The 17 highest-impact resources for managers in 2021
Resources for managers are not hard to find. Seriously, just type it on Google and you’ll have your page flooded.
Thing is… is quantity really what you need right now?
Becoming a manager is a major change: you’re thrown in a new role and need to quickly adopt new skills, methods and tools (especially given recent leadership trends). Having infinite resources at your disposal will not necessarily help you gain pace.
But having a guide will. This guide.
I spent years in management, and tested more resources I can count, and every single one turned out to not be able to stand the test of time, except these few.
These are the highest-return resources for managers around. Quick, applicable and immediately impactful.
I’ve used every single one of them, and even developed a couple from scratch where there was nothing around. Each one helped me develop as a manager, and I want you to receive that same help as well.
Here they are: the best resources for managers I know.
These first resources for managers are about understanding more of who you are as a leader.
As a leader, you want to drive, motivate, inspire your team and perform better.
But that’s the endgame!
Before getting there, you need to work on developing yourself.
Might not not sound as great, but there’s no other way: your first step on that journey is finding out more about yourself and having a good perspective on who you are as a person and as a leader.
Luckily you can gain a lot of insights by knowing where to look (and in all honesty looking for good quality work is where most time gets wasted!)
I looked around a lot, and this is my selection, my favourite self-assessment resources for managers.
Being fair and unbiased is part of your job, and the best way to start is Project Implicit.
START WITH THIS.
I can’t stress how key this tool is for any manager at any level.
Bias is everywhere, it’s a fact, and knowing what you are biased about and where you need to watch out is a key resource for managers. It enables you to have more control on how fair you are, on how respectful you are and on how you give praise.
The thing is: you can’t assess what you are biased about on your own, you need an external tool, and the best one around is Project Implicit
Project Implicit is a free Harvard University project whose aim is to design quick, science-based assessment that will let you know:
if you are biased something
how much you are biased about it
This is how it looks like in practice (screenshot taken from a test checking for Age-related bias)
Each test takes about 10 minutes.
The idea is to go as fast as you can and check where your instinctive answers lean towards – it’s challenging but also fun to be honest!
I have found out that I am extremely biased towards more beautiful people. This means that I will always tend to favour someone whose appearance I like vs. someone else.
Not great to hear of course, but essential to know!
Think about how much influence your bias has on how you relate to different team members as a manager… can you really afford to always favour someone against someone else?
Of course not, and that’s why this needs to be on your radar.
Being a manager has to do with knowing yourself better as well in order to better lead others, this assessment is a good way to go.
MBTI is a classic, and if it’s been around for so long there must be a reason…
There are a few versions around, but I like the fact that the people behind 16 Personalities have actually done a pretty good job in making their test accessible and user-friendly.
Here’s what I mean.
Questions are quick and direct. Taking the test takes 5-10 minutes.
It has a free and a paid version, and at the end you’d have a fairly accurate assessment of your persona: what you are more or less suited to do, where you can do your best work, what triggers you
So for the question now, why is this counted along all other resources for managers here?
Simple: it’s a science-based assessment, it’s quick and it’s widely known, meaning that you can use it both to understand your own manager persona better and also to identify what approach would work best with people around you.
End result is the same: better management and better leadership.
Trust in their manager is the largest driver of performance for a team. This test helps you gain it.
This free leadership test is my work, and among all these leadership resources for managers I’m extremely proud of this one
The strongest driver of team performance and resilience is trust.
Trust is based on three qualities you need to prove to your team you possess: ability, benevolence and integrity.
If your team believes you possess them, this is what you can count on achieving:
And at a larger scale, companies with high trust simply obliterate others with low trust.
All this starts with you though, with who you are as a manager to your team.
I’ve designed this test to show you in practice how you are doing in terms of trust, all based on research and science, and enable you to develop even more once you have this piece of information.
What do you think?
There are 4 types of humour, 2 are a resource, 2 work against you in management. Find out where you are.
Let’s face it – humour is not the first thing you think about in terms of resources for managers.
But you should.
Without getting too much into detail (I’ve written about humor in leadership already), humous is a powerful way to drive, connect, perform and be resilient – as a manager and as a team.
Thing is, there are 4 styles of humour: 2 are positive, 2 are negative.
Positive humor styles emable you to create, to build, to manage stress and build resilience in your team.
