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The Manager’s Handbook: Five Simple Steps to Build a Team, Stay Focused, Make Better Decisions, and Crush Your Competition

Discover “The Manager’s Handbook” by David Dodson – a game-changer in managerial literature. Dodson’s approach breaks down essential skills into actionable subskills, offering practical guidance for building high-performing teams, mastering time management, seeking advice effectively, setting priorities, and prioritizing quality. With real-life examples and innovative strategies, this book equips both new and seasoned managers with the tools for success. Don’t miss out on this comprehensive guide to becoming a great manager.

‘Is this yet another manager’s how-to guidebook’ were my initial thoughts when I only saw the title of this book. In addition, the author David Dodson claims “it is the book I wished someone had handed me when I first became a manager”.

Not exactly sure what to expect I briefly reflected what books and articles I was made aware of when I first became a people manager about 20 years ago. Not many to be honest. Could it be that now is the right time for The Manager’s Handbook indeed?

At a first glance I really liked the structure of The Manager’s Handbook: Five very well curated parts around the key skills of building a team, time management, the importance of seeking and taking advice, the right way of setting priorities, as well as the obsession with quality.

What have all of these to do with the way we manage people?

Quite a lot it turns out; the author manages to break down each skill into so called subskills. He refers back to an analogy of learning how to play the piano (skill). In order to do this, one must know how to read music, how to position your fingers in the keyboard etc. (subskills).

Many management books would start by talking about setting the right priorities and managing one’s time, both important and also covered in this book. But the real catch is that the reader of The Manager’s Handbook will learn first all about developing and executing their commitment to building a high performing team.

The first chapters are being presented in a very detailed, practical, and ready-to-apply way. This includes building a hiring scorecard, interviewing systematically, and applying radical candour. There is no excuse for any people manager not to start using the ideas outlined.

After the core principles of building and managing team members, the author dives deeper into time management in the second part of the book. You are in for a treat of innovative tips and ideas on how to do so.

Dodson again, manages to combine practical concepts and instruments with short excursions into history where appropriate. He adds on practical real-life examples from his own work as a leadership advisor and coach. None of them sounding “top down”, but rather a caring author showing a real interest in bringing his ideas to life for the reader.

Rather unexpected to me, the author spends the third part of the book on the art of seeking and taking advice. It got me thinking that it absolutely makes sense in the context of new and even experienced people managers’ daily overdose of social media and real-life information.

One really needs to have a focused approach to make good use of their time (cf. part 2 of the book) in order to gather as much information as possible from their own team, clients, other stakeholders, as well as from mentors and coaches.

My personal highlight in this part was to read how to build a “board of advisors” which the reader could use both for building one’s board for your own business, as well as a personal board for one’s personal development as a manager.

Part four focuses on all things setting the right priorities, KPIs, operational planning, and compensation. The author manages to build a very insightful narrative how all of these depend on each other and how you as the new (or experienced) leader can navigate along to have the best performance of your team and compensate them for the same.

The final part of the book talks about the importance of quality. The author provides plenty of real-life examples of how putting quality at the heart of a manager’s delivery has real world impact.

I perceived it as a very useful extension of the manager’s toolkit. It nicely puts into perspective all of the instruments aiming at people interactions from the first four parts, with the quest for quality when executing one’s role.

This chapter also has one of my favourite analogies of the book called “walk behind the tractor” explained, again in a very practical and easy to replicate way. There is no reason for the reader not to become a great manager.

Managing people is no magic. It is the compilation of a lot of basic skills like making time for leadership, the right composition and guidance to one’s team, and the ability of knowing when to delegate and when to apply a different set of tools. I have not come across a better book that summarises all of these skills in such a clear and practical way. And yes, I do agree, this should have been the book I should have been given when I first became a people manager, too.

Published by Wiley

Reviewed by Florian Bosch – Regional Human Resources Director, Europe – Howden

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