The Making of a Manager cover

The Making of a Manager - Book Summary

What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

Duration: 24:38
Release Date: February 7, 2024
Book Author: Julie Zhuo
Category: Management & Leadership
Duration: 24:38
Release Date: February 7, 2024
Book Author: Julie Zhuo
Category: Management & Leadership

In this episode of 20 Minute Books, we dive into "The Making of a Manager" by Julie Zhuo. Released in 2019, this book is a treasure trove of insights for anyone stepping into a managerial role, facing the daunting task of leading a team to success. Zhuo unpacks the critical first three months of management, providing a roadmap for navigating meetings, recruitment, team expansion, and the multifaceted challenges new managers encounter. This book stands as a testament to the idea that while great managers aren't born, they can certainly be made, with the right guidance and mindset.

Julie Zhuo, the vice president of design at Facebook and a Stanford University Computer Science graduate, brings her extensive leadership experience to the table. Her writings on leadership, design, and technology, featured in prestigious publications like the New York Times and Fast Company, reflect her thoughtful approach to management. Zhuo's blog, The Year of the Looking Glass, further showcases her expertise and dedication to fostering leaders in the tech industry.

"The Making of a Manager" is an essential read not just for new managers seeking actionable tips to excel in their roles but also for team members aiming to bolster their relationships with colleagues, and recruiters looking for insightful perspectives on leadership. Join us as we explore how Zhuo's expert advice can transform the way you lead, making you the manager your team needs.

Stepping Up to Management: Navigating Your First Leadership Role

The leap into your inaugural role as a manager brims with anticipation and obstacles — a true test of your mettle. The silver lining? Someone's confidence in your potential has catapulted you into this position. Yet, the stark truth for most fledgling managers is a cocktail of overwhelming doubt and relentless pressure as they navigate the early stages of leadership. So, the burning question remains: How do you thrive from the get-go?

Enter Julie Zhuo, Facebook's Vice President of Design, who demystifies this transition with her firsthand insights. Zhuo's journey from a neophyte manager to a seasoned leader illuminates a path for others to follow, ensuring the common traps that snare many new supervisors are skillfully avoided. From orchestrating effective meetings to hiring the ideal candidates, and smoothly scaling from a boutique team to a sprawling unit — these narratives offer a masterclass in exceptional management practices.

Throughout this exploration, you'll uncover:

- The influence of your managerial debut on the initial ninety days;

- The pivotal shift from a reactive to a strategic mindset for managers;

- The blueprint for organizing meetings that matter.

By delving into Zhuo's experiences and advice, you're not just learning the ropes of management; you're embarking on a journey to become the leader you were meant to be. Whether you're about to take your first step into management or looking to refine your leadership skills, this guide serves as an indispensable companion, ensuring your foray into management is not just about surviving, but thriving.

Outcome versus Activity: The True Measure of a Manager's Success

At a mere 25 years old, Julie Zhuo found herself at the helm of Facebook's design team, an impressive accomplishment for her first venture into management. This pivotal moment was both exhilarating and daunting. Zhuo, thrown into the unknown, was initially caught up in the whirlwind of everyday tasks, pondering over the fundamental question: "What exactly does a manager do?"

Her initial conception of management was fixated on the mechanics of daily interactions — organizing meetings, providing feedback, and making crucial decisions about her team's future. However, this viewpoint was inherently limited, focused on the minutiae rather than the overarching ambitions of her role.

As Zhuo accumulated experience, her perspective underwent a significant transformation. She began to see the essence of management not in the immediate tasks but in the broader horizon of ensuring team cohesion, supporting individual career aspirations, and streamlining processes for maximum efficiency. This was a leap from her earlier focus, moving towards a more strategic approach to leadership.

With close to a decade of management experience, Zhuo refined her understanding of a manager's purpose to its core essence: achieving superior outcomes through your team. This distinction — between activity and outcome — emerged as the cornerstone of effective management. It's not about the flurry of tasks or the charisma of the leader but about the tangible results the team delivers.

The common misconception lies in equating a manager's merit with their industriousness, likability, or presentation skills. While these attributes may contribute to a manager's profile, they don't provide a comprehensive evaluation of their effectiveness. The true litmus test is the performance of their team. A remarkable manager inspires their team to consistently deliver exceptional results, transcending the mere fulfilment of duties.