Negative humor styles are aggressive, short-lived, disruptive for your stability and the one of your team.
Now, here is the key:
Your humour style is a combination of these four, and the only way to find which one is prevalent is an assessment.
It’s free, takes 5 minutes to fill up and it will give you not only a solid assessment, but also in-depth insights on what your style is and what you should do to gain more from it, for yourself and for your team.
Emotional Intelligence Test
Emotional intelligence enables you to become an inspiring and resilient leader – and to develop your team.
Being emotionally intelligent means taking an active role in managing how much influence our emotions have on our life.
Being emotionally intelligent means reducing the strain our brain is under, liberating resources to focus, learn and relate more personally to others.
As far as resources for managers go, emotional intelligence helps in relating personally and deeply to others in the team means, and in developing a network of trusted companions who support each other even under uncertainty and pressure.
Getting to that point is a long process, but knowing:
where your starting point is
what your weak points are
what your strong points are
can help you speed up your process – and that’s the whole point of this test.
It’s free and takes about 5 minutes.
The answer to: are you covering everything you should be? Is something happening you should be aware of, and where?
Having a blindspot means having no information (or even no awareness) on an area you should instead be covering.
All situations are different, and every context is its own reality of course, but even then it helps having a framework to check if you are missing something.
This blindspot test by Princeton Management Consulting gives you the chance to carry out that check.
It’s a pdf and there is a book connected if you want to dig deeper (haven’t read the book myself, can’t say much more than this!)
Leadership resources for managers
These are two leadership resources for managers to help you quickly decide what leadership style to adopt – the aim is to go for clarity and speed, in both of them.
One has to do with your immediate situation (i.e. you need to act quick).
The other has to do with developing your team and getting to delegating to them better.
How to choose the right leadership style for a decision
The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model of Leadership answers this question
“considering all the elements I have at my disposal, to what extent and how should I involve my team in a decision in this specific case?”
Your decision style and team involvement will be one of three.
Autocratic: You make a decision alone
Consultative: You involve your team, but you decide.
Group: You involve your team and make a decision with them
For any decision, start by answering these questions:
Quality Requirement (QR): How important is the technical quality of the decision?
Commitment Requirement (CR): How important is subordinate commitment to the decision?
Leader’s Information (LI): Do you (the leader) have sufficient information to make a high quality decision on your own?
Problem Structure (ST): Is the problem well structured (e.g., defined, clear, organized, lend itself to solution, time limited, etc.)?
Commitment Probability (CP): If you were to make the decision by yourself, is it reasonably certain that your subordinates would be committed to the decision?
Goal Congruence (GC): Do subordinates share the organizational goals to be attained in solving the problem?
Subordinate conflict (CO): Is conflict among subordinates over preferred solutions likely?
Subordinate information (SI): Do subordinates have sufficient information to make a high quality decision?
Once you are done, follow the path given by your answers on this decision tree.
The result is the decision making style you should adopt in that specific situation.
As you can see, there are five:
AI – Autocratic I
You take the decision alone with the information you have at hand
AII – Autocratic II
You take the decision alone with additional information you obtained from the team.
CI – Consultative I
You ask team members individually for input and opinions on the issue. You decide alone.
CII – Consultative II
You ask team members collectively for input and opinions on the issue. You decide alone.
GII – Group II
You and the group meet to decide. The group decides and you may not overrule that decision.
The great thing about this resource for manages is that it can be used on a case-by-case basis, and rapidly, to find what’s best for each individual situation.
Of course, what decision you make is a whole different issue.
That is to say, this model does not tell you what decision to make, but only how to make it.
The model gives you a framework to create the best environment for a decision, and allows you to skip an assessment phase before making a decision that would otherwise take days or weeks
On the other hand, critics say this decision model may be too general for some organisations, and it might not work well in large groups.
The only time you need to be careful is if you end up with your decision-making style being GII.
GII means having to implement creative processes as a group, and before you get into that you should take a look at the basics of creative leadership.
How to choose the best leadership style to develop your team and delegate
How to rapidly develop all team members and enable them to be independent
Leading your team is also about enabling their growth and ability to work independently, and this resource for managers (Hersey-Blanchard Model) allows you to do exactly that.
