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The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems




The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems

Bruce Tulgan

ISBN: 978-1-118-72559-7 October 2014 Jossey-Bass 256 Pages


For more than twenty years, management expert Bruce Tulgan has been asking, “What are the most difficult challenges you face when it comes to managing people?”

Regardless of industry or job title, managers cite the same core issues—27 recurring challenges: the superstar whom the manager is afraid of losing, the slacker whom the manager cannot figure out how to motivate, the one with an attitude problem, and the two who cannot get along, to name just a few.

It turns out that when things are going wrong in a management relationship, the common denominator is almost always unstructured, low substance, hit-or-miss communication.

The real problem is that most managers are “managing on autopilot” without even realizing it—until something goes wrong. And if you are managing on autopilot, then something almost always does.

The 27 Challenges Managers Face shows exactly how to break the vicious cycle and gain control of management relationships. No matter what the issue, Tulgan shows that the fundamentals are all you need. The very best managers hold ongoing one-on-one conversations that make expectations clear, track performance, offer feedback, and hold people accountable.

For every workplace problem—even the most awkward and difficult—The 27 Challenges Managers Face shows how to tailor conversations to solve situations familiar to every manager. Tulgan offers clear approaches for turning around bad attitudes, reducing friction and conflict, improving low performers, retaining top performers, and even addressing your own personal burnout.

The 27 Challenges Managers Face is an indispensable resource for managers at all levels, one anyone managing anyone will want to keep on hand. One challenge at a time, you’ll see how the most effective managers use the fundamentals of management to proactively resolve (nearly) any problem a manager could face. 

A Note on How to Use This Book 1

Chapter One The Fundamentals Are All You Need 3

Chapter Two The Challenges of Being the “New” Manager 29

Management Challenge #1: When Going from Peer to Leader 37

Management Challenge #2: When Coming from the Outside to Take Over Leadership of an Existing Team 41

Management Challenge #3: When Bringing Together an Entirely New Team 47

Management Challenge #4: When You Are Welcoming a New Member to Your Existing Team 51

Chapter Three The Challenges of Teaching Self-Management 57

Management Challenge #5: When Employees Have a Hard Time Managing Time 62

Management Challenge #6: When an Employee Needs Help with Interpersonal Communication 71

Management Challenge #7: When an Employee Needs to Get Organized 77

Management Challenge #8: When an Employee Needs to Get Better at Problem Solving 80

Chapter Four The Challenges of Managing Performance 88

Management Challenge #9: When You Have an Employee Who Needs to Increase Productivity 98

Management Challenge #10: When You Have an Employee Who Needs to Improve Quality 103

Management Challenge #11: When You Need an Employee to Start “Going the Extra Mile” 107

Management Challenge #12: When Your Employees Are Doing “Creative” Work 110

Management Challenge #13: When the Employee You Are Managing Knows More About the Work Than You Do 114

Chapter Five The Challenges of Managing Attitudes 118

Management Challenge #14: When an Employee Needs an Attitude Adjustment 125

Management Challenge #15: When There Is Conflict Between and Among Individuals on Your Team 137

Management Challenge #16: When an Employee Has Personal Issues at Home 140

Chapter Six The Challenges of Managing Superstars 144

Management Challenge #17: When There Is a Superstar You Need to Keep Engaged 153

Management Challenge #18: When You Have a Superstar You Really Want to Retain 158

Management Challenge #19: When You Have a Superstar You Are Going to Lose for Sure: How to Lose That Superstar Very Well 165

Management Challenge #20: When You Need to Move a Superstar to the Next Level to Develop as a New Leader 170

Chapter Seven The Challenges of Managing Despite Forces Outside Your Control 175

Management Challenge #21: When Managing in an Environment of Constant Change and Uncertainty 179

Management Challenge #22: When Managing Under Resource Constraints 184

Management Challenge #23: When Managing Through Interdependency 188

Management Challenge #24: When Managing Around Logistical Hurdles 196

Management Challenge #25: When Managing Across Differences in Language and Culture 199

