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8 Career Books to Read About Managing People

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You’ve just landed a big promotion. You’re going from being on a team to leading the team. Maybe you have one direct report or maybe you have an entire department on your hands. Either way, you’re hungry for information on how you can jump into this role headfirst and succeed.

Everyone has had good managers and bad managers, and, often, the difference isn’t whether someone has some innate skill — it’s whether they were prepared and trained to step into a management position. Bringing out the best in people takes work. You have to learn to identify where your reports are strongest, what motivates them, and how they can come together as a unified team. 

In an ideal world, your company would offer a robust training program to help you learn how to succeed in this new role. But that doesn’t always happen — and, while books aren’t a perfect substitute, they’re a start. Here are eight career books I wish I’d read before managing people.

Your team is human — and so are you. Drawing from her years at tech companies, including Apple and Dropbox, author Kim Scott shares that good bosses must create a culture of feedback while both caring personally and challenging directly. Employees want to do well and it’s on their boss to provide the praise, criticism, and guidance to help them succeed — that is radical candor.

Julie Zhuo addresses the fact that most managers have no idea what they’re doing when they first step into the role. From the logistics of everyday responsibilities to navigating new challenges to holding the responsibility of direct reports’ career trajectories, Zhuo shares real-life tips on everything from hiring to building trust.

New York magazine’s beloved writer behind the “Ask a Manager” column rounds up all of her best advice in one book. Tackling tough conversations, awkward encounters, and how to navigate relationships across your organization are all fair game in this advice-packed book.

What drives your employees? Is it money? Sure, that’s important, but Daniel Pink argues that the best way to motivate employees is to put them in charge of their own ability to learn, create, and make an impact. Humans are motivated by autonomy over their own lives — and that could be the best way to help drive your team to achieve.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth’s long-standing New York Times bestseller speaks to achievement as a result of passion and perseverance, rather than a stroke of genius. For both you and your team, it’s the commitment to grit that brings success — and this book helps you learn how to bring that out in both yourself and those you manage.

Part of your responsibility as a manager is to help your team (and yourself!) avoid burnout. In Arianna Huffington’s personal portrait of pursuing success, she makes the case for rethinking the workplace and how we’ve gone all in on a hustle-and-grind culture. If you want your team to sign off completely on their PTO, you need to as well. If you want them to take a walk midday, you need to step away from your desk. Burning the midnight oil shouldn’t be required of anyone on your team, and that change needs to start with you.

Women still face discrimination in the workplace, and as a manager, it can become increasingly clear that it happens — particularly as you work your way up. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman provide a guide for women, both as managers and entry-level employees, to pave their own road toward success. This lays the groundwork for women to maintain confidence as they climb the ladder and mentor younger women on their own team.

This book is all about transitions in the workplace, and there’s perhaps no bigger transition than the leap to first-time people manager. You’re not going to figure it all out in the first 90 days, but those early months do give you an opportunity to establish habits and strategies that will set the tone for your team and give them a reason to trust that you have their back.



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