So, what separates a stellar manager from an average one? The answer is straightforward — the outcomes their team achieves. For Zhuo, whose benchmark was innovative design, the caliber of a manager was evident in the quality of designs her team produced. A superior manager's team will consistently excel, while a less effective leader's team will yield mediocre results.

In essence, the gauge of managerial success is simple and unvarnished — it's all about the outcomes, not the activities. This principle transcends the need for any checklist or exhaustive criteria, distilling the essence of leadership to its most impactful form.

Navigating the Paths to Leadership: Every Journey Has Its Lessons

Whenever the author encounters fresh faces in management within the bustling halls of Facebook, she's quick to inquire about their initial experiences — what they've found surprisingly easy and what challenges they've encountered. Through these conversations, a fascinating insight has emerged: the way one ascends to a managerial position strongly influences their early hurdles and triumphs. Essentially, the roadmap to management shapes the initial landscape of leadership, with each route offering its own set of challenges and rewards during the critical first three months.

One of the routes is the Apprentice path. Imagine the scenario — as your department expands, your superior entrusts you with overseeing a segment of the team. This was the author's own journey into the realm of management. Starting as a young designer at Facebook, she was propelled into leadership as part of her boss's growing design team. The Apprentice path shines with the promise of mentorship; your manager is there to guide you, ready to share wisdom and answer burning questions. This proximity to a seasoned leader is invaluable. Yet, this path is not without its thorns. Transitioning from colleague to supervisor can be a delicate dance, as earning the respect and trust of those who once viewed you as a peer requires tact and patience.

Then there's the Pioneer route — a pathway of innovation and creation. Pioneers have the unique opportunity to assemble their teams from the ground up, handpicking each member to craft the perfect ensemble. This freedom to shape the team's composition and dynamics is exhilarating. However, the pioneer finds themselves in uncharted territory, often without a map or compass. The absence of a predecessor means facing challenges without a blueprint, navigating each decision without the safety net of experienced advice.

Lastly, the New Boss route presents a different set of variables. When stepping in to lead an existing team — perhaps transferring from another division or parachuting in from an entirely different organization — you’re afforded a grace period. This window allows for acclimatization and forgives the inevitable early missteps, encouraging a period of observation and learning. However, this path also harbors pitfalls, particularly the temptation to initiate changes prematurely. Without a deep understanding of the team's history, culture, and workflow, well-intentioned reforms can easily miscarry.

Recognizing and adapting to the nuances of your particular ascent to management is crucial. Whether you're an Apprentice, a Pioneer, or a New Boss, each journey offers unique insights and obstacles. Understanding your path's distinctive landscape enables you to navigate it with confidence, ensuring a smoother transition to effective leadership.

Mastering the Art of Feedback: How Great Managers Elevate Their Teams

Julie Zhuo vividly recalls receiving perhaps the most disheartening feedback of her career. In response to one of her early designs for Facebook, a colleague bluntly inquired, "Is this supposed to be this awful?" While this instance might lean towards the extreme, it illuminates a common quandary many face when delivering feedback—struggling to strike a balance between being overly critical and excessively cautious.

Indeed, navigating the delicate act of providing constructive and actionable feedback stands as a critical duty for any manager. It's not just about pointing out what went wrong; it's about fostering growth and improvement among team members. So, how do the best managers conduct these pivotal conversations with grace and efficacy?

The key lies in offering feedback that is closely tied to a specific activity, ideally following closely on the heels of that activity's completion. Suppose a team member just wrapped up a presentation. Taking the time to review their performance while it's fresh—highlighting strengths and suggesting areas for growth—can be remarkably impactful. By centering the feedback on the task rather than personal traits, the manager creates a constructive learning opportunity without making it feel like an attack on the individual's character.

Timing, as it turns out, is also crucial. The sooner feedback is shared after a task, the better. In many cases, written feedback, such as a detailed email sent on the same day, can be equally as effective as a face-to-face discussion. This timely, task-specific approach ensures that each task becomes a mini coaching session, contributing to continuous personal and professional development.

