Are you a good manager?

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Often when we start a business we focus on the entrepreneurial skills we need – marketing, sales, financial planning. We’re done with the corporate world. We put corporate skills like managing staff out of our heads.

But no matter how small your business is when you start, at some point, if you continue to grow, you’ll need to hire people. They may be full time or part time employees who work in your office or contractors who work remotely. Regardless of how they work for you, you need to know how to manage these people.

Managing employees is one area where entrepreneurs can be at a disadvantage over employees in a corporation- particularly if they don’t have past experience. In large corporations managers have company policy to follow and other managers or the human resources department to ask for advice. Entrepreneurs are on their own.

If you have to manage staff and want some guidance on how to do it better, a great resource is Lead Well and Prosper by Nick McCormick. While written with the corporate manager in mind, most of the tips and strategies apply equally well to the small business owner.

Unlike many management books that should be filed under “cures for insomnia”, Lead Well and Prosper is as entertaining as it is informative. A fast read – I finished it in only a few hours – this book is divided into bite-sized chapters. Even the busiest entrepreneur won’t have an excuse not to finish this book.

McCormick writes: “Managers don’t … aspire to mediocrity. In fact, many believe they are doing quite splendidly.” If you’re not sure whether you’re a good manager or are deluding yourself, you can take his Am I a Good Manager Test online.

Each chapter in Lead Well and Prosper focuses on a particular skill you need to be a good manager. Using conversations between fictitious Wanda and Joe to illustrate everyday situations, McCormick provides simple and easily implemented steps you can take to improve your management style.

In his chapter “Embrace the Uncomfortable” McCormack demonstrates the impact of avoiding uncomfortable tasks – whether it’s telling a customer you won’t meet a deadline or telling an employee they’re not pulling their weight. His action item for this chapter is: “Pick a task you’ve been avoiding for some time. Knock it out tomorrow before 8:30 a.m. Treat yourself to a nice lunch. Repeat!” That’s good advice for anyone.

Although I don’t currently have any staff myself, I found myself underlining passages and putting stars in the margins. These are sections I know I’ll want to revisit when the time comes for me to be a manager.

The most valuable part of the book is the action plan in Appendix D. It includes a year’s worth of actions you can take to improve your management skills. These actions are broken down to quarters and months and are small enough that even the busiest entrepreneur will be able to fit them into her schedule.

Whether you are an experienced manager or are managing people for the first time, Lead Well and Prosper is a must for your bookshelf.

Andrea J. Stenberg

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