Chapter Eight The Challenges of Management Renewal 204

Management Challenge #26: When You Need to Renew Your Management Relationship with a Disengaged Employee 206

Management Challenge #27: When You Need to Renew Your Own Commitment to Being a Strong, Highly Engaged Manager 212

Epilogue 221

Acknowledgments 223

About the Author 227

Index 229

“In a large, complex organization, a culture of strong, highly engaged, and collaborative management is critical. There are not too many management challenges that are not addressed in The 27 Challenges Managers Face. Managers at all levels would be well served to have a copy on the shelf.”
—David Zaslav, president and CEO, Discovery Communications

“As someone whose early management career was shaped by Bruce Tulgan’s other books and programs, I’m not surprised to see this book applies to everyone, no matter what your position or stage in your leadership journey. The 27 Challenges Managers Face takes his prescriptive approach to a new level of relevance with specific tips to address the most common management challenges—right on!”
—Kat Cole, president, Cinnabon

“Bruce Tulgan’s decades of exhaustive research and the collected works that have resulted have had a profound impact on how I lead. His action-oriented ideas have genuine practical utility for leaders in any organization. The ideas in The 27 Challenges Managers Face comport perfectly with what I call engaged leadership and serve as the perfect antidote for what Bruce calls the epidemic of under-management in America today. This terrific new book is a powerful tool for all leaders.”
—Kevin J. Jacobsen, Brigadier General, United States Air Force

“Our nation could save billions in productivity losses and lawsuits resulting from poor management and employee disengagement if only it heeded the very practical step-by-step advice that Bruce Tulgan’s thoroughly researched book offers. Every chapter contains real life challenges (all 27 of them!) with fundamental solutions that enlightened managers must practice. Brilliant in its simplicity!”
—Cari M. Dominguez, former chair, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and senior vice president, human resources and chief talent and diversity officer, Loma Linda University Health

“Bruce Tulgan’s latest work addresses the fundamentals of management, undervalued in most companies today but essential to the successful operation of complex businesses. Highly integrated products demand accurate data, complete communication, concise direction, and timely decision-making from typically segmented teams and systems. Use The 27 Challenges Managers Face to take advantage of actual lessons learned.”
—Larry A. Lawson, CEO and president, Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.

“Bruce Tulgan’s latest book provides exceptional practical advice on how to execute the huge responsibility of leadership. The last chapter, renewing a commitment to effective management, will be particularly helpful to leaders who think they already know how to manage the first 26 challenges.”
—Alan J. Kreczko, general counsel and executive vice president, The Hartford

“Bruce Tulgan masterfully delivers a simple, transparent, and powerful message about the fundamentals of management. I have always been a fan of Tulgan’s work and we frequently reference his teachings throughout our training and development. The 27 Challenges Managers Face tackles everyday situations and provides powerful and effective solutions for producing winning results. I am excited to introduce this masterpiece to our team.”
—Jim Mazany, president, Joe’s Crab Shack

“Whether you have been managing people for 27 days or 27 years, Bruce Tulgan’s research and book will prove a practical and invaluable guide for meeting specific challenges and managing for success.”
—Ray Kotcher, chairman and senior partner, Ketchum

“Management is basic work, but hard work. We applied Bruce Tulgan’s principles of Management 101 to rapidly turn our organization into a focused execution machine.  In The 27 Challenges Managers Face, Bruce provides a pocket guide and a comprehensive overview of how to manage, every day, for business impact. Whether you are an experienced manager or taking on your first direct reports, whether you are trying to be a better manager or improve an entire organization’s ability to manage and execute, Bruce’s guide is the manual you need.”
—Geoffrey Crouse, CEO and president, Cord Blood Registry

 “The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a good read for managers and people who lead peopleTackle the recurring daily challenges of leading yourself and others by rediscovering fundamental principles of communication and management.”
—Sylvia B. Vogt, president, Carnegie Bosch Institute, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University

