Book Reviews

The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

Julie Zhuo joined Facebook in 2006 as an intern, became a manager when she was 25 years old, and worked her way up to become VP of Product Design there. This book is her playbook for those making a transition into management. Her writing style is easy to read and each topic she covers are accompanied with her real life experience examples that the readers can very much relate to.

The author starts off by explaining what Management is. A job of a manager, in a single sentence, is to get better outcome from a group of people working together. To achieve that, a manager’s day is usually filled with tasks around three buckets: purpose, people, process. The why, the who, and the how.

Then, she goes on to describe how to navigate through the first three months in the job as a manager and how to lead a small team of people, from coaching reports to hiring new ones and from organizing meetings to organizing anxiety within. Great managers are excellent coaches and the secret sauce is giving effective feedback which the author covers in a great length.

Before managing others, as a manager you first need to manage yourself. You need to get deep with knowing you, your strengths, your values, your comfort zones, your blind spots, and your biases. When you invest in personal learning and growth, you’re not just investing in your own future, but also the future of your team because the better you are, the more you’re able to support others.

As a manager, one of the smartest ways to multiply your team’s impact is to hire the best people and empower them to do more and more until you stretch the limits of their capabilities. The author lays out ways to hiring well; from describing ideal candidates as clearly as you can to working closely with the recruiter, from getting multiple interviewers involved to seeking out references and delivering amazing interview experiences and to create a culture that prioritize hiring well.

Another way to multiply your team’s impact is through a resilient process. It starts with a concrete vision that describes what you’re collectively trying to achieve. Then, you create a believable and realistic game plan based on your team’s strengths and focus on doing few things well (80/20 rule). Prioritization is key and so is speed; a fast runner can take a few wrong turns and still beat a slow runner who knows the shortest path.

As your team grows, your frontline view of how a team works starts to evolve into a macro view. Setting a vision, hiring leaders, delegating responsibility, and managing communication become the key skills needed to bridge the gap. As you manage more and more people, you’ll play a bigger role in shaping and nurturing culture. Culture describes the norms and values that govern how things get done. It’s not just what’s written but how much the company is willing to give up for its values. Always walk the walk, create the right incentives, and invent traditions that celebrate your values.

This book is full of practical wisdom and a comprehensive guide for those new to managerial role like myself and I can relate to a lot of what she describes. Tools she provides in the book are surely good references that I shall come back and check from time to time to keep me on track. If you’re a first time manager or are looking for some good books to learn management skills, this is the book you must read!

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