This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Making of a Manager" by Julie Zhuo. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What is The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo about? What are the main takeaways of the book?
If you’re new to management or looking to be promoted, The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo is the resource you need to get on the fast track to success. Drawing on her experience managing hundreds of employees as a design executive at Facebook, Zhuo gives expert tips on building a team and motivating them to work together
Read below for an overview of Julie Zhuo’s The Making of a Manager.
The Making of a Manager Overview
How do you become a great manager? Solving problems, facilitating meetings, delivering presentations, and issuing directives are all useful skills to have, but they won’t make you great. According to Julie Zhuo, great managers focus on achieving the ultimate goal of all managers: facilitating desirable outcomes by inspiring and coordinating the efforts of others.
In The Making of a Manager, Julie Zhuo explains that great managers motivate people to work toward a shared goal by upholding an inspiring vision, establishing trust, and communicating clear expectations. Drawing on her experience as a design executive—going from working at a small tech startup to managing hundreds of employees at Facebook—Zhuo gives clear guidance on how to build extraordinary teams that produce great outcomes. In this guide, we’ll cover four main elements of Zhuo’s advice:
- Understanding what makes a manager great
- Sharing and reinforcing a powerful vision
- Building and nurturing a team
- Running productive meetings
Understanding What Makes a Manager Great
Contrary to what many people think, being an effective manager entails more than completing a daily checklist of tasks and telling people what to do. In this section, Zhuo explains what management is, and discusses the qualities of a great manager.
The Definition of Management
Zhuo says that management is about facilitating desirable outcomes by inspiring and coordinating the efforts of others. Great managers build relationships, nurture collaboration, support an efficient workflow, and ultimately advance company goals.
In practice, a manager’s role is similar to that of an orchestra conductor. Just as an orchestra conductor inspires and leads musicians to deliver creative performances, a manager guides team members to combine their talents and deliver great outcomes.
Qualities of a Great Manager
According to Zhuo, anyone can learn to become a great manager. Although great managers can have radically different ways of approaching problems and relating to people, they have some commonalities. Let’s look at qualities that distinguish great managers. Then, we’ll cover practices great managers use to perform well consistently.
Zhuo says to be a great manager you must display these traits:
- Motivated to see a team succeed
- Enjoy interacting with people
- Able to resolve conflicts
- Willing to own up to missteps and lapses of judgment
Sharing and Reinforcing a Powerful Vision
You’ve learned what management is and what qualities make a manager great. Now, let’s look at one critical function managers must perform: sharing and reinforcing a powerful vision. Zhuo examines the features of a good vision statement. Then, she discusses why a good vision statement matters.
Features of a Good Vision Statement
As Zhuo explains, a vision statement clearly states the end goal of your team’s coordinated efforts. Ultimately, a good vision statement tells team members what they’re working toward, not how they’ll do it. The vision should be ambitious, inspiring, and easy to remember. When people hear your vision, they should be able to picture a new and better future. Here’s an example:
Bad vision statement: To create the best pillows on the market.
Good vision statement: Create a pillow that earns 100,000 five-star user reviews.
Building and Nurturing a Team
We’ve looked at the importance of reinforcing a powerful vision to motivate your team to consistently perform at a high level. Now, we’ll examine another core function managers must perform: building and nurturing a team that works well together. Zhuo identifies two critical elements of team building: hiring the right people and coaching and developing team members.
Hiring the Right People
Zhuo says great managers consistently hire people with the skills and commitment the team needs to advance company objectives. As the manager, it’s ultimately up to you to build a winning team, even if you have other staff members helping you. Therefore, it’s important to have a reliable process in place. Zhuo states the steps for identifying and interviewing candidates. Then, she covers the steps for evaluating and selecting candidates.
(Shortform note: The financial impact bad hires can have for a business underscores Zhuo’s emphasis on the importance of hiring well. According to research, a bad hire can cost a company up to 30% of the employee’s annual wages in added expenses (extra training, additional supervision time, and so on). Therefore, if an employee earns $80,000 per year, your company’s added expense might be $24,000: Research shows that managers have to spend 17% of their time supervising poorly-performing employees, which equates to nearly a full wasted day per week that could be spent on more productive tasks.)
Coaching and Developing Your Team
Once you’ve hired the right people, you must continually coach and develop your team to keep performance high. For coaching to be effective, Zhuo says, you must earn your team members’ trust and create a safe, supportive environment for them.
Why is trust so important? As Zhuo explains, when employees don’t feel safe, they’ll hesitate—or avoid—coming to you with problems, fearing negative repercussions. If employees struggle without your help and knowledge, they may eventually become so frustrated that they leave. Also, small problems often develop into bigger problems in the future if they’re not addressed. Conversely, if employees do feel safe coming to you with problems, you can help them find solutions and prevent problems from escalating.
So, how do you build a foundation of trust with your team? Zhuo makes three key recommendations: demonstrate that you care, have weekly one-on-one meetings, and give and request feedback. Let’s explore each in detail.
Running Productive Meetings
By now, you know how to build and develop your team to support seamless collaboration and high-level performance and productivity. Now, it’s time to look at another core function great managers must perform to facilitate great outcomes: running productive meetings. As Zhuo says, meetings inevitably take up a large portion of company time, so it’s essential to extract maximum value when people come together.
According to Zhuo, good meetings provide clarity on important issues and have a specific purpose. To ensure meetings are productive, follow these steps:
- Specify the objective you want to achieve.
- Invite the people necessary to fulfill your intended outcome.
- Help attendees prepare in advance.
- Get the entire group engaged and invite critical input.
- Clarify the next steps.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Making of a Manager summary :
- How to build a team and motivate them to work together
- How to run productive meetings
- Tips on how to interview and hire the right employees