Resources for Managers

Jan 3, 2014

Brenda called consultants Jeffrey and Linda Russell, worried about her upcoming performance review. She distrusted her boss and feared he would ambush her. Then the Russells heard from Tom, a manager requesting their help with his review of a “volatile” employee whom he found “intimidating.” Tom was Brenda’s manager.

Fear of performance reviews—on both sides of the desk—is what the Russells set out to conquer in Fearless Performance Reviews (McGraw-Hill Education, 2012).

What brings out this fear? The Russells show how reviews become “overly judgmental”—not just for the employee but also to the reviewing manager, who may hate judging others as much as employees hate being judged. The book examines how reviews make employees feel like they lack control over their work lives and supervisors feel like they lack control over the review itself.

These issues stem from what the Russells dub the my-way mindset. “Mindset matters because … each person’s mindset contributes to the quality of the connection,” they write. The my-way mindset undermines any real exchange of ideas because of beliefs such as “I’m right, you’re wrong” and “I am in charge, you’re not.” In this type of exchange, someone must win and someone must lose. While managers and employees would say they surely don’t think in those terms, this mindset is so ingrained that people don’t realize they have it—and that it helps them feel in control.

My-way behaviors include holding onto information and never admitting that the other person might have a valid point, because such an admission would mean the other person “wins.” My-way managers won’t explain themselves, even if doing so would help employees better understand what’s expected of them. My-way employees and managers focus on their own goals to the exclusion of all else. Managers might sugarcoat negative messages because they don’t want employees to get overly emotional.

The bulk of the book shows readers the benefits of reviews that use true collaboration. A fearless review has no “undiscussables” hovering in the air to make participants evade, withhold or sugarcoat problems. Performance improvement—not self-defense or self-justification—becomes the focus. “All of these ideal performance review outcomes are available to each of us at any time,” the authors write, without any new processes or even a change to the employer’s review forms.

Readers get steps for successful reviews, including details about creating a performance log, a critical incidents log and a performance portfolio with “tangible evidence” of the employee’s accomplishments.

Buy this book online at the SHRMStore.

A hidden workforce lurks inside your organization—inside the very employees you think you know. These are your acceptable workers, the ones who get good assignments but not career-building ones. Some of them are above-average employees who have advanced well but seem to be stalled. All are employees whose managers figure that as long as things are going OK, there’s no need to get overexcited and start lighting a fire under anyone.

The hidden workforce tends to be underutilized, disengaged—and untapped. In Untapped Talent (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), author Dani Monroe outlines why this happens. An employee might lack access, meaning he doesn’t get exposure to leaders other than his immediate boss and the boss doesn’t give meaningful feedback. Or her talents don’t fit with the organization so she’s seen as an outlier. Or he has skills that could have different applications from what he is currently doing. Or the employee just does not look like a traditional, mainstream leader in age, gender or race.

Monroe points out the unconscious biases that keep people from recognizing the talents of others and provides exercises for identifying and reducing those biases. Employers need to build a culture of “talent stewardship,” Monroe says, where leaders invest enough time to know the talent already in their organization. These leaders seek out untapped talent in different business lines, different locations and different functions and look several levels down and across their organizations. They take the risk of creating stretch assignments and ensure that they offer nonmonetary rewards such as challenging work and development opportunities.

Employees may fall into the hidden workforce because they aren’t good at, or haven’t uncovered, the soft skills vital to success. Those skills include interpersonal skills (building relationships), cultural competence (accepting different views as legitimate) and political savvy (reading others and the organization well and reacting as needed). Monroe urges leaders and managers to improve soft skills in team members who might be untapped talents.

Leaders and managers can tap into resourcefulness in employees by challenging them to take risks and possibly fail; showing them the long-term big picture so they see where they fit in the organization; ensuring that they have access to resources and especially people who can help and challenge them; and giving them learning experiences, including ones that aren’t necessarily related to their current assignments.

Buy this book online at the SHRMStore.


Mentors matter and you need them, but they are “not your ticket to the top,” author Sylvia Ann Hewlett tells readers in (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013).

Mentors counsel, listen and offer advice altruistically—to help. But sponsors are influential people who further your career as an investment in their own careers, Hewlett explains. Sponsors invest in you while expecting a payoff eventually, and if you play your part, you get advancement out of the relationship. Hewlett’s book guides employees on how to find a sponsor and advance both your careers.

Sponsors are senior leaders with the ability to affect your pay raises, your assignments and your promotions. A sponsor believes in you and goes out on limb, taking risks on your behalf. She advocates for your next promotion and, importantly, she provides “air cover” for you to take risks. Sponsors also connect you to other senior leaders and promote your visibility.

