Strategy

Executive summary: You Can't Fire Everyone

From friend to boss. Promotions have their drawbacks and challenges.

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You Can’t Fire Everyone: And Other Lessons from an Accidental Manager
(Portfolio Penguin)
Hank Gilman

Hank Gilman didn’t plan to become anybody’s boss when he started his career as a reporter. But during gigs at The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Fortune and elsewhere, he ended up making editor—and being forced to learn how to manage a business “in turmoil, and filled with volatile and creative—and sometimes really mean—people.”

Self-deprecating and refreshingly free of management-speak, this book explains what Gilman learned; and while he doesn’t bother drawing analogies to management challenges in other industries, the lessons are obviously translatable. Talented writers are often promoted to editors without consideration for their skills’ suitability to the new role. Gilman learns lessons in crisis management and acquires skills—in recruiting and retaining staff, managing disparate talent levels, setting an example for employees—on the fly. One of the stickiest situations comes early, when he realizes he’s now managing a dozen people whom he had previously considered friends. After a run-in with one now-former pal over an article’s execution, he quickly learns where his responsibilities lie. “If they think I’m a good boss, that’s fine. If not, I can find a couple of new friends someplace else. Dunkin’ Donuts counter people are kind of cool.”