Title: The Simple and Easy Manager: What Managers Need to Know Before They Need to Know It
Author: Ned Parks
This is a short, entertaining read for professionals of all walks of life, whether one is a manager of a company or handles just one’s own “life.” The author uses the fictional story of Quentin Spalding to illustrate a variety of management principles, from discussions of how to make meetings work to creating a welcoming work environment.
The “story” begins with Quentin interviewing and landing a job at Critical Direct, an outstanding company where a range of positive management principles are the “norm.” As Quentin goes through his orientation and begins work, he discovers that the company is just the kind of employment he was looking for—a place to belong, to use his skills, and to develop his own business acumen.
Rather than being threatened by his dream to own his own business, the executives of Critical Direct see it as an asset, as a reason why he’ll come to work motivated and care about their company while he’s with them. And Quentin lives up to their expectations, though he’s hardly perfect. He has his struggles but is dedicated to learning, and so he grows as a manager under the helpful influence of his company.
There were definitely some implausible aspects to the story, as Quentin ends up spending a lot of his time, outside of work, discussing work problems and ways to maximize their management, making one wonder when, or if, he ever has time for his family, but overall, the vignettes worked to show the business principles in action.
The story is more of a means to an end, and thus, the characters are fairly straightforward, used to illustrate concepts more than create a meaningful narrative. The volume is nicely punctuated with quotes from other authors, like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Tom Peters, Thomas Sowell, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among others.
The book’s layout allows one to jump back to a particular business topic for future reference, as each chapter announces its focus, from “On-Boarding” to “Teaching the Boss,” “Ask Your Way to Success,” and “Meetings Suck.” But there is a loose narrative thread going through the entire book, as we see Quentin grow as a manager from his interview to his moving into “The Next Phase” by the end of the book.
The one weakness of the work is its single-mindedness. In these days of diverse employment environments and situations, it might’ve been nice to work in a “Critical Direct Associate Reunion,” where one got to hear how the management skills learned at the company translated to other areas, whether smaller businesses or niche companies, academics, or working-from-home.
If one is looking to find some simple solutions to management concerns or just want to get a new perspective on the age-old problems of dealing with people, this book is well worth the read. Clever and insightful without being pedantic or dull, The Simple and Easy Manager will appeal to any professional, delivering powerful concepts in the guise of “light reading” or “mild fiction.”
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
“Straightforward yet profound message, Simple and Easy is an example of how everyone is called to be a leader. If you want to implement change tomorrow, everyone in your organization should read this book today.” Dr. Phil Kim, Professor and Author of Chase One Rabbit
“Ned’s story of Quinten shaped me as a business coach with insights of a compelling corporate culture. If these effective practices are emulated, results would improve across any corporation. I found myself enviously wishing that I had the opportunity to work for a company like this early in my career.” Steve Sinisgalli, Business Coach
“When I was a young manager, one of the required readings was The One Minute Manager. It was easy to read and understand book that taught me how to be an effective manager. This book accomplishes the same thing 40 years later and should be required reading for emerging leaders as well as existing ones.” Marvin Montgomery (The Sales Doctor), Author/Motivational Speaker/Professional Sales Trainer & Coach
“Ned Parks has a way of bringing clarity, simplicity, and humor to seemingly complicated situations. Simple and Easy is a great illustration of this.” Dave Green, Entrepreneur, Sales Coach
“Ned Parks gets it! Not only does he get it, he gets it right! He knows exactly what the best leaders and managers do, and this book helps bring that to life in many ways… I promise you that this book and what Ned knows is not rocket or even aviation science! They are solid principals of genuine leadership and management that work and work well. Anyone can adopt these and make immediate improvements in their relationships with their employees, no question.” Doug Bird, Ph.D., Director-Parker MBA Program, Lake Erie College-Painesville, Ohio
The Simple and Easy Manager: What Managers Need to Know Before They Need to Know It
What do the following have in common: having an effective onboarding strategy, developing methods to ensure productive teams, and encouraging employees to create succession planning?
They are among the hallmarks of a successful and forward-thinking organization—and some of the topic’s author Ned Parks explores in his soon-to-be-released book, The Simple and Easy Manager: What Managers Need to Know Before They Need to Know It (Mill City Press).
In The Simple and Easy Manager: What Managers Need to Know Before They Need to Know It, Parks illustrates the importance of instituting effective leadership processes and addressing management problems with easy-to-implement solutions. The entertaining yet instructive book details the experiences of the fictional character, Quentin Spalding, as he learns successful strategies and practical techniques to solve typical management challenges.
From his early days as a new employee at Critical Direct when he is introduced to a company culture that stresses the importance of valuing each team member as important members of the corporation, through the challenges inherent in managing other employees, Quentin gains an understanding of what proactive leadership is and how it impacts the organization.
Parks drew on his experience as a business consultant and executive coach when he was developing the concept for the book. He says one of the most common problems he has encountered in his work is “poor leadership, hands down. Bosses who either have no desire to do their job better or are too arrogant to learn. I sometimes walk out of a client’s office in maddening disbelief mumbling to myself, ‘Did I just hear and see that take place?’”
Regarding the need for effective onboarding strategies, Parks referenced a recent CareerBuilder research that details the results of having a structured onboarding process. “Nearly 50% of the companies say their employees are more engaged and have a greater sense of trust in the organization. Other positive outcomes include more employee confidence, greater efficiencies, and higher productivity and morale,” he said.
In the book, Quentin goes through a thorough onboarding process that includes a personality assessment — a tool that a majority of HR professionals believe to be useful in enhancing workplace communications and teamwork. “In the book, I mention the DiSC® personality assessment, something I also use with my clients,” said Parks. “These kinds of assessments have a definite value, but less than a quarter of organizations use them.”
The Simple and Easy Manager also details the importance of employers encouraging their team members to do some form of succession planning as well as offer them professional development opportunities. “When employees have the chance to develop their skill level, they are more engaged, and that engagement makes them more productive,” said Parks. “And that can reduce the turnover rate significantly—important since a recent study showed that 71% of those interviewed were either thinking about or actively looking for new job opportunities.”
Parks chose to use a storytelling format for the book because he believed it would have a broader appeal. “Using the experiences of Quentin and the other characters to illustrate management lessons and techniques allows readers to identify with them. The challenges Quentin faces are typical in business, which can lead to those ‘been there’ moments for the readers.”
The Simple and Easy Manager includes a foreword by Doug Bird, Ph.D., the director of the Parker MBA Program at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. It has already received positive reviews, including from Dr. Phil Kim, professor, and author of Chase One Rabbit, author and speaker Marvin Montgomery, sales coach and entrepreneur Dave Green and business coach Steve Sinisgalli.