3 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned About Managing Assertively

Managing Assertively 3Book Review: Managing Assertively (A Self-Teaching Guide) by Madelyn Burley-Allen

You were excited to start your job as a manager.  You knew it would be a different experience because it entailed a significant role in the group, leading a team and facing serious and difficult situations that require strong sense of ownership and command.

Then came reality.  It was not a question of skill and knowledge but that of strength of character, patience and confidence.

Are you ready for the job?

Most of us will definitely need some lesson on not only being an effective manager.  We also need to learn to be assertive.

Yes, you read it right.  Assertive.  You do not think you need it?  You think you already have what it takes?  Read further and find out.

Managing Assertively 

A few years ago, I rushed to buy this book on Amazon,  Managing Assertively by Madelyn Burley-Allen and did not even make the effort to look for it in the stores – like I usually do – due to urgency.

You see, I was in a terrible need to learn a crash course in assertive management.  It was not the first time I was handling a managerial role. But I had doubts and felt I needed some boost.

Time comes when you think ” this comes too late when you are already in front of an issue.” You do not have to find yourself in the same situation.

Reviewing the book and reading through my notes, I am surprised to see my notes accurately describing my key issues.  Perhaps after being aware of these, I have transformed at the least to being aware and more prepared to confront the battlefield.

Madelyn Burley-Allen is no doubt an expert on training as she provided useful worksheets that help every reader understand himself and clearly thresh out a needs gap analysis- without making it sound complicated.

Further to that, she made a comprehensive outline of the assertive management topic.  From setting clearly what one wants to achieve in the beginning of the book to setting the tone to identify behavior modification, she laid down direction to ensure that the reader will achieve his objective in reading the book.

Not to say the least, Allen uses the coaching approach, that is, not telling you what you need to do but make you see what you are doing and leads you to what you need to modify and do.

The 8 building blocks that Allen identified helps the reader feel the task at hand is to put together something:

  1. Building self esteem
  2. Knowing how to listen
  3. Taking risks
  4. Knowing how to say no
  5. Knowing how to give constructive feedback
  6. Handling criticism
  7. Knowing how to express and receive positive feedback
  8. Knowing what you want

Out of the 8, what resonated to me as most important were building self-esteem, taking risks and knowing how to say no.

Building Self-esteem

Sometimes it goes without saying but often times there is a need to spell this out to people with issue or difficulty on self-esteem.  This is because we tend to deny what we somehow feel or know we fear about.

The book provides a self-assessment on self-esteem and interestingly identifies a few things about yourself such as things you like about yourself, things you want to improve and from these, the qualities to help you be an effective manager.

The exercise was simple but powerful tool.  I identified the following attributes I like about myself that I am strong on:

  • I approach life joyfully
  • I usually feel open and friendly toward those with whom I interact with
  • I approach something new with confidence

This is somewhat an eye-opener to me to realize something I may not be consciously aware of on a daily basis.  Personally, learning these is already a power booster.  What more to lead you to what you want to modify in your behavior?

Knowing How to Say No

Let’s limit this issue with not being able to refuse something which compromises our stand, belief or our own interests.

We know the reason why we have to say no but what we do not know is the ‘how’ because of fear we might hurt someone else’s feeling, make a wrong impression or sound aggressive.

In the assessment work in the book, I needed to rate which statements were true or not about myself. One statement that still strikes me today is this: “I can say I don’t agree when I am offered an alternative that I don’t go along with”. I rated this as “somewhat not true” of me because I find myself saying this but feeling guilty or having to do so by going around the bush.

For this aspect, Allen shared some tips and scripts to use when confronting issues that require having to say no such as:

  • Saying no and “I’m uncomfortable doing that”
  • Clarifying why you said no
  • Saying no using the Persistence Response (adapted from Dr. Manuel Smith) which is using a one-sentence refusal statement and consistently repeating it – something useful in confronting an aggressive  or manipulative person

Being able to explain yourself properly, thinking about its benefits for you or your team and as a win-win strategy in the interest of everyone’s good should leave you some peace of mind.

Taking Risks

This is the difficult side of taking responsibility.  More often, if your self-esteem or confidence is high, taking risks is easier to deal with.  Hence taking care of your own self-worth can help a lot in making this building block effective in the business of assertive management.

Attitude alone – putting a step foot forward towards self-confidence- is a big factor in facing this fear.  More often, you are in a position to handle things – for example as a team manager or a home manager.  If you feel there are loopholes on your skill in handling a position, faking it will let you make it.  That is, by handling the problem with confidence.

Taking risks require balancing the pros and cons in making a decision, saying some important issues to a subordinate or implementing a new guideline or policy. Back yourself up with some advise from trusted persons and collect information (both facts and assumptions).  If you have 70-80% on the right side then you should muster the courage to go for it.

One important point that Allen brought up was to keep your thinking straight! Being able to focus and think straight is a challenge to many who are new to the role or to those with introvert or shy personality because of the immediate feeling of getting rattled.

When expressing opinions or asking for information, it’s important to keep your thinking straight.  Some supervisors will express opinions without bothering to get the facts straight or supporting evidence and so lose credibility.

She further advises, one must distinguish an assumption with facts.

Putting Resolutions into Action

The toughest part of the program – if you undergo such as you read through the book – is making the resolutions a reality- by doing them.

Allen’s workbook is compelling from start to end especially due to the ‘interactive’ nature of the exercises that without even making an effort, you will start putting your heart in whatever you wrote as ‘areas to modify’.

Easily as I did, soon you will see yourself into managing assertively!

Two years after I read this book, I have ‘matured’ in this task that I am able to talk with confidence dealing with my team, push aside shyness and using the power of words and expressions to manage the situations not only in terms of achieving a win-win situation but also protecting the interests of my team.

Whether you are managing a team at work, a mom managing a household or a spokesperson facing an audience, you surely need to keep a great credible image, enjoy what you do and most of all, effective at what you are doing.  This book will definitely help you!

What are the areas you need to hone in managing your team, home or company?  How do you intend to modify your ways of doing things to improve?


If you want to know more about the book, purchase a copy or browse over pages, go here: Managing Assertively: How to Improve Your People Skills: A Self-Teaching Guide


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