The way it works is simple: look at each team member and ask yourself:
“How skilled is this person?” and “How confident is this person in his or her abilities?“
Based on that, you will find yourself in one of four situations, each one with an associated leadership style that works best to enable their growth in that stage.
Take a look at your options.
Team member’s Maturity Level
1 – Low Skills, Low Confidence in their Ability, no will to work or take responsibility
A – Telling: Your team member has no skills and no confidence, and does not want to take responsibility. Tell him or her what to do exactly and guide him or her step by step. The goal is to build basic skills.
2 – Low Skills, Low Confidence in their Ability, no will to take full responsibility, but willing to “give it a try”.
B – Selling: Your team member has no skills and no confidence, but wants to give it a try. Do the same as you did before (“Telling”) but now also engage him or her. Show learnings, praise effort and progress, motivate. The goal is to keep building skills and start building confidence
3 – High Skills, still Low Confidence in their Ability, willing to work and to take responsibility
C – Participating: Your team member is now skilled and independent, but still does not want to take full responsibility. Stop guiding skills (no need), but show explicitly that you will share responsibility for the outcome of his or her work. This provides a safety net and a sense of safety, which makes the person more confident in working independently. The goal is to stop building skills and keep building confidence.
4 – High Skills, High Confidence in their Ability, willing to work and to take responsibility
D – Delegating: Your team member is skilled and confident and can work independently. Your role is now to overlook from afar, trusting his or her ability and ability to work independently.
As you can see your style needs to change depending on those variables. Again, this is a way to help your team grow and be motivated over time.
Precisely for this last reason, though, you need to make sure that you consistently apply it to everyone in your organisation, and not as a one-off thing.
Problem-solving and Decision-making resources for managers
These resources for managers are simple and effective ways to “see through the fog” and quickly figure out your next steps.
It doesn’t get simpler and better than this…
You have a problem to solve with something or someone?
Ask “why?” five times in a row.
A problem is often just a symptom, to really get rid of whatever is going on, you need to dig deeper, find the root cause and address that.
Let’s see an example:
– Ted never meets any deadline.
– He can’t organise his work properly.
– His responsibility has increased this past year.
– He took the role of his predecessor.
– His predecessor was promoted and moved to another unit.
– The other unit needed additional capacity.
Now we know: Ted is not slacking off.
He is overworked due to an internal reorganisation of the workforce and can’t cope with his previous and added responsibility.
Just by asking Why 5 times, we have arrived to determining the root cause and a solution for this problem.
It’s simple, it’s quick and it makes sense – that, if you ask me, is the perfect combination.
The best way to organize your team when you need to make a decision without conflicts or delays.
I’ve written about RAPID before – hands down: this is the best way at your disposal to organize your team when you need to make a tough decision and you cannot afford conflicts or delays.
Start by dividing your team in 5 smaller groups, each one with a clear function.
Group one recommends
Group two provides input
Group three agrees
Group four decides
Group five executes
Each group is only responsible for their task, no interference of any kind in other groups’ work is allowed.
The final responsibility for success of failure is on group 4 (decision-makers).
Group 1 formulates a few options given a problem, can ask Group 2 to help.
Group 3 reviews the options Group 1 has developed, can accept, ask for more work or veto a proposal.
Once Group 3 agrees on a few proposals, Group 4 decides on the course of action by choosing 1
Group 5 carries it out.
In case there’s a deadlock between Groups 1 and 3, Group 4 solves it.
Here is a quick breakdown of it.
Podcasts are great resources for managers, and there’s a pick for everyone: more chilled, more content-focused, with longer or shorter episodes… I have my own leadership podcast as well, but I’m not listing it in these resources, because as far as I know the go-to trailblazer is only one: manager tools.
Manager Tools has been around since 2005, and that is centuries in internet time. It has followers in 6-digit numbers and they keep growing.
Because their focus and quality speak for themselves.
Their focus and quality speak for themselves.
Whether you are a new manager, or an experienced one looking for content, this should be one of the first places you look.
I can personally vouch for this – I had a manager who had just stepped in that position for the first time and took almost everything from manager tools: one-on-ones, feedback, meeting structure…
Hands down, the best manager I ever had.
So take a look at it and give it a go, I am sure you will see its value.
