I just finished reading Managing Humans by Michael Lopp, aka Rands in Repose. Michael is a 15-year veteran manager from Silicon Valley. He’s worked for such notable companies as Netscape and Borland. He has a lot of good advice based on this experience. The book is a compilation of blog posts so you can probably get by without buying it if you really want to. However, there is a lot of good stuff in here and having a copy to mark up is handy.
If I have something negative to say about the book, it is that it doesn’t have a well defined audience. Despite the title, the book isn’t all aimed at managers. Some of the book is telling managers how to think. Some is telling employees what their managers are thinking. Still others are aimed at those starting a company. A 4th audience is those trying to land a job and going through the interview process. Each of these sections have good essays dedicated to them, but it also ensure there will be essays that are useless to everyone reading the book.
The best essays cover the subjects of meetings and employees.
On meetings, Michael dedicates several essays to the sort of people you’ll find in meetings and how to help those meetings succeed. He also gives advice about how to determine a meeting is doomed so you can leave.
On employees, he explains the concept of the “free electron” which is that rare super programmer and how to keep them happy. He talks about analyzing poor performance and then acting on it. One great tip is determining what the real problem is by creating a 2×2 grid comparing motivation and skill. In a point that hit home with me, Michael pointed out that sometimes what appears to be a motivation issue can really be a skills issue. Someone who once had great skills but who has been coasting on past accomplishments may have low motivation because their skills have atrophied. In this case, skills training may be the solution to the motivation issues.
If you are managing a team, read this book. If you want to understand what your manager is likely thinking, read this book.
One more note, the writing style is very irreverent. If you are easily offended, you may find yourself wincing at times.