(I’m slowly moving info from the Google docs version of the syllabus to this site.)

The syllabus is a collection of resources related to managing people at work.   Assembled for my #Management Intensive program, I’ve recommended them, over and over again, to emerging managers:  they’re true, practical, useful and credible.

In migrating the information to this site, I’m puzzling out the best way to design the info flows.   I’m also re-evaluating the books, articles, and resources I’ve included.  And copy-editing, knolling the WordPress templates, and so forth.

For now, feel free to poke around here, or swing over to the Google docs version.

As I complete this document, this page will become the complete living document, which will evolve over time.   If you have any feedback, please let me know.



P.S.  Usually my monthly newsletter takes a deeper dive into one of these resources, along with other management goodness.

On Managing

What does it mean to be a manager?   The mechanical stuff about organizing work is only part of the story.   It’s about having working relationships, it’s about actively contributing to and enacting your organization’s culture.  And more.

Hairsplitters who claim that Managing is Not Leading are lip-synching a late 1980s industrial trope.  That’s the last century, people!  I don’t know a single organization today where a manager isn’t expected to lead people.  Or where there are leaders who don’t also manage people and relationships.

Being a leader starts with leading, and managing, yourself.   (Spoiler alert:  knowing how to follow, and whom to follow, is also key.)

Finally, the internet is not an authoritative resource on managing human relationships at work.   Including this syllabus.


Your workplace is a community.   Communities live or die on the structure provided by culture, principles, and values.   An organization is further bounded by its goals — clearly stated, or not.  Finally, we all bring our personal stuff into the office with us.

The work of management is to align these elements of life at work, in a healthy way.  Too much alignment yields a static hothouse, like a cult.  Too little alignment, and you have entropy.  Chaos and conformity both kill innovation and creativity.

To find a balance, start with understanding how culture and values operate in your workplace.  And by knowing yourself, your own operating principles, and understanding how you align with your organization.

Managing People

At its heart, managing people is an ongoing series of conversations.   Optimally, you’ll have targeted conversation around setting goals, offering feedback, and ways that you can help team members to develop their skills and meet goals.

As a manager, it’s on you to set clear goals.   And then to bring those goals into the conversation, while exchanging feedback.   Otherwise, when a team member isn’t meeting goals, the problem is very possibly, well, you.

Towards this end, I’m a fan of stating your goals in the SMART format, and discussing them in regular 1:1 meetings.  Solid 1:1s also set the stage for smooth and effective performance reviews.  I do not believe that performance reviews have to be a dreaded and useless time suck.  With thoughtful action, you can use your review process to build relationship, accountability, and help your people to do their best work.


Because your workplace is a community, some of your conversations will be difficult.  The good news is that you can head off many difficult conversations in your routine conversations about goals and performance.   The bad news is, stuff happens.   All kinds of stuff.

So you need to build some skills at giving and receiving feedback.   And hone your ability to deal with emotions — other people’s, and your own.

You’ll find that most conversations about people’s performance benefit from preparation.  Yours.  Sometimes you may need coaching from your manager or HR.  It can also be wise to prepare talking points, and bounce them off of a trusted colleague.  (Particularly when working with someone who needs to improve their performance — or when it’s time for a team member to move on.)

You can’t learn this stuff from the Internet.  So, don’t.  Do read about it.  Then, rely on experienced humans in your orbit to coach you through the toughest workplace conversations.

Hiring, etc.

Some people would say that “HR” owns the hiring function.  Untrue.  HR owns compliance, administration, and a large part of the delivery of these functions.  You and your team will wind up with the people you hire.  So, own the outcomes.

Be HR’s partner!   When you understand how you and HR can best work together to bring new team members on board, you’ll  increase the possibilities for bringing the right people onto your team.   (And, if your organization doesn’t yet have a robust HR function, your informed action when hiring and on-boarding team members is even more important.)

Keep Learning

For now, this page will be a bastion of self-promotion without shame.

If you’re a manager, check my performance management resources over at painlessreviews.com.

  • My free checklist of just about every action you need to take, in chronological order, to be prepared for performance reviews.  (Get the checklist now, and kick off the new year with a free hangout on how to use it.)
  • Practical user guides I wrote for emerging managers, on 1:1 meetings and performance reviews, updated in late 2016.
  • New for 2017, a weekly reminder service to help you stay on top of critical performance management actions.