcher are good guides for young executives beginning their careers. Many years ago, I benefited from similar books because they contained practical wisdom, not philosophical dissertations. More experienced executives short of time (and who isn’t?) can also benefit from commonsense reminders of how to handle everyday sticky management situations.
A Snack or a Meal
I won’t argue for the pleasures of fish and chips over filet of sole with bearnaise sauce. When we want to eat, a fast-food chain or an elegant restaurant offer different sorts of satisfaction. It is the same with books about human capital. There is an appropriate market and use for both “fine dining” and “fast food” guides, and it would be wrong to dismiss one in favor of the other.
For me, books with messages that linger and cause reflection have a special value. Books that make the scientific study of human behaviors accessible to the lay reader have also been helpful to me over the years. But whatever your taste or appetite for books on management leadership, a spoonful or a full plate reminds us of the capriciousness of human beings and the complexities involved in managing them.
R. Gopalakrishnan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of Tata Sons, based in Mumbai, India. He is the author of The Case of the Bonsai Manager: Lessons from Nature on Growing (Penguin Books India, 2007). He has held posts in India, the U.K., and Saudi Arabia with Unilever, Brooke Bond Lipton India, and most recently Tata Group.