Summary: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo
Summary: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

Summary: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.


What makes a Great Manager?

A great manager gets better outcomes from a group of people working together. I should look at the output of the work unit and not simply the activity involved.


As a New Boss, it’s your job to figure out

  • What does it mean to do a good job versus a poor job? Can you give me examples?
  • I noticed X happened the other day. Is this normal or should I be concerned?


Purpose, People, Process – 3 Buckets of a Manager

I want our time together to be valuable, so I should focus on what’s important for them.

  1. Discuss top priorities:
    • what are 1, 2 or 3 critical outcomes of my report. How can I help him tackle these colleagues?
  2. Calibrate what great looks like
    • Are we in sync about goals or expectations?
  3. Share feedback
  4. Reflect on how things are going
    • Zoom out and talk about his general state of mind. How he’s feeling as a whole? What makes him satisfied dissatisfied? Has any of his goals changed? What has he learnt recently? And what does he need to learn going forward?


Questions to get the conversation moving

  • 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?
  • What does your ideal outcome look like?
  • What’s hard for you in getting to that outcome?
  • What do you really care about?
  • What do you think is the best course of action?
  • What’s the worst-case scenario you’re worried about?
  • How can I help you?
  • What can I do to make you more successful?
  • What was the most useful part of our conversation today?

Show humility. Admit when you don’t know. Apologize when you did wrong.

  • I don’t know the answer. What do you think?
  • One of my personal growth areas this half is …
  • I’m afraid I don’t know enough to help you with the problem but here’s some you should talk to instead …
  • I want to come clean and apologize for what I did/said the other day…


Help People Play to Their Strengths

Good CEOS know that they should double down on the projects they’re working and put more people, resources, and attention on those rather than get every single project to the point of “not failing”.

Similarly, good investors know that helping to identify and grow a single start-up to the next billion-dollar company is worth dozens of their investments that lose money.

Rising stars on my team many not be clamoring for my attention but if I help them to dream bigger and become more capable leaders, I’ll be amazed at how much more my team can do.

Refer to Julie Lemonade example


Feedback is a generous gift you can give

It costs time and effort to share. But when we have it, we’re better off. So let’s give it generously.

Two types of feedback
  • Task-specific (give as frequently and as quickly as I can)
    • Most effective when action performed is still fresh in his memory
    • Focus on WHAT rather than who
  • Behavioral (give thoughtfully and regularly)
    • Support with specific examples to explain why I feel that way
    • Helps people understand the reality of how others see them
Make sure your Feedback was heard
  • Okay let’s make sure we’re on the same page. What are your takeaways and next steps?
  • Summarize via email what was discussed. Writing can clarify the points made as well as be reread and referenced in the future.
Make sure my Feedback can be Acted Upon
  1. Make it as specific as possible
    • Don’t – Your presentation was complicated, and people had a hard time understanding it.
    • Do – You lost the room when you shared 7 goals for the review instead of just 1 or 2. It’s hard to remember all of them. So, the priorities felt unclear.
    • Do – At the end, you showed three different directions for where we could go from here, but you didn’t give us your recommendations or how to think about the pros and cons of each opinion. As a result, people were confused about the next steps.
  2. Clarify what success looks like
  3. Ask for their next steps
    1. Don’t overdo this, else I’m not empowering my team to learn to solve problems on their own.
    2. Instead use a softer approach – What do you think the next steps should be?
      • Can you do another pass on this report with the changes we discussed today, and I’ll set up the next review for Thursday?
      • One suggestion that might help you with your next presentation is using the rule of 3, no more than 3 goals, 3 sections and 3 bullets per slide.
      • Given what we just talked about, what are your next steps?
(Exercise) Observe these feedback Statements
  1. You’re such a screw-up. What am I going to do with you?
  2. Your work is terrible, and I need to know how you’re going to fix it.
  3. I’m concerned about the quality of work that I’ve been seeing from you lately. Can we talk about that?
  4. Your last few deliverables weren’t comprehensive enough to hit the mark. So, let’s discuss why that is and how to address it.
  5. I have a few questions about your latest work – do you have a moment to walk me through it?
  1. Avoid like a plague
  2. Focus on what, not who. But still ‘terrible’ is a strong word. And the burden of fixing things falls entire on my report.
  3. Good
  4. Best (because it’s more specific ‘hit the mark’)
  5. Seems like an attractive opener (but I’m afraid of upsetting my report or I’m not sure 100% right, so I phrase my concerns as ‘questions’)
Template for Feedback

When I (heard/observed/reflected on) your (action/behavior/output), I felt concerned because… I’d like to understand your perspective and talk about how we can resolve this.


