In 1981 I graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and went to work for Honeywell Large Computer Products Division in Phoenix, Arizona. As luck would have it, my college roommate, Tim Barrios, also accepted a job in Phoenix, working for GTE Telecommunications Systems. I first met Eric Wagner because Eric was Tim's "Chief Programmer" at GTE. Eventually I switched jobs to work at GTE, and Eric's and my careers were intertwined for many years including Ithaca Software, Autodesk, Buzzsaw.com, and Océ Reprographics Technologies.
Eric has a new book out called Shutting Up: Listening to your employees, Leading by example, and Maximizing productivity. It's not often that I know a book author (an exception is Frances Dinkelspiel), so I always jump at the chance to read books by familiar friends. In this case, I lived part of Eric's managerial experience, so this would be a walk down memory lane as well as a refresher on how to and not to be a people manager.
Sometimes when I review books, I try to condense each chapter into one and only one sentence. At other times, I decide to have a little more fun. I am a fan of Jessica Hagy's Indexed blog, so I love to imitate her style (Solomon, Naam) and provide my own images that each capture a key concept from each chapter. As Eric remains one of my cherished lifelong friends, I thought I'd go the fun route. With regards to the quotations, the Kindle has no page numbers, but they are taken from the chapter in which they are listed.
Introduction: The Dingus
"One of the great things about working for someone and experiencing his own particular style — whether... he's a Dingus or not — you still learn something."
Knowing When to Shut Up
"When you allow an awkward silence to fall over the discussion, your guest will start feeling like it's his obligation to get the dialogue going again."
base cornucopia from dragonart.com
"Treating every person and conversation the same way — even two different conversations with the same person — is a recipe for disaster."
Communicating with the Group
"... you can easily identify a chicken in the room by looking to see who is checking email on his iPad."
"Turning around your underperforming people makes a great success story, too."
Working with the Team
See Famous Equations for definitions.
Performance equals Motivation squared times Ability times Tools.
"If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that a decision was a no-brainer, I'd ... well, I'd have a lot of nickels."
The amount of work achieved by an organization is a result of delivering a specified content of sufficient quality given a constraining budget and agreed upon schedule.
"If you double your [organizational productivity] — no matter how you do it, whether it's through higher motivation, enhanced worker ability, or better tool availability — it provides a direct doubling of the value that your customers will perceive."
"One of the biggest challenges I've had with merit increases and bonuses for my team is the tendency of larger companies to 'level the playing field.'"
"It's just after you solve all of your bigger problems, your smaller problems become your bigger problems."
"...a Dingus starts from the premise that he will get exactly what he wants, even if it is at the total expense of the opposite party. That isn't a negotiation!"
Managing the Boss
"Adjusting to your boss' operation and interaction requirements is vital to your survival."
Beyond the Team
"...techniques for interaction and communication with your subordinates, peers, and superiors... are just as applicable to other working relationships — with other teams inside your company, and with outside vendors, suppliers, and customers."
Summing It All Up
"Know when to shut up."
This book was very easy to read. Perhaps it was because I know Eric, but the book read like he was just talking to me. Some management books tell a story (e.g., The FIVE Dysfunctions of a Team). Others are mostly theory (e.g., A Whack on the Side of the Head). Shutting Up is a collection of observations from a 34 year management career. Some chapters (e.g., "Managing Performance") express one theme and drive it home. Other chapters (e.g., "Communicating with the Group") are so chock full of management nuggets that I could have used some diagrams. Perhaps Eric should create some accompanying slides and allow those who buy the book to download them if they email him. I will make that suggestion.
I don't own a Kindle device but I do have an iPad. I was able to use the Kindle App for the iPad and read Eric's book without killing any trees.
In the tradition of "You can't put too much water on a nuclear reactor," I'd like to say "I can't recommend this book highly enough." I know Eric will appreciate the humor in that. Over the years, he listened to all my bad jokes.
Management do's and don'ts are alive in the lab.