"The Ugly Truth About Managing People" Book Review
Originally published: 02.01.08 by Meredith Beverstock
A review of Ruth King’s latest book.
As a business owner, you probably have run into problems such as how to motivate your employees or how to handle an unsavory situation that may require some finesse. The good news is you are not alone. Businesses across the nation are plagued by many of the same issues. Largely due to the fact that in addition to selling your goods or providing your services, you are managing a staff. And whether your staff consists of 200 people or just two people, problems will always arise. In managing a business, smooth sailing simply does not exist.
This is why Ruth King, founder of hvacchannel.tv and HVACR Business editorial advisory board member, authored The Ugly Truth About Managing People (2007, Sourcebooks).
“I wrote this book because a lot of the problems we have in business are people problems,” explains King. “This book is a way to help solve some of the people issues. If you can learn from the mistakes of others, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time, a lot of heartache, a lot of stress, and a lot of sleepless nights.”
The book, which is split into five chapters, begins by sharing the obstacles faced and mistakes made by other business owners, and of course the lessons they learned from these trials. From hiring, firing, and finding your best staff members to dealing with the wearying challenges of counseling employees, and balancing work and family time, this book has answers for everything. With any luck their missteps will prevent you from making similar mistakes and teach you how to resolve future problems correctly.
King provides “17 Survival Strategies,” which highlight areas of business that could use a little common sense. Simply put, communication is key — don’t start a confrontation with an employee unless you know the desired outcome of the conversation. If your employee is not performing his or her duties, evaluate whether it’s a simple lapse, or if the underperforming is a consistent behavior — if so, perhaps the employee would be better suited at another job.
While some business owners hold to the philosophy of learning from their mistakes, a prudent business owner knows when to take the lesson from others.
“My grandfather told me there are three types of business people: the first make mistakes but never learn from them; the second make mistakes and learn from them, but [the learning process] causes them a lot of stress; and the third type learns from the mistakes of others.
“I would much prefer to learn from somebody else’s mistakes than make them myself,” says King. Readers seem to agree with King.
Indeed, Jim Woolley, CEO of Atlanta-based Central Heating and Air, purchased several copies for each of his top managers.
“I didn’t buy enough,” Woolley notes. “I will have to buy more so that all supervisors will have the power and insight [King] shared.”
King finishes with some final words of wisdom: Remember to have a sense of humor, find a mentor, remember that the team is only as strong as its weakest player, and finally that your business is only as good as its employees.
If you can stomp out that last bit of stubborn spirit that relishes in learning lessons the hard way you’ll save yourself time, potential legal trouble and you can get your tension headaches from actually managing your business instead of your employees.