“Bruce Tulgan will refocus you. His scholarly research and anecdotal style will make an immediate impact on developing talent. The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a must-read for any company that believes it is their people who make the difference.”
—Keith A. Hoogland, president, Family Video

The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a must-read for every manager on your team. These fundamentals are the basis for running an outstanding organization, and Bruce Tulgan gives you the steps you need to develop a high performing organization. Every manager should read this book, whether you’ve been leading an organization for days or decades!”
—Deb Dulsky, chief commercial officer,  HomeServe USA

“I’ve been a fan of Bruce Tulgan and his work for over 15 years. The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a very well written and insightful guide. Whether you’re a new or seasoned manager, Bruce’s book offers step-by-step guidance and practical advice. Bruce really nails it, and my only wish is that this book had been written years ago, when I first became a manager.”
—Lorie Valle-Yañez, VP, chief diversity officer, MassMutual Financial Group

“Like Studs Terkel before him, Bruce Tulgan was educated as a lawyer, but discovered his real passion in the study of how people work and manage. Bruce brings that passion to life with The 27 Challenges Managers Face and reminds us that Management 101 is easy to understand in theory, but easy to forget on Monday mornings.”
—Hank Harris, president and CEO, FMI Corporation

The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a practical, smart, easy-to-use guide from one of the clearest thinkers in the field. Bruce Tulgan has done it again, creating a must-read compendium for handling the most common to the most vexing management challenges. It’s all here.”
—Alan Greene, EVP, business head, US Investment Services and Institutional Investor Services, State Street Corporation 

“Bruce Tulgan was the original voice of reason about how to manage the next generation of leadership. In The 27 Challenges Managers Face, he provides an immensely insightful yet practical guide for managers of any generation. Bruce has always based his work on years of careful research, thousands of interviews and focus studies, and deep experience coaching managers from the front lines of fast food to the officers of the elite US military. He writes as he speaks, pulls no punches, is immensely entertaining, and always leaves his audience better prepared to succeed as managers.”
—Joni Thomas Doolin, founder and CEO, People Report

The 27 Challenges Managers Face gives direct and straight-forward ways to handle challenges. Bruce Tulgan’s continued focus on the basic fundamentals, the importance of one-on-ones, and easy-to-understand examples is not only refreshing, but will yield results.”
—Robert Werk, SVP, operations, CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries

“Bruce Tulgan has hit another home run! The 27 Challenges Managers Face is simple and easy to read, yet relevant and practical in application. This book is designed to be referenced again and again, to address the classic challenges of getting results through others. No matter how seasoned a manager is, these principles will help fulfill the responsibilities of leadership in the most effective way possible. A must-read and a must-practice for today’s new and experienced managers.”
—Sharon McPherson, director of training, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina   

“In his always clear and insightful style, Bruce Tulgan puts forth practical and easy-to-follow solutions for the most common supervisory challenges facing all managers, regardless of industry. The 27 Challenges Managers Face is helpful for new supervisors and veterans of management alike. Bruce researched in the workplace to hear from real managers where their greatest challenges lay, and he shares the basic solutions in an appetizing and easy-to-digest way, making this a good reference book to keep on the shelf after reading.”
—Doug Gammon, vice president, human resources and training, Black Angus Steakhouses

“I honestly believe anyone interested in being a better manager could benefit from The 27 Challenges Managers Face. If they had a particular need for advice, they could pick the book up, look at the table of contents, and find help with a solution. I loved  this book.”
—Judy Irwin, vice president, human resources and training, Golden Corral

“Based on decades of firsthand interview research, Bruce Tulgan’s coaching enabled our general managers and store managers to communicate more easily and effectively with, motivate, and develop their line staff, notably improving overall shop performance. The 27 Challenges Managers Face will help owners and managers connect authentically with staff, overcoming  the chronic misperception by staff that they are not seen or understood, enabling a positive working atmosphere critical to growing your business.” 
—Doug Bell, president, Grasslands Uruguay, and retired president, Supercuts Owners Association

