There are over 60 years of research about the practices and behaviors correlated with being a great manager and team. Part of our mission at Koan is to bring those smarts directly into the tools we’re building. So as you might imagine, we constantly have a tall stack of books on our to-read list….
We have a monthly book club where we pick a book to all read, then share our favorite insights and debate the potential product impacts. To keep it fun, we do it all over a few pints (generally at “Secret Bailey’s”, for fellow Portlanders).
Some highlights from the books we’ve been enjoying (all of of which we’d recommend):
The Essential Drucker
Drucker is a “business philosopher” the “father of modern management”, and the guy that coined “Knowledge Worker”. He’s the original source for many key concepts, and this single book is an efficient way to grab the essence of his ideas out of a 30+ book corpus.
Giving real and honest feedback (or guidance) is just about the hardest and simultaneously most valuable thing you can do as a boss. Scott draws on her career experience at some of the world’s best companies to propose how to do it effectively. Hint: it’s not simply telling your directs that they suck all the time and it starts with actually giving a shit.
The Effective Manager
This book is chock-full of simple, practical advice about what to do as a manager. It distills a lot of Horstman’s excellent “Manager Tools” podcasts into an easily digestible set of recommendations about how to have 1:1s, give feedback and more. This currently occupies my “first book I’d give to a new manager” slot.
At Koan, we’re lucky enough to count Maynard Webb as a mentor and investor. Here, he delves into what it takes to have a fulfilling work-life and provides a framework for how to achieve it. As Webb notes: the nature of work and the companies we all work for is fundamentally changing; it’s time to learn how to become the “CEOs of our own Destiny”.
The Hard Thing about Hard Things
At some point, every CEO (and company) goes through “The Struggle” — a seemingly insurmountable set of challenges that must be dealt with, including one’s own psychology. The book is not only super enjoyable, but full of practical tips about what it takes to be a great leader. Reading it the first time helped me through some tough times at my last startup; reading it a second time inspired me to strive to be a better CEO.
What’s on your own management reading shelf that’s been great? Any recommendations for an upcoming Koan book club?