The Making of a Manager

Julie Zhou

Intro: Great Managers Are Made, Not Born

Managers share a common purpose: helping a group of people achieve a comon goal.

1. What is Management?

Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.

Half of what my manager looked at was my team’s results. The other half was based on the strength and satisfaction of my team.

Research shows that teams consistently underperform… that’s because problems with coordination and motivation typically chip away at the benefits of collaboration.

The multitude of tasks that fill up a manager’s day sort neatly into 3 buckets: purpose, people, and process.

Purpose: Why do you wake up and choose to do this thing instead of the thousands of other things you could be doing? What would be different about the world if your team were wildly successful?

People: You might have a superbly talented team with a very clear understanding of what the end goal is, but if it’s not apparent how everyone’s supposed to work together or what the team’s values are, then even simple tasks can get enormously complicated.

In a team setting, it’s impossible for a group of people to coordinate what needs to get done without spending time on it.

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.

You have to enjoy the day-to-day of management and want to do it.

If nobody else does it, then it falls to you.

In many organizations, your ability to grow in your career will hit a ceiling unless you start managing people. … That said, many organizations today, particularly those that seek to attract highly skilled or creative talent, have paths for advancement that don’t require managing others.

So to be a great manager, one must certainly be a leader. A leader, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be a manager.

2. Your First Three Months

– this chapter lays out a couple of different ways people become managers (apprentice, pioneer, new boss, successor) and provides the “what to take advantage of” and the “what to watch out for” for each path –

3. Leading a Small Team

A manager’s job is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together through influencing purpose, people, and process.

What gets in the way of good work? There are only two possibilities. 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.

No matter how you slice it, you are your reports’ boss. This means that the responsibility of building a trusting relationship lies more with you than with them.

A hallmark of a trusting relationship is that people feel they can share their mistakes, challenges, and fears with you.

To track team health, some companies explicitly ask the question, “would you work for your manager again?”

Remember this: managing is caring.

Sometimes the personal blends into the professional, and that’s okay.

The ideal one-on-one meeting leaves your report feeling that it was useful for her. If she thinks that the conversation was pleasant but largely unmemorable, then you can do better.

Your job as a manager isn’t to dole out advice or “save the day”– it’s to empower your report to find the answer herself.

  • Identify: What’s top of mind for you right now?
  • Understand: What’s the worst case scenario you’re worried about?
  • Support: What can I do to make you more successful?

4. The Art of Feedback

For one, feedback doesn’t have to be critical. Praise is often more motivating that criticism.

Set clear expectations at the beginning.

Give task specific feedback as frequently as you can.

Share behavioral feedback thoughtfully and regularly.

Every major disappointment is a failure to set expectations.

The most common response to the question “How could your manager better support you?” is simply “Give me more feedback”.

Part of the reason feedback doesn’t stick is that the recipient often views the conversation as a threat, so his adrenaline-fueled fight-or-flight instinct kicks in.

Recognizing what’s going well is more likely to change behavior than only point out mistakes.

When you do have critical feedback to share, approach it with a sense of curiosity and an honest desire to understand your report’s perspective.

5. Managing Yourself

Why does imposter syndrome hit managers so hard? The first is that you’re often looked to for answers. The second reason is that you are constantly put in the position of doing things you haven’t done before.

So what happened in those years (when I got better)? … The answer is predictably boring. I practiced and I got better.

6. Amazing Meetings

Good meetings:

  • are a great use of time
  • taught me something new
  • left me with a clearer sense of what I should do next
  • had everyone engaged
  • everyone felt welcomed

7. Hiring Well

– skimmed this –

8. Making Things Happen

– everything was obvious –

9. Leading a Growing Team

Context switching all day, every day.

As teams grow, managers spend less of their day-to-day on the specific craft of their discipline. What matters more is that they can get the best out of a group of people.

10. Nurturing Culture

– everything was obvious –

Epilogue: The Journey is 1% Finished

It’s probably more than 1% finished, but the point is that there’s always more to learn.