“What sets Bruce Tulgan’s work apart from other management books is that he provides real world advice for real world management challenges. The 27 Challenges Managers Face, like his others, is meant to be consulted again and again. Don’t stick this one on your reference shelf; keep it close at hand, and watch your management performance improve.”
—John Bissell, executive vice president, Greylock Federal Credit Union

The 27 Challenges Managers Face brings great insight for executives at any level and phase in their career. This is practical information you can use now to inform your strategies moving forward for the way you manage people and how you are managed, as well. A comprehensive primer on managing people with heart and integrity, while still getting bottom line results for your company, The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a book you should have within reach at your desk.”
—Daniel Butler, vice president, community integration, National Retail Federation

“First Bruce Tulgan gave us permission to manage, now he tells us when and how to execute the fundamentals, based upon years of experience and success. The 27 Challenges Managers Face is for the seasoned executive as well as the new manager and will make a lasting difference in your life and the lives of others.”
—L. Gary Boomer, CEO, Boomer Consulting, Inc.

“Bruce Tulgan forces managers to ask ourselves what our job truly is, and then enumerates simple—though in no way simplistic—steps for us to take to do that job. Management is work, and The 27 Challenges Managers Face removes the excuse so many of us use as a crutch when those who perform under us underperform—that the fault lies not in ourselves, but in our stars.”
—Homer Robinson, president and CEO, Kaiserman Company

“Once again, Bruce Tulgan has provided us with a back-to-basics fundamentals book, packed with research and practical solutions. The 27 Challenges Managers Face will be a go-to reference and solution guide for years to come. Bruce’s writing style invites the reader to embrace management challenges, and be much better for it.”
—Carl George, CEO, Carl George Advisory, LLC, and former CEO, Clifton Gunderson LLP

“Bruce Tulgan continues to be my guru of management! The 27 Challenges Managers Face provides examples and research and makes it easy to find the right material when facing a management issue. I’ll use it to coach other managers and help them improve their confidence and performance.”
—Janet Kyle Altman, marketing principal, Kaufman Rossin

The 27 Challenges Managers Face is yet another example of Bruce Tulgan’s ability to identify the issues managers face and offer specific action steps to help them lead their organizations to success. Leaders, managers, and employees at all levels will benefit by reading this book, and based on their current situation, can decide which chapter to tackle first. The book is a great read and a resource all managers should turn to as situations arise.”
—Howard C. Fero, professor of leadership, Albertus Magnus College, and coauthor, Lead Me Out to the Ballgame

“Bruce Tulgan creates practical advice and solutions leaders can use to engage employees and deliver results. He understands the challenges modern managers face and, by helping them communicate more effectively, he prepares leaders to handle tough issues and help people achieve their highest level of performance.”
—Jennifer Russo, director, corporate communications, Copper Group, Rio Tinto

“Many of our managers at Westar Energy have found a mentor in Bruce Tulgan. As we work as a company on raising the level of conversation between managers and employees, we found that Bruce’s message of talk about the work was particularly useful. After two visits and a series of weekly online messages, it’s quite commonplace at Westar for our leaders to reference Bruce Tulgan.”
—Diane Owen, lead training rep, Westar Energy

The 27 Challenges Managers Face exposes the root management problem, refreshingly admits that there is no easy fix, and then provides nuanced advice that can be individually tailored by each manager. Like others in the field, Bruce Tulgan offers numerous tips, but where Tulgan provides significant added value is in his distinguishing between the application of solid management practices that generate real and lasting results and merely going through the motions.”
—Steve Katz, principal, Fish & Richardson

“Bravo! I use Bruce’s back-to-basics principles in managing my direct reports and am a big supporter of his work. The 27 Challenges Managers Face will be a great reference for managers as they come across various situations.”
—George Wilson, president, Barriere Construction

