The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo – Here are my six lessons and takeaways

Zhuo The Making of a ManagerIf you don’t believe in your heart of hearts that someone can succeed, it will be impossible for you to convey your strong belief in them.
Julie Zhuo, The Making of a Manager


Do you want to succeed in your business endeavors?  Here is one way to look at things — You need two things to succeed;  good products or services; and good systems to help all your people succeed in their work to make it all come together.

Once you get past what one person can accomplish, now you have a team… and then teams…and then departments, and projects, and more projects, and many more teams.

And each group of people needs to be managed.  In other words, you need good managers to work effectively with the people they manage to create good systems to put out those successful products or services.

If you manage people, and especially if you are new to managing people, I have a major book recommendation to make.  The book is The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo.

I presented my synopsis of this book at the September 6 First Friday Book Synopsis, and I am ready to say that this is the first book that every new manager should read.

One reason:  Julie Zhuo writes from the perspective of a new manager, with expanding management responsibilities.  It has the feel of real-word counsel and advice.  (Julie Zhuo started out as a designer; then a manager of a small team, then a bigger team, then bigger, then…and now, Vice President of Product Design – all at Facebook.  Worth noting: she learned about management (from reading; from experience) as she was starting out as a manager.  In other words, this book contains wisdom and insight gained from in-the-moments learning and experience).

For every book that I present, I ask: What is the point? Here is the point of this book:  The manager has to help her team be productive and successful. Outcomes!  This book is a how-to, step-by-step, do this and do that template for the one who manages others.

Here are some critical definitions/explanations:

  • So, what is management? This is the crux of management: It is the belief that a team of people can achieve more than a single person going it alone. It is the realization that you don’t have to do everything yourself, be the best at everything yourself, or even know how to do everything yourself. Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.—And,manager’s excel at the multiplier effect…– the effectiveness of the team is multiplied by the work of the manager with the team 
  • What constitutes success in management? — a great manager’s team will consistently achieve great outcomes — management is the art of getting a group of people to work together to achieve better outcomes.A manager’s job is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together through influencing purpose, people, and process.

I always ask, about each book I present, Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book is not a textbook.  It provides a practitioners game plan.  It is a useful book.
#2 – This book is a learn-as-you-go – learn from study, and learn from experience — chronicle of managing in a real-world environment.
#3 – This book provides the independent worker with insight on how to “manage oneself.”  With a little imaginative reading, it is a very valuable book for anyone working in any arena.

Here are some key Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted passages:

Still, much of the daily work of managers—giving feedback, creating a healthy culture, planning for the future—is universal.
Making a team function well is harder than it looks. …“Research consistently shows that teams underperform, despite all the extra resources they have.”
Your role as a manager is not to do the work yourself, even if you are the best at it, because that will only take you so far. Your role is to improve the purpose, people, and process of your team to get as high a multiplier effect on your collective outcome as you can.
For a leader, giving feedback—both when things are going well and when they aren’t—is one of the most fundamental aspects of the job.
A study from Harvard Business School shows that we learn more when we couple our experiences with periodic reflections.
This week’s tasks, meetings, and emails will be little blips lost in the sands of time. What is the greater purpose behind them?

Here are some of the key points I noted from reading the book:

  • the two big challenges:
  • The first is that people don’t know how to do good work. The second is that they know how, but they aren’t motivated.
  • about meetings; first, you really must prepare for every meeting! Then:
  • 1:1s
  • small group
  • large, to really large group…
  • questions:What’s top of mind for you right now?
  • What priorities are you thinking about this week?
  • What’s the best use of our time today?

And, understand:

  • What does your ideal outcome look like?
  • What’s the worst-case scenario you’re worried about?
  • How can I help you?
  • What can I do to make you more successful?
  • Do not tolerate:  bullies and assholes…and, At the end of the day, if you don’t believe someone is set up to succeed in his current role, the kindest thing you can do is to be honest with him and support him in moving on.
  • You must give feedback; regularly; all the time!
  • First:  adopt the Growth mindset; not the Fixed mindset
  • Set Clear Expectations at the Beginning – e.g., In your first three months on the job, I expect that you’ll build good relationships with your team, be able to ramp up on a small-scale “starter” project, and then share your first design iteration for review. I don’t expect that you’ll get the green light on it right away, but if you do, that would be knocking it out of the park. Here’s what success looks like for the next meeting you run: the different options are framed clearly, everyone feels like their point of view is well represented, and a decision is made.
  • give (lots of!) task specificfeedback
  • then add behavioral feedback; connecting the dots across multiple examples,
  • and, collect 360-Degree Feedbackfor Maximum Objectivity
  • give your feedback NOW!
  • 1) Make your feedback as specific as possible. 2) Clarify what success looks and feels like.  3) Suggest next steps.
  • avoid the “Compliment Sandwich” – it comes across as insincere
  • Here’s an idea – someone on your team can probably do _______ better than you can. Let them; empower them…
  • Aim for genuine diversity; every kind of diversity! – on your team(s)
  • Make sure your vision is clear – “A chicken in every pot” conjures up an image of millions of families enjoying a hearty and substantial meal for supper.

And note this:  this book, like almost all good books, is filled with references to, and lessons learned from, many good books.  In other words, you need to read more books!!!

  • And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – Once you are a manager of a team, from that moment on, it is about the team’s success.  It is not your “skill” in a specific job; it is about the outcomesof the team as a whole!  Always focus on that.
#2 – Every person on your team has great strengths. Recognize them for these strengths, celebrate accomplishments, and help them get even better at these elements of their work.
#3 – Every person on your team has flaws; deficiencies; slip-ups. Help them see/identify them, stop them, work on them, and get better.
#4 – Every person on your team – including you – can keep getting better.  Help each of them get better, quarter after quarter, year after year.
#5 – Celebrate “growth.”  Champion growth.
#6 – You need a coach/some coaches. .  And you need to coach others. In other words, people need help to do good work, and get better at their work. Find, and hold on to, good coaches and their coaching.

This book is a step-by-step, do this and then do that and keep doing this template for succeeding as a manager.  I put it very high on my list of recommended books.


And, note:  what if you are, like me, an “individual practitioner?” I think with a little imagination, you can translate these insights into your own situation; in other words, you may have to do your work, and manage yourself in the process. This book is helloing me in my thinking and planning; it is helping me “manage myself.”


My synopsis of this book will be available soon at the “new additions” tab on this web page.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation from the First Friday Book Synopsis, our monthly gathering in Dallas.

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