The central questions of this book are: How do the best managers behave? What sets them apart from their peers? What impact do they have on their subordinates and co-workers? The theme and organizing idea of the book is the good enough manager ® or GEM. The concept is based on the psychological theory of the good enough mother who provides an environment where an infant learns to develop an autonomous and genuine self. She does this by responding with empathy and adapting her behavior, completely meeting the child’s needs in the beginning and then gradually letting go, allowing more autonomy and room for the child to add something uniquely his own to the relationship. This book is based on a primary principle: Just as there is no such thing as a perfect parent, managing people in organizations is an inherently human and fallible endeavor, mainly because managing occurs by and through human relationships. Through the words of over 1000 study respondents, GEMs are shown to be mentors and teachers, relationship builders, and models of integrity for their workers. Each of these themes is explored, making connections to the "right brain" thinking of artists and other creative professionals, managing with emotional intelligence, and historical ideas about management and leadership as adaptive human processes.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What is a GEM?
The introductory chapter provides the rationale and development of the "good enough" concept and how it applies to managers (as summarized in the above synopsis). The chapter culminates in the working definition of a GEM.
Chapter 2: Discovering GEMs: A Study of the Best and Worst Managers
The study is detailed including the approach, data collection, and results. Based on an analysis of over 1,000 responses to a computer-based survey, the study concludes that the "best" managers:
- Serve as mentors, teachers and supporters of their employees, allowing sufficient autonomy and room to grow and develop;
- Build and maintain effective relationships by listening carefully and empathically, communicating clearly, providing helpful feedback, and remaining open to new ideas;
- Manage with high levels of integrity, characterized by respect, honesty, fairness and trust.
By contrast, the "worst" managers are seen as over-controlling, micro-managers who lack appropriate interpersonal skills, take credit for things they didn’t do, and blame others for things they did. The discussion also includes a brief examination of how the variable of gender affects the results. The above noted conclusions form the basis for the subsequent chapters with the narratives providing depth to these findings.
Chapter 3: GEMs as Mentors and Teachers
This chapter builds on the idea of the good enough manager as a teacher and mentor who, as reflected by the theory, allows sufficient autonomy within well-established boundaries and facilitates creativity and growth in employees. This is explored in contrast to its opposite, the micro-manager who over-controls and stifles his or her employees, rendering them defensive and resentful. These ideas are amply illustrated with descriptions and stories from the study. Although many of the GEMs are very warm and caring in relation to their employees and co-workers, their approach is not only about being sensitive and nice. In their role as teachers, GEMs hold people accountable, maintain high standards and respect boundaries.
Chapter 4: GEMs as Relationship Builders
The GEMs are seen as building and maintaining very effective, and at times powerful, relationships with their employees. The vivid stories and descriptions focus on the themes of trust, mutual respect, and open, clear and responsive communication (including the special importance of listening and managing emotions). Once again the "best" managers or GEMs are contrasted with the opposite (managers lacking the interpersonal competence to productively engage in fruitful and mutually beneficial relationships).
Chapter 5: GEMs as Models of Integrity
Given the recent ethical lapses of corporate leaders during the last decade and during the recent financial crisis, this chapter emphasizes the importance of managing with integrity. The data clearly demonstrate that the best managers (in keeping with the "good enough" idea) understand their humanity and fallibility and, as Warren Bennis once suggested, try their best to do the right thing as opposed to just "doing things right." The chapter illustrates managers who are more comfortable with vulnerability, and experience it as strength rather than as a weakness, particularly when managing tough decisions such as layoffs or confronting subordinates. The emphasis is on values, fairness and authenticity (or humanity) in managing others. Once again stories and vignettes are used to illustrate the critical role that ethics and integrity have in practice.
Chapter 6: Becoming a GEM
This final chapter seeks to answer the question: How can I become a GEM? What skills and attitudes are required and how do I develop them? The premise is that although GEMs may be highly valued and precious, the stories illustrate that they are very human and we can learn from their example. The chapter provides guidelines for action, based on the preceding chapters and the central aspects of "good enough managing." The discussion is organized according to four "Cs" associated with this approach:
- Capacity (emotional intelligence, especially aspects such as self awareness, empathy, impulse control and the willingness to let go).
- Competence (specific interpersonal skills of listening, assertive communication, and conflict management).
- Character (developing a sense of one’s values and infusing them into the role of the manager in order to do the right thing when necessary).
- Commitment (willingness to do the best one can, every day)
Aaron J. Nurick is Professor of Management and Psychology at Bentley University. Dr. Nurick's teaching and scholarship have been devoted to the application of psychology to management and organizations. His published work includes articles in the Academy of Management Learning and Education Journal, Journal of Management Inquiry, Psychological Bulletin, Human Relations, Human Resource Management, Organizational Behavior Teaching Review, Journal of Management Education, Business Horizons, and Human Resource Planning.
'This masterful book goes to the heart of managerial practice. Nurick shows how it is anchored in developing a realistic image of one’s own powers and those of his/her colleagues, avoiding the toxic dangers of omnipotent thinking, self-idealization, and perfectionism. With this quality of awareness the manager/leader is able to create the trust and facilitating environment that is crucial for success in contemporary organizations.'-James Krantz, Ph.D. Principal, Worklab; Past President, International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations, USA
'This is a well-researched and rich volume largely based on the author’s extensive use of personal reflection of his experiences over many years; and added to by the synthesis of many schools of thought brought together in a delightfully informative way. It is a volume that will be welcomed by managers and students of management who wish to take a more thoughtful approach to their roles.'-Lionel F. Stapley, Ph.D., Director and Head of Group Processes Learning Program, OPUS – An Organisation for Promoting Understanding of Society. London, UK
'Aaron Nurick’s "The Good Enough Manager" is an engaging and elegantly written synthesis of managerial theory and research. The title may lead some to bypass it, but this book is a lucid summation of a very sophisticated perspective on the most crucial of our work relationships. Nurick’s scholarship and deep understanding of the subject is evident. He also uses poignant stories drawn from his original studies of the best and worst managers to vividly illustrate key concepts along with their practical implications. Readers from diverse industries, including my own (health care) will find this book a real and useful gem.'-Ernest Frugé, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, Houston, Texas, USA
'I enjoyed reading this book. It brought back to me some of the best and worst managers I have had. More important, it caused me to think about myself and how I manage. That is where I believe the value of the book lies. For those who are willing to engage in introspection and to really think about how and where they can apply the ideas in this book, it has the potential to help them make transition to better management' -Steven E. Scullen, Associate Professor of Management and International Business, College of Business and Public Administration, Drake University.