Understanding my Strengths (Strength Finder)

Ask myself the following:

  1. How would the people who know and like me best describe me in 3 adjs?
  2. What 3 qualities do I possess that I’m the proudest of?
  3. When I look back on something I did that was successful, what personal traits do I give credit to?
  4. What are my top 3 most common pieces of positive feedback that I’ve received from my managers or peers?


Understanding my Weaknesses (Trigger Finder)

Ask myself the following:

  1. Whenever my worst inner critic sits on my shoulder, what does he yells at me for?
  2. If a magical fair were to come and bestow on me 3 gifts, what would they be?
  3. What are 3 things that trigger me? (Trigger = situation that gets me more worked up than it should)
  4. What are top 3 most common pieces of feedback from my manager or peers on how I could be more effective?


Calibrating my perspective on self matches reality

Follow these tactics:

  1. Ask my manager to help me calibrate:
    1. What opportunities do you see for me to do more of what I do well?
    2. What do you think are the biggest things holding me back from having greater impact?
    3. What skills do you think a hypothetical perfect person in my role would have? For each skill, how would you rate me against that ideal on a scale of 1 to 5?
  2. Pick 3 – 7 people whom I work closely with and ask for their feedback.
    1. Hey, I value your feedback and I’d like to be a more effective team member. Would you be willing to answer the questions below? Please be as honest as you can because that’s what will help me the most – I promise nothing you say will offend me. Feedback is a gift, and I’m grateful to you for taking your time.
  3. Ask for task-specific feedback to calibrate myself on specific skills.


Close My Eyes and Visualize

When we picture ourselves doing something, the same parts of our brain are engaged as if we are doing that activity.

The group who went to gym every day increased their muscle strength by 30 percent. The group who ran through the workout in their heads increased their strength by 13.5pc- almost half the benefit!


Shall I take Formal Training

Ask myself “1 yea from now, will I be happy I did this?”


Components of Great Decision-Making Meeting

  1. Get a decision made (obviously)
  2. Include people most directly affected by decision
  3. Include a clearly designated decision-maker
  4. Present all credible options objectively and with relevant background info
  5. Include team recommendations (if one)
  6. Give equal airtime to everyone


Make it Safe for People to Express

  1. Be explicit about the norms I want to set
    • Explicitly say I value transparency and welcome hard questions.
  2. Change up my meeting format to favor participation
    • Post-it-note opening (write down opinions, put notes on board, talk through their thinking)
    • Ask every person what one he or she favors and why


Ask the Right Hiring Questions

Starting points on what to ask:

  1. What kinds of challenges are interesting to you and why? Can you describe a specific project?
    • This tells me what he is passionate about.
  2. What do you consider your greatest strengths? What would your peers agree are your areas of growth?
    • Gets a candidate self-awareness and what his actual strengths weaknesses might be.
  3. Imagine yourself in 3 years, what do you hope will be different about you then compared to now?
    • Helps me understand candidates ambitions and how goal oriented and self-reflective he is.
  4. What was the hardest conflict you’ve had in the past year? How did it end, and what did you learn from the experience?
    • Gives me a sense of how the candidate works with other people and how he approaches conflict.
  5. What’s something that’s inspired you in your work recently?
    • Sheds light on what the candidate thinks is interesting or valuable.


Take Action, Be Ready to Learn and Adapt.

  1. Try what seems like a good idea.
  2. Do it quickly.
  3. Keep my mind open and curious.
  4. I learn.
  5. I scrap what failed and double down on what’s working.
  6. Rinse and repeat repeatedly.


