Recognise This! – Beware overly simplified management lessons couched in the business book du jour.

What’s your take on management books? As a co-author of one myself, I tend to enjoy reading them for the varying perspectives on workplace management. Of course, some are better than others, but even in the poor books, I’ve always found a nugget or two I could learn from.

Sometimes, though, the best lessons I’ve taken away from a book are the opposite of what the author likely intended. I was pleased to see Geoffrey James take a similar tack in his review of several popular “management” books. His thoughts on Who Moved My Cheese mirror my own. As Geoffrey says:

    “The idea behind this book — that you can’t assume that what you’re doing today will get the same rewards tomorrow — is sufficiently obvious to encapsulate in a single sentence.  What’s offensive about the idea is that it blames employees for not ‘getting’ this concept, as if it should be their responsibility for resetting their goals and rewards.

    “It seems a little odd, doesn’t it, that companies pay top executives hundreds of times more than the workers they supposedly manage, without expecting those managers to provide leadership on basic issues like ‘where are we headed?’ and ‘what’s the reward when we get there?’”

The comments to Geoffrey’s post are quite interesting, some arguing that it’s up to employees to set their own goals. Best practice lies somewhere in the middle.

Geoffrey’s right. Without clear communication from management, employees in the trenches won’t know how corporate objectives may be changing and how they should be adjusting their daily efforts accordingly.  But employees who want to make the most of their careers should also be looking around to see how they could be contributing more and offering those suggestions.

One question left out of the equation, though is “will my efforts be noticed along the way?” Don’t forget, it’s just as important to recognise and show your appreciation for progress as it is for end results.

What’s your take on management books?