But great managers don't stop there. They also understand the power of diverse perspectives. Implementing 360-degree feedback sessions amplifies this by incorporating views from numerous sources. Instead of limiting feedback to a singular viewpoint, a manager might gather insights from various colleagues who witnessed the presentation. This approach not only offers a multifaceted perspective on performance but also helps the feedback receiver understand how their work is perceived by a broader audience.

By focusing on activity-specific insights, ensuring timeliness, and embracing multiple viewpoints, effective managers transform feedback from a dreaded ordeal into a powerful catalyst for growth. It's these nuanced, thoughtful strategies that elevate great managers above the rest, enabling them to foster environments where feedback is not just accepted but welcomed as a valuable tool for advancement.

Turning Meetings from Time-Wasters into Catalysts for Action

Meetings, once the linchpin of collaboration in the office, have unfortunately slid into notoriety. Described as tedious, unproductive, and often pointless, they've become the subject of derision across the modern workplace. Drawing from her expansive managerial experience, the author shares firsthand the pitfalls of ineffective meetings — sessions flooded with complaints on trivial matters, while participants disengage, resorting to multitasking or disinterested daydreaming. But is there a way to reclaim meetings as engines of productivity?

The author's initial forays into management were underscored by a belief in the power of purposeful meetings. She convened weekly gatherings aimed at tracking the team's project progress, hoping this clear objective would cultivate engagement and productivity. However, the reality proved starkly different. The meetings felt aimless and superfluous, to the point where an email could easily have served the same function. This realization prompted her to cancel the series, marking her first lesson in meeting management.

This experience illuminated a critical insight: a meeting's agenda or purpose, while necessary, is insufficient on its own. What's crucial is the envisioned successful outcome of the meeting. For instance, if the goal is to make a collective decision, the meeting must be meticulously structured to foster this result. It should bring together all stakeholders, present all options and relevant data impartially, articulate any team recommendations, and ensure a balanced discourse, valuing every voice in the room. In doing so, the meeting not only cultivates a decision-making environment but also reinforces a culture of respect and inclusivity.

On the other hand, if the meeting's intent is purely informational, its success hinges on entirely different criteria. Such meetings should captivate and maintain attendees' attention, encouraging interaction and leveraging storytelling to make the information compelling. This approach transforms passive listeners into engaged participants, elevating the quality and impact of the information shared.

In essence, redefining meetings from obligatory time slots on the calendar to meaningful, outcome-driven engagements requires a nuanced understanding of their purpose and desired results. By focusing on clear objectives and structuring meetings to directly foster these outcomes — whether decision-making or information-sharing — managers can resurrect meetings as vital tools for collective achievement and innovation.

Transforming Recruitment Strategy: The Power of a One-Year Plan

In the complex terrain of management, few responsibilities rival the critical importance of recruitment. With over a decade of experience at Facebook and a hand in hiring thousands, the author shares invaluable wisdom on selecting the right team members — a task that, if mastered, can chart the course of a team's success or its struggles.

Managers, amidst the hustle of day-to-day operations, can sometimes slip into the mindset of emergency responders — rushing to fill vacancies as if quelling a flame, focusing on the immediate void rather than the long-term needs. This approach, while it may offer a quick fix, can lead to ill-fitted hires that fail to propel the team forward. To steer clear of such pitfalls, the author prescribes a more strategic, foresight-driven methodology: the development of an annual recruitment plan.

At the dawn of each year, this involves delineating the team’s objectives for the upcoming twelve months and rigorously evaluating the existing gaps in skills, experiences, and strengths. By mapping out these requirements against the team’s ambitions, a manager can compile a targeted recruitment list that bridges these voids effectively.

Crafting this recruitment roadmap calls for introspection and analysis. Consider your team’s core priorities, the anticipated turnover rate, and the budgetary constraints to ascertain a realistic hiring target. Reflect on the level of experience each role demands, identifying the specific skills and strengths your team needs to amplify. Equally, acknowledge the proficiencies already in ample supply within your team, thereby allowing for areas where new hires might have room to grow.

Furthermore, ponder over the attributes that will enrich your team’s diversity in terms of personalities, backgrounds, and experiences. This holistic approach to recruitment not only elevates the quality of new hires but also champions team diversity — a key driver of innovation and creativity.

