DEV Community

Cover image for 6 Books from Silicon Valley Authors to help you become a better Tech Manager

6 Books from Silicon Valley Authors to help you become a better Tech Manager

In 2021, I started my new role as the Team Lead for Cloud-Native Development. I have been developing for six years at this point. But all of that did nothing to prepare me for the more significant challenge as a lead - managing people.

Arguably, managing tech is more straightforward. Somewhere out there on the internet, the answers are probably written in a blog post or Stackoverflow thread. But for people issues, each issue is specific to the context of the situation. There's no article somewhere that would offer a clean-cut solution to a people-related concern. You have to be quick on your feet and handle the situation as it arises.

For wisdom, I turned to these modern management books. In this post, I'll walk you through a summary of each book and why you should read the book in its entirety

[1] The Making of a Manager (Julie Zhuo)

Image description

This book is a handbook for new managers. Each chapter covers an aspect of the job that you will most likely encounter at work. Plus, Julie had written this from the hard lessons she learned when she first started managing designers on Facebook.

In summary, being a manager is all about delivering excellent outcomes through others. As a manager, the foundation of your relationship with your reports is trust. From a position of trust, you can help your direct reports get better by:

  • investing time to help them get better
  • sharing timely, specific, constructive feedback
  • being transparent and honest about their performance
  • admitting your own mistakes and growth areas
  • not tolerating assholes

The book contains so much more. I recommend this book for managers who just started and feel lost about what they have to do.

[2] Radical Candor (Kim Scott)

Image description

The whole premise of Radical Candor is that to bring the best out of your people, you have to (1) care personally and, (2) challenge directly. Most people fear confrontation and lean towards caring more than challenging directly. If we genuinely cared about our direct reports, we should both be able to recognize outstanding work and point out areas they need to work on - so they can get even better.

The book goes further suggests that managers should go further than daily work needs and get to know each of her direct reports. What motivates your direct report? What kind of career track would fit in their overall vision for his life? How can you be a partner in bringing out the best in them?

The latter part of the book is dedicated to specific techniques for every manager to achieve this.

[3] The Carrot Principle (Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton)

Image description

Most companies don't recognize their employees enough. That's why good employees leave and find new places where their contributions would be appreciated.

This book encourages managers and companies to think of ways to recognize their employees' hard work properly. It doesn't have to be a plaque every time. It can be as simple as a handwritten "thank you" note or a dinner coupon at their favorite restaurant.

The book outlines a framework to help you come up with a good strategy in finding the appropriate recognition for your employees' contribution.

[4] Never Split The Difference (Chris Voss)

Image description

Most people are afraid of confrontation. I am, too. It's uncomfortable to stand up for yourself in the face of people who aren't afraid of asserting themselves in the slightest inconvenience. This book teaches us that instead of fighting our counterparts by thinking of a good counter-jab, we should listen to them first. Listen with empathy and understand where are they coming from. Ask follow-up questions. Make them feel heard. From a place of empathy, our counterpart would be more open to reciprocate the favor and listen to our needs. And from empathy comes mutual understanding. And that is the first step to arriving at a win-win compromise.

Aside from this core premise, Chris also presents several negotiation techniques to position yourself well during a negotiation.

[5] How Full is your Bucket? (Tom Rath and Donald Clifton)

Image description

This is a very short book, but its lessons are essential nonetheless.

All of us have our metaphorical "buckets". As we have positive interactions with people, we fill up their buckets as well as ours. This happens when we compliment someone on their work, show genuine concern and interest in their work, etc.

However, when we have negative interactions, both of our buckets get drained. Imagine a typical work day; your boss confronts you about how your poor code quality has caused the other team to stay up all night. And he blames you for it. Your whole day is ruined, and you can't think of anything else. You keep replaying that interaction over and over in your head.

For sure, the manager has a gazillion other things he had to do that day. This minor incident probably didn't make a dent in his day, but it had an outsized impact on his direct report's day. This little book teaches us to be conscious about our effect on others and their day. Go beyond that and be mindful of the other things that draw from your direct reports' bucket. Is an angry customer mad at your direct report? Maybe it would be best to handle it in the management level first before involving the direct report.

[6] So Good They Can't Ignore You (Cal Newport)

Image description

We're often told to follow our passion. Jump ahead with full courage and pursue what we truly want. And of course, top that off with a quote from Steve Jobs: "If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life".

This book turns this conventional wisdom around. Instead of focusing on finding that one thing we are passionate about, we should instead focus on building skills that are of great value to the world (i.e, skills the world is willing to pay for). From a position of great skill, we can build the kind of work that we can grow passion for.

Instead of jumping headfirst to your "passion project", start small and build from the career capital you already have. Taking "Bite-sized" bets that won't plunge us into debt.

The book offers more of these unconventional advices.

How about you? What other books can you share to become a better Tech Manager?

If you have any comments, suggestions or just want to let me know how this series has helped you, feel free to leave a comment below, or message me! I'd love to hear from you!

Special thanks to my editor, Allen, for making my posts more coherent.

Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

Discussion (0)