Book Review: Welcome to Management: How to Grow From Top Performer to Excellent Leader

Welcome to Management: How to Grow From Top Performer to Excellent Leader
Welcome to Management: How to Grow From Top Performer to Excellent Leader

Welcome to Management: How to Grow From Top Performer to Excellent Leader by Ryan HawkGeneral Stanley McChrystal (Foreword)

I am trying to get back into the habit of writing down my thoughts after finishing books – both to better capture the lessons learned, but also to read with intention. If I know I am going to write something about the book, then I am more likely to pay attention while reading. I have been listening to Ryan Hawk’s podcast The Learning Leader Show for a few years now, and I finally got around to reading his book.

I gave this book 5/5 stars – I thought there was a lot of really actionable information in here. This book was especially interesting as it focuses on the transition from individual contributor to managing a team. So many of the leadership books available these days are written from an executive level, which requires a different skill set.

A lot of what Ryan has to say ties back to sports analogies – something that really hits home with me. I can’t say enough good things about the importance of team sports on developing a well-rounded person. I look back on my time in sports constantly to find answers to issues I am having in the business world.

Compliance can be commanded, but commitment cannot. People reserve their full capacity for emotional commitment for leaders they find credible, and credibility must be earned.

This is an example of a truth in sports, but even more so in the business world. There is only so far “because I said so” can get you in life – and I think the negative impact of that statement sticks around a lot longer than whatever benefit you were looking to obtain.

The best performers observe themselves closely. They are in effect able to step outside themselves, monitor what is happening in their own minds, and ask how it’s going. Researchers call this metacognition—knowledge about your own knowledge, thinking about your own thinking. Top performers do this much more systematically than others do; it’s an established part of their routine.

They are deeply thoughtful in their approach and supremely intentional in their effort. As these leaders encounter experiences (whether successful or unsuccessful ones), they have a process in place to reflect, think, analyze what happened, and (most important) grow from the experience. They are intentional about what they do, why they do it, how they do it, and with whom they do it—thoughtfulness and intentionality are the twin pistons that drive the internal combustion engine of successful leading.

John Dewey’s quote: ‘We don’t learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on the experience.’

These quotes are part of the reason why I am getting back into writing short book reviews. I read for pleasure, but I also want to get as much out of that time as possible. In order to truly benefit from these lessons, I need to spend some time thinking about the book and the passages that stuck out to me, and see how I can incorporate those things into my life. I have also recently gotten back into a daily journaling habit to collect my thoughts and set my intentions for the day

As the leader of a team, you will be asking your team to do things that are hard. In order to make that ask with credibility, you must show a willingness to do hard things yourself. You must lead from the front. People follow leaders who they know will be there when it’s hard.

Another connection to sports for me here (and a bit of a tangent). It was the start of summer camp for my senior season of college football – fit test day. I played at a small DII school, so most of the team went home for the summer and would train on their own. One of the first things done each August was a fit test to see where everyone stood. Since I stayed at school all summer, we had our fit tests throughout the summer and were exempt from the added stress before camp went into full swing. This was a reward of sorts – getting to hang out on the sidelines while everyone else went through a litany of tests.

The final test was a 300 yard shuttle. You would start on the goal line and sprint to the 25 yard line and back a total of 12 times – a total gut check. The fit test required running three of those shuttles back to back under position-specific times. The prior off season my positional coach had left, and there was a new sheriff in town (Coach V.). This also happened to be the season I had been named one of the team captains. There was a rumor that there were some new shoulder pads coming in, and I wanted to ask Coach V if I could get a set of the new gear. I don’t remember his exact words, but I do remember the look he gave me. He responded along the lines of “Is this really how you’re going to act?” referring to me watching teammates suffer and asking for new gear. As soon as that realization sunk in I felt sick. From then on I made sure I was always taking part in the suck, and I am better for it.

We’re not running sprints at work now, but I try and carry the same mentality forward. If I am asking people on my team to seek out training or certifications or anything else in their free time, I make sure I am holding myself to the same standard.

To see the full list of my notes and highlights click here.

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