Implementing a strategically conceived one-year recruitment plan empowers managers to move beyond the reactive, spot-fire approach to hiring. It guarantees that recruitment decisions are made with precision, aligning each new hire with the team’s overarching goals and filling the identified gaps with the right people. This methodical planning serves as a robust framework for evaluating candidate suitability, ensuring that positions are filled not just with available candidates, but with the right candidates, thereby laying a foundation for sustained team success and growth.

The Evolution of Leadership: Adapting to the Dynamics of a Growing Team

Julie Zhuo's journey from managing a close-knit group of designers to leading a sizeable team unveils the transformative nature of leadership as team dynamics evolve. This decade-long expansion not only quadrupled the number of individuals under her guidance but also necessitated her own growth and adaptation as a manager — revealing the stark contrasts between small-scale and large-scale team leadership.

In the early days, when her team was compact, Zhuo enjoyed the luxury of cultivating personal relationships with each member. This intimacy allowed her a comprehensive understanding of each person's work preferences, strengths, and even their leisure activities. However, as the team's numbers swelled to 30, the feasibility of maintaining such individual-focused management dwindled. It became clear that direct management at this scale was impractical — if she were to engage in half-hour one-on-one meetings with each team member weekly, it would consume an unsustainable portion of her time.

The solution? Transitioning to a model of indirect management by introducing middle managers to bridge the gap. This shift, while necessary, introduced a new set of challenges. Though Zhuo remained accountable for her team's output, the delegation of day-to-day decisions to middle managers marked a significant change. Finding the delicate balance between micro-managing and granting autonomy became a new frontier, requiring trust in her middle managers' abilities to lead their sub-teams effectively.

An unexpected challenge Zhuo encountered with a larger team was a change in how team members interacted with her. The expansion of the team — and the introduction of indirect management layers — inadvertently created a sense of intimidation among team members who were less direct in expressing dissent or dissatisfaction. This phenomenon underscored the unintended consequences of perceived hierarchy, where the very scale that necessitates indirect management can foster a culture of hesitance to challenge the status quo.

To navigate this, Zhuo learned the importance of actively fostering an open environment that not only permits but encourages diverse viewpoints and constructive challenges to her ideas. She recognized that despite her best efforts to be approachable, her position of authority could still be a barrier to open communication. Emphasizing her receptiveness to different opinions and intentionally rewarding dissenting voices became crucial strategies in maintaining a healthy, dynamic dialogue within her growing team.

This evolution from direct to indirect management underscores a crucial lesson for leaders facing similar expansion: adaptability, trust, and a proactive approach to communication are key in effectively navigating the complexities of leading a growing team. By embracing these principles, leaders can ensure their teams remain cohesive, innovative, and engaged, regardless of size.

Unlocking Your Leadership Potential: A Guide for New Managers

Stepping into your first role as a manager is both an exciting and daunting journey, filled with unique challenges and invaluable learning opportunities. The trajectory of your managerial career largely depends on the path you take to obtaining your position, whether that be as an Apprentice, a Pioneer, or the New Boss. Each of these routes presents its own set of advantages and hurdles, shaping your initial experiences and tests as a leader.

To thrive as a manager, it's essential to keep your focus squarely on achieving superior outcomes—this is the golden thread that weaves through every aspect of effective management. Whether it's running productive meetings, making astute hiring decisions, or steering your team towards success, the ultimate goal remains the same: fostering an environment where great results are the norm.

Meetings, often maligned as time-wasters, can transform into powerful platforms for decision-making and information sharing, provided they have a crystal-clear purpose and are designed to achieve concrete outcomes. Meanwhile, smart recruitment is not about hastily filling gaps but about strategic planning and understanding the nuanced needs of your team both now and in the future. As your team expands, transitioning from direct to indirect management becomes necessary, requiring a shift in strategy to ensure you continue to lead effectively without losing touch with the evolving dynamics of your growing team.

By embracing these principles and cultivating a keen awareness of both the opportunities and challenges characteristic of your management journey, you're well on your way to unlocking your full potential as a leader. Emphasizing outcomes over activities, encouraging open communication, and adapting your management style to meet the needs of your team are the cornerstones of becoming not just a manager, but a truly transformative leader.

The Making of a Manager Quotes by Julie Zhuo

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