Skills are necessary resources, especially now that the value over time of a skill is becoming shorter and shorter. As a manager you are being pushed more and more towards the role of a coach, a mentor, a facilitator – all roles that have little to do with the tasks you have been doing until now.
This is why working on skill development is key, right now! To help you out I’ve given you two resources.
Classcentral is the one-stop shop for free online courses, 30.000 of them
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are fantastic resources for managers, and there is plenty of them available.
most of them are free
most of them are delivered by high-rank universities
there is a course for every topic
MOOCs are not new, and you have a bunch of sites that help you access them (e.g. Coursera, EdX, HarvardX…). Classcentral works as a search engine on all those sites?
If you need to develop a skill or learn to use a tool as a manager, let Classcentral be the first place you look – there may be something amazing and official, and for free.
Emotional Intelligence for Leaders
This is my personal take on leadership – my own work on what is a killer skill for managers at any level.
This is my answer to the question: what has the strongest impact on a manager’s confidence, performance and resilience, and on the ones of her team?
Being emotionally intelligent means becoming an inspiring and resilient leader.
Emotional intelligence is a skill, and if trained and developed properly it can unlock additional energy, focus and mental space, both for yourself and for your team.
Look for EI content though and you’ll see it’s in one of two categories:
Superficial online content, made for quick scrolling
Academic and theoretical content, with little application
In this course I’ve taken an opposite approach: in-depth but insanely practical and applicable content. A step-by-step guide basically.
All the lectures from Module 2 are freely accessible for example, and so is the emotional intelligence test that is the basis for the course..
Books can be incredible resources for managers. I’m an avid reader, and a fan of quick, applicable and scientific solutions, which is why these ones are such incredible masterpieces from my point of view.
59 seconds by Richard Wiseman
This is my go-to book for any soft skill I want to work on or develop.
Think Leadership, Creativity, Happiness, Persuasion, Motivation. Wiseman has done a wonderful job in:
1 – Researching and checking his sources;
2 – Packing them in short, one-minute long exercises to give you a boost in whatever are you need.
This is not necessarily a self-help book… honestly it depends how you look at it. You can see its content as a way to get better, or as a way to get ahead.
My favourite part of the book is Happiness, and how to boost it. I’ve been doing one specific exercise whenever things went south for me and it always helped me keep it together and pull through. If there is one book on this page you want to get, let it be this one.
If I understood you, would I have this look on my face? by Alan Alda
If you are interested in communication at any level, this is a must-read.
This book brings together decades of research and practice and explorations in what makes us able to relate better to others and to interact with them.
Easy to read, highly engaging and funny, and pinning down some key concepts that I use daily in my work.
In terms of it being a resource for managers, I find it incredible because it looks at communication without looking at it from a work perspective.
It’s not written by a leader, or a manager, or an academic.
It’s written by an actor (and a good one too), i.e. someone who is genuinely interested in communication, in relating to others and connecting with them – and you can tell.
Honestly, there is way too much discussion on interaction, communication, feedback and the lot just from a team point of view.
This book goes to the core of it, and after having read a bunch of books, this one is really a refresher – and more useful than a lot more “official” books I’ve gone through.
Productivity tools, time savers & hacks
I’ve gone through hundreds of tools, hacks, plugins, extensions to get more out of my work and of my time.
Mark my words:
Followupthen is by far the easiest, most useful, most cost-effective tool I have ever found.
Followupthen is by far the easiest, most useful, most cost-effective tool I have ever found.
Because it works via your email inbox, without installing anything.
Need to follow up on on an email you sent at some point? Add an email address in the To, Cc or Bcc line and at some point you’ll receive an email telling you to follow up on it.
It eliminated the need for lists, reminders, appointments… it works directly with the emails I send and operates in the background – no need to install anything or learn a whole new system.
It comes free or paid. It’s simple, to the bone and really, really impactful. I’m usually not as openly enthusiastic about tools as I am about this one – take it as a sign!
Maybe the worst-kept secret in the history of resources for managers?
Maybe, but there was a time when I didn’t know it or use it myself, so here it is.
Calendly took the pain out of scheduling a convenient time with people for a meeting.
My usual way to go was to email back and forth with suggestions for a time slot with other people until we agreed on something.
It’s a painful process: it takes time and resources, and it can eat your attention away from other more relevant stuff you need to do.
Calendly takes that pain away. Simple, clean and impactful.