The 27 Challenges Managers Face is essential reading for managers. Too many managers are operating on autopilot, waiting for a crisis to happen before reacting. Bruce Tulgan rightly emphasizes critical fundamentals, especially around effective communication, that stop the vicious cycle of managing by crisis. MBA students often ask us what the key elements of good management are—they’re contained in this cogent, well-argued book.”
—Donald E. Gibson, Ph.D. , dean and professor of management, Charles F. Dolan School of Business, Fairfield University

“Bruce Tulgan demonstrates how managers can break the cycle of  firefighting and learn to perform meaningful management that benefits the manager, the employees, and the organization. A good manager will go back to The 27 Challenges Managers Face time and time again to keep the management structure operating smoothly and effectively.”
Colonel Craig Price, superintendent, South Dakota Highway Patrol

“Bruce Tulgan hit a home run with this one! He speaks the truth and provides clear, concise management advice. The 27 Challenges Managers Face will become my desktop guidebook for helping leaders at all levels manage their way to more effective organizations and better results.”
Lisa Beutel, executive director,  Center for Leadership, University of Dayton

The 27 Challenges Managers Face continues to deliver the effective and useful insight I expect from Bruce Tulgan. It is a must for your management toolbox!”
—Jon Morrison, vice president, vehicle dynamics and controls, global, WABCO Vehicle Control Systems

The 27 Challenges Managers Face offers great insights into undermanagement. Many of my clients complain about bosses being too hands off, which results in employees who hate their jobs and want to leave because they don't have ongoing, quality communication and feedback from their managers. Each of the 27 scenarios are rich with nuggets on how to navigate the most common people management issues.”
—Katie Weiser, former global director, training and development, Deloitte Consulting, and CEO, Katie Weiser Coaching.

“Once again, Bruce Tulgan takes the essential but often overwhelming responsibility of getting work done through others and breaks it into understandable, common sense steps. The 27 Challenges Managers Face is another great tool.”
—DJ Zarnick, vice president, human resources, The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.

The 27 Challenges Managers Face covers a broad range of the most essential management topics. Based on research with hundreds of thousands of managers and presented in the inspirational way only Bruce Tulgan can do, this book is the equivalent of having your own mentor. Every manager will become a better manager for it.”
—Jill Kilroy, assistant vice president, learning and development, Horace Mann Companies

The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a practical, research-based approach to managing one of an organization’s most important resources—people. Bruce Tulgan once again combines research and best practices to create a book of solutions. New and experienced managers alike will benefit.”
Tani Bialek, director, national learning and professional development, McGladrey LLP

The 27 Challenges Managers Face covers it all, with valuable insight for managers everywhere. It reminds us that to manage well is to manage often. Managing is a commitment, but one that delivers dividends daily, and Bruce Tulgan enthusiastically encourages us to re-commit ourselves to our colleagues and ourselves. The tools are simple, the work hard, and the rewards great.”
—Jeffrey R. Katz, partner, Ropes & Gray LLP

“Like any other skill, managing people requires a mastery of the fundamentals. In The 27 Challenges Managers Face, Bruce Tulgan presents situations we all face and reminds us how to apply those fundamentals. This book is a mandatory addition to every manager’s toolbox.”
—Arturo M. Hernandez , VP, engineering, Grote Industries

“At Chick-fil-A, we’ve always felt that those who lead must first serve. Bruce Tulgan’s book is a great reminder of how to serve well through managing well. So many of today’s challenges in organizations can find their beginning and end in the same place: people management.  The 27 Challenges Managers Face is a great review of the fundamentals of great people management, and how to make them a part of your everyday life.”
—Andy Lorenzen, senior director, organizational development, Chick-fil-A, Inc.

“Bruce Tulgan’s research and findings provide a blueprint for managers in the intelligence community to tackle problems and fully engage their employees. I highly recommend The 27 Challenges Managers Face to all—not just managers, or those thinking about moving into management positions—because it provides effective, step-by-step solutions to the most common and enduring management challenges.”
—Kristin Bertelli, chief, workforce strategy and planning, Central Intelligence Agency