Resilient Management by Lara Hogan Review


I’ve started officially managing a team at Booking.com since the February of last year. Since that time, I’ve started reading a lot of books to learn all the skills that I’m lacking. Recently, I started thinking of reviewing books that I read and my management journey in my blog, and here is the first post in that direction.

Today, I was reading Lara Hogan’s Resilient Management, which was mentioned several times on the Internet recently. Here is my review of it, and what personally stuck with me.

The Good

First of all, I should say that the book is really friendly in terms of tone – I really liked to read it as if the author was talking to me. I haven’t talked to or listened to Lara, but from the book, she comes off as an energetic person who likes to have fun, and that helps a lot in absorbing the messages, and sometimes hard truths, that she talks about.

The second thing I really liked about this book was how specific it is. It talks about 1:1s, using issues, JIRA, and all the things we deal with on a daily basis in tech. Usually, other books are much broader, and you have to ground it in your own knowledge and tools. However, as a person who is just beginning, I always had this nagging feeling of, “am I understanding this right?” The fact that Lara refers to all these tools and processes specifically leaves very little room for misinterpretation.

Apart from the book itself, I found the “Resources” section a huge hoard of gold, so much so that I’ve started working my way through those as well. Lara has had a lot of experience in management, and her style seems to be very close to mine, except she has figured out things that I’m still struggling with, namely being a bit more assertive and the lack of experience in general. So, it’s great to have a list of things that she has used to get to where she is. This is something I can use to hopefully get more in-depth about what she’s talking about.

The Bad

One thing that struck me was, this book is very small relative to what it covers. It only took me three hours to read it. Granted, I use a screen reader that reads very fast, but I’m sure eyes can also read just as quickly.

Being small isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except this book seems to be trying to tackle too many subjects, and ends up skimming the surface in almost all of them. I finished this book feeling confused and nervous, mostly because it just showed me all the things I didn’t know, instead of making me feel like I could get a handle on something–anything–after finishing it.

I assume that since this book is for beginning managers, Lara is trying to give a broader overview of all the parts of the job, rather than providing enough content to make a beginner totally confident. Look below in the section about my recommendation to see how I suggest remedying this.

Another thing was the figures. I emailed Lara herself about this, and with her straight-forward approach and her focus on unrepresented groups I’m sure she will get to this quickly, but as it stands, if you are color blind, or like me, totally blind, there could be content that you’d miss. Some of them are supplementary and you can probably live without, but some of it, like the different behavioral/communication styles, could be confusing.

What I Learned

Disagree And Commit

This is something I encountered for the first time in this book. Normally, I have problems owning something that isn’t totally done by me, but I’ve experienced first-hand what it does to people’s sense of control and fairness when I shrug and say, “I tried.”

So, I totally knew the importance of why not to do what I was doing, but I also had no idea about the alternatives.

This is very important in cases like performance calibrations, where your idea might be different than the actual result. This could also happen, for example, when you have a different opinion than your boss, and the decision ends up being directive and you have to tell your team to do it anyway.

Just as I said above, however, I now know that what I should do has a name, and it’s called “disagree and commit”. However, I need to look online or in other books to get more depth on it, since Lara just skimmed over the subject in a few paragraphs.

1:1 Questions

When I say this book is actionable, I mean it gets down to the level of what questions you should ask the people in the team in your 1:1s!

The questions proposed by Lara are actually very useful because they tell me what kind of things people expect from me, and it’s alright to go up to them and bombard them with questions in the initial stages to kick things off.

Just to give you an idea of what these questions are, here are the ones that I found very interesting – things that would have never occurred to me to ask:

  • What’s your favorite way to treat yourself?
  • Human learning and growth requires the right amount of four things: new challenges, low ego, space to reflect and brainstorm, and timely and clear feedback. How are these four going for you? Is there one you need more or less of?
  • And the easy but very surprising one: “what do you need from your teammates?”

As someone who has this voice inside his head that tells him people will find what he’s doing very weird, I get very self-conscious. That’s why having these questions will help me both be a bit more confident, and also know what questions I should ask to keep my finger on the pulse of how other team members are feeling.

Tracking Your Energy

This is a concept that I first got to read about in Ron Friedman’s The Best Place to Work last year. It percolated in my brain for a while, until I found The Power of Full Engagement, which argues that managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance.

For me, personally, high performance is not the highest priority right now. I’m more interested in sustainable performance, where your output and performance is more predictable.

However, the way Lara looks at it is a bit different. In her calendar, she colors her meetings based on what kind of “brain” they use. She talks about a “manager brain” that is used in 1:1s, a “dissemination-of-information brain” that she uses in group meetings like the ones with her team, the “strategy/tactics brain” where she is meeting with her peers to set strategy and timelines, and the “focus, complex problem solving brain” which she uses to get her own tasks done.

There is no explanation I could find on why she separates out the activities like this, or how she got to this conclusion, but if it works for you, feel free to use it. For me, personally, I need to try it out in real life to see how it works.

But first, I should figure out what to substitute for colors in my calendar!

My Final Recommendation

I personally feel like this book is more useful in the beginning stages of your management journey, when you are like me and you haven’t actually seen a team go through its four stages of forming, storming, norming and performing in action. If you are here, I strongly suggest getting this book, knowing that it’d be more useful to you if you are in tech.

Once you get it, I suggest going through it once to get a general idea of what she is talking about, but then coming back multiple times as you need the information. As I said above, there is a lot of knowledge packed in this book, and there is a very high chance that you will glaze over something that doesn’t apply to you at the time. So, keep it handy, and refer to it often!

What About You?

Have you read Lara Hogan’s book? What was your take on it? What did you like or dislike about it? For that matter, what did you like or dislike about my review?

Please leave a comment below and let me know!

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