The Making of a Manager: updated book review and quotes

Last year I read The Making of a Manager book by Julie Zhou. It is such a great book I read it again this year. Below is a short review and some quotes the inspired me. I also added a few more quotes that I found inspiring during my second read.

I recommend this book to anyone who is considering to make the transition to a manager and a leader. The original blog post is below followed by an updated section.


There are thousands of books on how to be a manager and I’m sure many of them are very good. I just finished reading The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou. I loved the book and highly recommend to new managers, not so new managers and people who might want to be managers one day.

The Making of a Manager book cover
The Making of a Manager book cover

Many management books out there give you a lot of theoretical advice on how to be a manager or just advice that’s not applicable to real world. What I loved about Julie’s book is that it’s full of very practical advice and tips. You can take it and use today. I liked that Julie wasn’t afraid to share that she was scared many times, that she wasn’t sure if she made the right decision and that’s it’s OK (and actually beneficial as that’s how we grow) to make mistakes because we are all humans. Reading the book I said many times “oh yes, that’s how I felt” and “oh, and I was in exact the same situation”. This kind of connection makes this an excellent book that I highly encourage to read. Seeing how the Julie dealt with various challenges and grew to be VP of Design at Facebook, is a great learning experience.

I want to share some of my favorite parts/quotes from the The Making of a Manager book.

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

A great quote explaining any manager’s job.

The first big part of your job as a manager is to ensure that your team knows what success looks like and cares about achieving it.

It’s not uncommon for teams not to know or understand what success looks like. Without a clear understanding of how success looks, it’s likely a team will do work that’s not important.

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.

As a new manager you might be hesitant to let go of some of your work. You might think if you let go of your work, why would they need you? Your goal as a manager is to grow the people on your team. Once you give work, you can take on new challenges and continue growing yourself. It’s very unlikely that you won’t find another project to do – there is always more work and bigger challenges you can tackle. This leads very nicely into the next quote.

The best managers I know all agree on one thing: growing great teams means that you are constantly looking for ways to replace yourself in the job you are currently doing.

I feel that this is one of the core competencies of a good manager.

Today, my job looks very different than when I started. Every time I’ve given a piece of it away, I’ve discovered that there was ever more to take on. As long as you continue to be motivated by your purpose, as long as your aspirations extend beyond what your team is currently capable of, as long as you can see new challenges on the horizon, then there’s opportunity for you to have more impact. Often, this means doing new things that you’re not very good at yet.

Another component of growing your team and taking on new challenges yourself.

But the point of being a manager is not to satisfy your ego; it’s to improve the outcomes of your team

I wonder how many managers out there understand this.

Leadership is a quality, not a job

Simple but so true.

If you take nothing else away from today,” he told us, “remember this: managing is caring.

You have to believe and care about your team. There is no way to fake it.

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.

That’s how you empower and grow your team (and avoid micromanaging).

A MANAGER’S JOB IS TO . . . build a team that works well together, support members in reaching their career goals, and create processes to get work done smoothly and efficiently.

A superb way to define manager’s job.

This is the crux of management: It is the belief that a team of people can achieve more than a single person going it alone. It is the realization that you don’t have to do everything yourself, be the best at everything yourself, or even know how to do everything

As a manager, you want to be able to learn from your team as well, because as said above, you don’t know how to do everything.

the best outcomes come from inspiring people to action, not telling them what to do.

And the best for last.

This is just a very small sample. The book is simply very good so I again highly recommend you read it. This is a great book if you are a new manager, been a manager for some time and for people who are today Individual Contributors, one day want to become managers or just to learn what’s a good manger and leader is.

New quotes

This section has new quotes that I highlighted when I read the book the second time.

…when it comes to evaluations, one should look at “the output of the work unit and not simply the activity involved. Obviously, you measure a salesman by the orders he gets (output), not by the calls he makes (activity).

Developer Advocacy teams have a tendency to focus on the “numbers games”: how many events, how many developers reached, how many people registered. While these metrics might be fine (as long as they help you with your company objectives), it’s essential to measure and understand the outcome (output) of these activities. I wrote a blog post about this topic: How to measure Developer Relations – DevRel meetup recap.

I finally realized that I had to give up wanting to be both a design manager and a designer, because in attempting to do both, I was doing neither well. Don’t learn this the hard way—at the point in which your team becomes four or five people, you should have a plan for how to scale back your individual contributor responsibilities so that you can be the best manager for your people.

This is masterful advice that I also share with my team. You need to decide whether you want to be a manager or stay an Individual Contributor (IC) with deep focus on particular area. You can’t do both. If you try to do both, you won’t be good at either one.

It’s impossible to expect perfection. We are only human. Failures will occur, projects will miss deadlines, and people will make mistakes. That’s okay. But when these things happen, readjusting expectations as quickly as possible helps people recover from errors with grace. You demonstrate care and maturity when you preempt bigger issues down the road.

and this quote:

At the end of the day, a resilient organization isn’t one that never makes mistakes but rather one whose mistakes make it stronger over time.

Failing, making mistakes and then learning from mistakes, improving and becoming stronger is a crucial skill that people and teams need to have today.

You can’t do everything, so you must prioritize. What are the most important topics for you to pay attention to, and where are you going to draw the line? Perfectionism is not an option. It took me a long time to get comfortable operating in a world where I had to pick and choose what mattered the most, and not let the sheer number of possibilities overwhelm me.

It’s crucial to focus on those priorities that will help you reach your objectives and ignore the rest. Another part to this is being able to say no to thinks that you feel won’t bring you closer to the objective or not a priority for you. I always advice my team it’s OK to say no to asks or projects that don’t align with your priorities.

One-on-ones aren’t for the manager’s benefit; they should be about what’s helpful for the other person.

1:1’s are for your team to tell how you can help them, what they need to be successful, what blockers or challenges they need your help with and career growth conversations. These meetings are for them, not for you.

A friend of mine gave me the gift of another clarifying question. He asked: “Assume the role was open. Would you rather rehire your current leader or take a gamble on someone else?”

This is a great test.

If your report presents you a problem that you can easily solve, it can be difficult to resist saying, “I’ll take care of it.” But as the proverb goes, give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.

It is easy to “take care of the problem” but your job as a manager is to empower your employees to solve the problem. This is hard for new managers but you get better with time. Instead of just taking care of the problem (solving it), you can ask how you can help find a solution or suggest a solution (advice).

The act of constantly trying to replace yourself means that you create openings to stretch both your leaders and yourself. Right ahead is another mountain that’s bigger and scarier than the one before. Everyone keeps climbing, and everyone achieves more together.

This again elegantly describes what leadership is. