How Did I Not See This Coming - Ideas for Leaders

How Did I Not See This Coming

A New Manager's Guide to Avoiding Total Disaster

About Author/s:

Katy Tynan is a consultant who has spent 20 years advising in the IT sector. Today she is a well-known face on the speaker circuit focusing on the evolving world of work as well as an author and coach. She currently heads up CoreAxis, a talent strategy consulting firm in Massachusetts.


Unlike most knowledge we need at work leadership skills are rarely taught before we need them; when you become competent at some technical activity organizations tend to think you are ready for management, but whereas you may have been trained in coding or sales or finance, you are rarely trained to manage, and so many people find themselves in their first management role with little to no idea how to behave. As a result we fall back on stereotypical concepts of leadership, most often 'command and control' ones that are almost always inappropriate for first line management roles – and most others too.

Core Idea

For the large majority of people the best way to win a game of tennis is to make less mistakes than your opponent. Only the top professionals need to focus on the winning shots. It may not lead to an exciting game but it is a pretty good method to coming out on top in a match. The same, to a great extent, can be said of leading and managing. If you can avoid the most common errors you will, at the first rungs of management, be ahead of the field. Tynan in this book sets out to highlight the common team leadership pitfalls many fall into.

The book traces the management journey – and egregious mistakes – of Julie, who has recently been promoted to her first management role, complete with internal politics and organizational need for change to challenge her.

Guided by some external mentors Julie has her mistakes pointed out and five simple 'management truths' introduced and explained to her: vision, team, goals, adapt & learn, and trust. Listed like that they are relatively meaningless, but the story positions each one nicely. None of them are complicated, though some may appear counter-intuitive: don't mistake leadership for having to know everything; leadership is more about enabling than leading from the front; if we debrief ourselves and teams as much as we analyse our football team's last game we would learn much more, and more quickly.


This book has two rare attributes that commend it. It is under 100 pages long (as just about all business books ought to be) and it is told as a story, in parable fashion. We know that stories stick in the mind longer, so why do not more business books adopt this approach? A third attribute that makes it stand out is its focus on new, first-time leaders. Experienced leaders have had time to make mistakes and adapt their leadership style – but for those taking their first steps this book is a useful and accessible guide to not making simple errors – which is really all any of us need to aim for at this level.


  • Title: How Did I Not See This Coming: A New Manager's Guide to Avoiding Total Disaster

    Author/s Name/s: Katy Tynan

    Publisher: ATD Press

    ISBN: 978-1-56286-786-7

    Publishing Date: December 2017

    Number of Pages: 97

Author Knowledge Rating: 1-5 (based on their years of experience, academic expertise in subject areas, and exposure to cross-functional thinking in the area)

Readability: 1-5 score(1=dense and v academic; 5=frantic; page turner)

Appropriate Length: (1=could have been written in 25% of the length;5=could have been longer)

Core Idea Value: (1=nonsense (or entirely esoteric); 5=game-changer)