Work Backwards from your Target Date

  1. Find my target date.
  2. Work backward and figure out what needs to be done every week.


Signs My team is Executing Well

  1. List of projects are prioritized from most to least important.
  2. There’s an efficient process for decision-making that everyone trusts.
  3. The team moves quickly, especially with reversible decisions. (Bezos says most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70pc of the information. If I wait for 90pc, I’m probably being slow)
  4. After a decision is made, everyone commits (even those who disagree) and moves quickly to make it happen.
  5. When important new info surfaces, there’s an expedient process to examine if and how current plans should change as a result.
  6. Every task has a ‘who’ and ‘by when’. Owners set and reliably deliver commitments.
  7. The team is resilient and constantly seeking to learn. Every failure makes them stronger as they don’t make the same mistake twice.


Project Debriefs

Invite my team to come together and reflect

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go well?
  3. What would the team do differently next time?


Giving People Big Problems is a Sign of Trust

There’s no greater sign of trust than handing my report and intricated tangle knot that I believe he can pull apart, even if I’m not sure how.


When your associate keeps falling short on expectations despite of adequate training and coaching

  • Would I hire this person again if the role were open?
  • Answer is no, part ways.


Rule of Thumb for Delegation

Spend my time and energy on the intersection of

  1. What’s most important to the organization
  2. What I’m uniquely able to do better than anyone else

Anything my report can do better than me, I should delegate. Anything I can do better than my report but doesn’t fall into “most important” category, I should still try to delegate and coach them along the way.


Understanding my Current Team

  1. What are first 3 adjectives that come to my mind when describing the personality of my team?
  2. What moments made me feel most proud to be a part of my team? Why?
  3. What does my team do better than most other teams out there?
  4. If I picked 5 random members of my team and individually asked each person “What does our team value?” What would I hear?
  5. How similar is my team’s culture to the broader organizations’ culture?
  6. Imagine a journalist scrutinizing my team. What would she say my team does well or not well?
  7. When people complain about how things work, what are top 3 things that they bring up?
Understanding Aspirations
  1. Describe top 5 adjectives I’d want an external observer to use to describe my team’s culture. Why those?
  2. Now imagine those 5 adjectives sitting on a double-edged sword. What do I imagine are the pitfalls that come from ruthless adherence to these qualities? Are those acceptable to me?
  3. Make a list of the aspects of the culture I admire about other teams or organizations. Why do I admire them? What downsides does that team tolerate as a result?
  4. Make a list of the aspects of culture that I wouldn’t want to emulate from other teams? Why not?
Understanding the Difference
  1. On a scale of 1 to 9 (9 being we’re 100pc there and 1 being this is the opposite of our team) how close is my current team from my aspirations?
  2. What shows up as both a strength of my team as well as quality I value highly?
  3. Where are the biggest gaps between my current team culture and my aspirations?
  4. What are the obstacles that might get in the way of my team reaching my aspirations? How will I address them?
  5. Imagine how I want my team to work in a year’s time. How would I describe to a report what my hope will be different then compared to now?


Always Walk the Talk

My team watch me closely to understand the team’s values and norms. If I’m not willing to change my behavior for a stated value, then don’t’ bring it up in the first place.


Common Incentive Trap

  1. Rewarding individual performance over anything else
  2. Rewarding short-term gains over long-term investments
  3. Rewarding lack of perceived issues or conflict. (encouraging ppl to hide issues)
  4. Rewarding the squeaky wheel.


Some Examples of Team Traditions

  • Personal prompts (e.g. favorite childhood move, best gift I’ve ever received) at the start of a meeting (so people get to know their teammates better)
  • Monthly “Learn how to paint/sculpt/craft) nights to encourage creativity and beginner’s mindset
  • A gigantic “Customer Love” stuffed teddy bear awarded to person who went above and beyond to help a customer in past month
  • Annual Oscars-style award ceremony so people can recognize all the ways in which their coworkers are awesome
  • Monday morning yoga sessions to promote mindfulness
  • “Fail of the week” where people share their mistakes in a safe forum to encourage authenticity and learning