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First Among Equals: How to Manage a Group of Professionals Paperback – April 4, 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Competently managing a group of peers is unquestionably among the most difficult of workplace tasks, but key steps that produce success are laid out so clearly by consultants Patrick J. McKenna and David H. Maister in First Among Equals that even those who completely lack experience should find the process feasible and effective. McKenna and Maister focus on leading teams of professionals--often composed of people who don't feel like they are part of a team or in need of leadership--by transforming the way managers assume responsibility and direct members. "Success in helping your group succeed is mostly about you. Not them," they write. Their book starts by explaining how to prepare for the job ahead, for example, by meeting informally with participants and displaying sincere interest in things that matter to them. It then explores coaching the individuals involved (offering methods for gaining acceptance, building rapport, assisting underperformers and dealing with prima donnas) and guiding the collective group (by developing rules, building trust, invigorating meetings, and resolving conflicts). Finally, it proposes measures for continued success, such as integrating new hires and gauging performance. Dozens of self-assessment questionnaires and diagnostic tests help make this an exceptionally practical guidebook on a critical but oft-neglected topic. --Howard Rothman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Organizations are more successful when they mold highly talented individuals into a cohesive group. But most talented people especially professionals hate to be managed. How to resolve this tension is the subject of this tightly focused, effective book by consultants McKenna (Herding Cats) and Maister (Practice What You Preach). Recognizing that all groups of professionals are different, the authors don't set off to create sweeping rules. Rather, they divide the task of leading groups of professionals into three parts what one must accomplish as the leader; how one wants to interact with individual members of the group; and how one wants to deal with the group as a whole and then offer concrete suggestions. A big part of this book's appeal is the authors' inherent understanding of how professionals resist overtly and otherwise being managed. Not surprisingly, McKenna and Maister spend a great deal of time explaining strategies for getting colleagues to agree to being led. They are particularly effective in outlining approaches for dealing with talented prima donnas (e.g., "listen to the individual's reasons for this behavior" and "inform the individual how improved behavior will improve his or her career"). This is a valuable resource for anyone in the position of trying to manage someone who was and still is, to a large extent a peer.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743267583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743267588
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Greg L. Thomas on March 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
FIRST AMONG EQUALS is more than a catchy title of a book promoted as a guide to managing others in professional environments. When you finish reading this book and the depth of knowledge presented by its authors, you will agree that it is first among equals. Often times books written by two authors come across as disjointed or unconnected. However, McKenna & Maister seem to complement each other's skills very well and the end result is clearly evident.
FIRST AMONG EQUALS was written to fill a large need in most modern organizations. Its premise is how to manage a group and lead them to peak performance without possessing formal authority. Today, it is common to be leader of a group of individuals without possessing any real power or authority over the embers of the group. Wise leaders also know that even if they do have formal authority over others, the high performance leader doesn't act like they do. Instead, the way to get the most out of the individuals we serve with is to be primus inter pares, the first among equals. The authors then boldly take you step by step through an enlightened process of how to interact with and manage groups as an individual group leader. McKenna & Maister state in the introduction that, This is a book about "doing." It is not concerned primarily with theories, concepts, or insights. It's a book we wish we had read when we were first given the challenge of leading a group!" This is achieved by providing frank observations, stirring questions, and wise advice from two respected consultants. FIRST AMONG EQUALS is also replete with quizzes, sidebars and checklists to enhance your personal growth as a group leader.
Part one of the book deals with the issue of how to prepare or "get ready" for your role as a group leader.
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Format: Hardcover
Gripe no. 1 : I hope its not going to become a common occurrence in business books, but there were 7 pages of 35 advance reviews (but 5 of them were only 2 lines which said little). Let me decide for myself if the book is any good - show me the product. Also, I work in IT, but there didn't seem to be a single reviewer with an IT background?
The book looks at the leader/manager/coach of a disparate group of professionals, assuming a mix of seniors & juniors.
I think the book isn't just for the leader/manager/coach - because in many such groups today, there can be rotation (time-based or task-based) where any of the group of professionals might be called upon to perform the leadership / coaching / mentoring role. So the book should be read by all members of the team. Also the leader is human - they might not be 'doing it right as per the book', and it could be useful for the others (they are all equals after all) to be informed to provide that guidance/correction.
The Sections are laid out well : getting ready; coaching the individual; coaching the team; building for the future.
It classes individuals into 4 styles : amiable, analytical, driver, expressive (I tend more towards the expressive), and how to work with each.
I also like the way it addressed underperforming members, how to correct the problem rather than try to rationalise it out of existence.
Because professionals jealously guard their autonomy, reserving the right to work as they see fit, professional groups have a greater-than-average tendency to become ill-disciplined - and thus a whole chapter is dedicate to how to run a meeting of such individuals.
I work in such a group, where there are 20 of us, probably 50:50 seniors & juniors (though we don't refer to ourselves in those terms).
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Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Maister's and McKenna's books and articles. If you are running a law firm, advertising agency or consulting practice, their books are not good - but excellent. These are the kind of books you don't just read once. They are books to be reviewed to see where you've gone off track and have not been your best. They also stimulate your thinking process to show you how you can become better.
The same holds true for "First Amoung Equals". The book provides a guideline for running a practice group, building excellence in the individual and growing individuals into team members. This is one of those books where the serious student will own it by highlighting key sections, taking notes and writing in the margins. And the very serious will buy multiple copies of the book and share them with their manager, collegues and team in hopes for all to become their best!
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Format: Hardcover
Managing professionals is often likened to herding cats. Intelligent professionals are free agents, accustomed to having the autonomy to work on gruelling assignments with little supervision. They are relentlessly demanding of themselves and others, and the best are often are prima donnas, quick both to take offence and to give it. Many companies believe that their professionals are unmanageable, and some have given up trying.

The group leaders within a practice have to act as player-coaches. They are responsible for their own performance but also that of their peers. They must manage their peers but with limited authority. They must encourage individuals; yet somehow forge them into a cohesive team. They are expected to lead as the primus inter pares, the first among equals.
In First Among Equals, McKenna and Maister write the book they wish they had read when first given the challenge of leading a group. The first part helps the leader clarify his/her role. The second part deals with the activities required to coach, lead, inspire, and guide the individual members. The third part turns to team management. The fourth discusses building for the future: managing juniors, monitoring success and problems of size.
The book is written like a series of seminar presentations. The authors take care to tell you what they will tell you, then to tell you, and finally to tell you what they told you. They use lists, which are then unpacked and dissected in detail. Even if this style does not appeal to you, you will find the advice practical and easy to reference.
David Maister's classic, Managing the Professional Services Firm, has long been compulsory reading for senior partners in professional practices. First Among Equals should be given to each of their managers.
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