The protégé has to “deliver high-octane support” for the sponsor. A protégé must have high performance and deep loyalty to the sponsor and the organization. Hewlett says protégés must cover their sponsor’s back, help build the sponsor’s team and “burnish the brand” of the sponsor in the organization.

Guidance includes:

  • Figuring out what you really need and have to offer.
  • Finding and connecting with a sponsor.
  • Increasing your visibility.
  • Ensuring that your sponsor knows you are exceptional.
  • Setting yourself apart.
  • Avoiding pitfalls.
  • Exhibiting “executive presence.”

Buy this book online at the SHRMStore.


While 81 percent of professionals "say 'yes' to change," only 10 percent of them take actions to support change, reports author Reut Schwartz-Hebron. In Changing People Who Don't Want to Change (Real House Press, 2012), Schwartz-Hebron shows managers how to "change how you incorporate change" so that employees—specifically, those on teams—can embrace it.

Schwartz-Hebron offers new techniques, based on organizational psychology and advances in neuroscience, for getting people to change. She shows how brain research, applied practically in the workplace, unlocks ways to improve people's acceptance and processing of change.

The core of the book is an examination of five types of problem teams. In each team, people operate based on rules they've developed from their own experiences. When those personal rules (called strategies here) impede a team's success, how do leaders help teams replace them with strategies that optimize productivity and emphasize the team's strengths?

For example, one team's members are analytical but don't use synthesis to see the larger picture. They believe that if one option is right, other options are automatically wrong. The book describes how those ideas damage productivity, then shows readers ways to lead that team past resistance and change its behavior.

For each of the five team types, readers get a checklist to help them identify if similar teams exist in their organizations. Readers also get a summary of the kinds of strategies with which leaders should equip each team.

Buy this book online at the SHRMStore.


Treating employees and co-workers with respect isn't merely nice, says author Paul Meshanko in The Respect Effect (Dog Ear Publishing, 2012). It's also smart, because those people's brains will "literally light up and perform at the highest levels" neurologically—and that's good for business.

Meshanko delves into what respect looks like in the workplace and how to create a culture of respect in the organization.

He bolsters his case with findings in neurology, which show that the brain operates better on a diet of steady respect. Brains are wired for survival; where they sense danger (even when it's a bad boss or a scheming co-worker), they focus on self-preservation—not on being creative or productive.

Meshanko links respect with employee engagement, customer satisfaction, the ability to attract and keep good workers, and better information flow. "You don't have to pry information loose from people in respectful workplaces," he adds. He also tells the cautionary tales of how companies have lost business because they were clueless about respect.

Tools include 12 rules of respect, ways of behaving around others that affect how they react to you and how they feel about themselves. These tips include:

  • Becoming aware of the verbal and nonverbal cues you already use, and improving your body language.
  • Developing curiosity about what others think.
  • Improving your communication, especially stopping the use of "Yes, but"—which negates whatever the other person just said.
  • Explaining why you disagree with someone, rather than just shutting that person down. Explanations and open discussions make everyone feel safe enough to voice their concerns—and managers should want to hear employees' concerns.

Meshanko also offers his "blueprint for a respectful organization," giving steps employers can take to gauge where things stand now and to cultivate respect over time.

Hogan Assessment Systems has launched Insight, a new series of reports designed to give middle managers the self-awareness and feedback they need to improve their job performance. 

Buy this book online at the SHRMStore.


Insight is a three-part series that uses Hogan’s trademark assessment tools, the Hogan Personality Inventory, the Hogan Development Survey and the Hogan Motives, values, Preferences Inventory.

Contact: 1-800-756-0632 ||


InterviewStream has launched a real-time Web-based communication platform designed to provide high-definition images, clear audio and secure connections for video-based interviews. The tool, called InterviewRTC, offers new levels of convenience and flexibility to employers and job candidates.

Contact: 1-877-773-3164 ||


Work4 has released Graph Search Recruiter Beta, a new staffing tool that uses Facebook’s graph search function to help employers identify qualified job candidates. The software offers recruiters a powerful sourcing tool and unprecedented access to a wide range of potential candidates.

Contact: 1-877-509-0403 ||


Workplace Systems Inc. has released “Workplace: The Game,” a Web-based video game. Players of “Workplace: The Game” assume the role of operations manager and are given the task of running a store while turning a profit. The game uses real-life scenarios to accurately reflect the challenges and rewards of managing a business in today’s workplace.

Contact: 1-312-726-3734 ||

Book briefs are compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.


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