That’s right, it is simple...but it’s not easy. I was reminded of that when I recently saw a best seller list of top ten business books. It included three I had read:  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, Good to Great by Jim Collins, and Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. These current “best sellers” are all over ten years old! Given the proliferation of business research, the rapid flow of information, and the money to be made in publishing business books, why aren’t new successful business management books constantly coming out? Why are there no fresh innovative ideas? I think it’s because good management is basic, and doesn’t really change much.

Good management really comes down to the golden rule. But as a manager, it’s not always easy to treat people the way you want to be treated. I think the key is something I call being “nice-honest”. First let’s talk about the honest part because that’s the one neglected more often. If someone is performing poorly, it is critical that their supervisor let them know very clearly what needs to change. And even if someone is a good performer, they should be told not only that they are doing well, but what they need to do to be even better. This is often the hard part for supervisors because it’s uncomfortable and they don’t want to be mean. But it’s not mean to be honest. In fact it’s not nice to not be honest. Again, think about how you’d want to be treated. If you were performing poorly, you’d undoubtedly want to get that feedback immediately, and if you were a high performer, you’d want to know what to work on to improve.

The nice part of nice-honest is simply delivering the difficult message or constructive criticism with kindness and compassion, letting the person know you want them to succeed and improve. (As I’ve said before, a supervisor’s job is to help their employees succeed.) If this is missing and the message is perceived as being delivered in an unkind way, the receiver will become defensive and shutdown. If a manager is nice-honest, and communicates and provides feedback on a regular basis, that’s eighty percent of being a good manager.

So if it’s so simple, then there really is no need to read business management books, correct? No. It’s important to read them because they help remind you of the basics, which you can easily lose sight of in the hectic day-to-day. It’s important to hear different perspectives or voices on management to find out what resonates with your individual style. Last, reading these business books causes you to reflect and see the big picture to determine where you need to focus to accomplish your goals, much like in annual strategic planning for a company, annual planning for a department, or personal planning and career development work.

Taking the time to read and learn (or really maybe just remember) may help you to step back and make sure you’re applying this basic “nice-honest” principle for management success. It’s just that simple.