8 Must-Read Books for Office Managers

Angela Kambouris
March 27, 2020

Managing an office successfully requires many skills that must be continuously refined and strengthened. Being open to learning new concepts, stretching your thinking, and allowing yourself to tap into unfamiliar territories will support you to be the most effective manager and lead a united workplace.  

The world’s great leaders and business minds appreciate the value of reading. People who invest their time and energy by exposing themselves to the words of others, engage with new ways of thinking and alternative perspectives. Warren Buffett (one of the wealthiest people in the world), for example, is well known for his reading habits - often spending 5-6 hours a day reading. Granted, you likely don’t have as much time in your calendar for reading as Warren Buffet, but the point remains: leaders are readers. 

Today, with an ever-growing number of management books surfacing every day, it can be confronting to know where to start, especially if you are a first-time Office Manager and still trying to find your feet. To help you step into (or continue succeeding) in your role, I’ve compiled a list of books that are packed with practical insights and wisdom to help you manage your workplace and create a better experience for your employees.

8 Highly Recommended Books for Office Managers

Whether you’re new to your role as an Office Manager or you’re a seasoned professional, here are 8 books that we recommend reading (or re-reading!) to help you develop and refine the skills needed to succeed in your career:

1. The Best Place To Work 

The Best Place To Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman, Ph.D. uses the latest research from the fields of motivation, creativity, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and management to reveal what really makes us successful at work. Combining powerful stories with cutting edge findings, Friedman shows leaders at every level how they can use scientifically-proven techniques to promote smarter thinking, greater innovation, and stronger performance.

Among the many surprising insights, Friedman explains how learning to think like a hostage negotiator can help you diffuse a workplace argument, why placing a fish bowl near your desk can elevate your thinking, and how incorporating strategic distractions into your schedule can help you reach smarter decisions. Brimming with counterintuitive insights and actionable recommendations, this book offers employees and executives alike game-changing advice for working smarter and turning any organization—regardless of its size, budgets, or ambitions—into an extraordinary workplace.

2. The Making Of A Manager

The Making Of A Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julia Zhuo shares experiences of how stepping into a leadership role can feel like getting thrown into the deep end without anything to hold onto. Zhuo shares her experiences and learnings as she stepped into a manager role at Facebook. When she first began her role, she had limited knowledge, and her perception of a manager role was vastly different from her experience. She transformed the manager’s purpose into one that placed her energy into building a team that worked well together, supporting her members in exceeding their career goals and creating efficient and effortless processes to ensure positive outcomes. 

This book is packed with everyday examples and transformative insights, including how to tell a great manager from an average manager, when you should look past an awkward interview and hire someone anyway, how to build trust with your reports through not being a boss, and where to look when you lose faith and lack the answers. Whether you're new to the job, a veteran leader, or looking to be promoted, this is the handbook you need to be the kind of manager you wish you had.

3. Crucial Conversations 

Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High by co-authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler was originally published over ten years ago and revolutionized the way people communicate when stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. Since then, millions of people have learned how to hold effective crucial conversations and have dramatically improved their lives and careers thanks to the methods outlined in this book.

This book is filled with effective strategies to help you take the lead in any tough conversation, and case studies of how business leaders successfully applied these methods to achieve results. The practical advice in this book will help you to prepare for high-stakes conversations, make it safe to talk about almost anything, transform unpleasant emotions into powerful dialogue, and to be persuasive instead of abrasive when resolving conflicts with others. In summary, this book can help get you past the hard parts of dialogue and helps you achieve relationships that are real, productive, and that will enrich your life and career.

4. Remote

Remote: Office Not Required by co-authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson explores the work from home phenomenon and shows precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished. In many industries, the everyone "under one roof" model of conducting work is steadily declining as technology creates virtual workspaces that allow employees to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is "move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace."

Remote work increases the talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens the real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. As Fried and Hansson explain the challenges and unexpected benefits of this phenomenon, they show why, with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo, more businesses will want to promote this model of getting things done.

5. The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins shares proven strategies for conquering the challenges of taking on a new role despite where you are in your career. The book acts as a guide, provides detailed checklists and how to create goals for getting up to speed at your new job. This book is full of strategies and tactics for where the rubber meets the road. It shows you how to have the right conversations for success, to detect early warning signs, and how to be a better leader for yourself and others. 

One of the critical elements of this book is that it provides a framework for getting and staying on track by re-focusing your energy on core challenges, including promoting yourself, accelerating your learning, matching the correct strategies with specific situations, achieving organizational alignment, building and developing your team, and having productive conversations with your colleagues and managers. Whether you’re starting a new job or being promoted from within, how you manage your transition will determine whether you succeed or fail. Use this book as your trusted guide.

6. Dare To Lead

Dare To Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown has been renowned for delving into people stepping into brave work and robust discussions with an open heart. Brown challenges the notion of what managing means despite having the title of a manager. Dare to Lead shares research, stories, case studies and many examples of how braver and more daring managers who are committed to sharing their power can build prosperous teams and organizations.

Brown takes readers on a journey of self-discovery by taking off the armor to find courage, connection, and meaning in their work. The themes include embracing a commitment to grow, what it means to be vulnerable, and how to evolve through interpersonal communication skill-building. Brown’s personal narratives offer practical advice and tools for implementation. 

7. It’s The Manager

It’s The Manager by co-authors Jim Clifton and Jim Harter shows leaders how to adapt their organizations to rapid change, ranging from new workplace demands to managing remote employees, a diverse workforce, the rise of artificial intelligence, gig workers, and attracting – and keeping – today’s best employees. 

One of the key concepts shared in this book is that the new workforce - especially younger generations - wants their work to have a deep mission and purpose. They don’t want old-style command-and-control bosses. They want coaches who inspire them, communicate with them frequently and develop their strengths. And the managers inside your organization are the ones who will make or break your organization’s success. When you have great managers who can maximize the potential of every team member, you will see organic revenue and profit growth, and you will give every one of your employees what they most want today: a great job and a great life. This book is filled with practical advice to help you achieve this. 

8. Start With Why 

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek shares that people and organizations who can inspire us, give us a sense of purpose and belonging that has little to do with external benefits. When managers learn how to inspire, all people win, and the more people feel fulfilled. In many companies, people can articulate what they and at times how they do it, yet often struggle with finding the language to articulate why they do what they do. 

This book shows that the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way - and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with why.

Reading Gives Managers an Advantage

If you want to lead, you must read. It is one of the truest ways to develop qualities that will make you stand out and differentiate you from others in the workplace. Reading encourages better decision making, as it gives you access to other people’s experiences and exposure to different perspectives. If you want to level up your skills as an office manager and a respected leader within your organization, the books listed in this article are a great starting point!

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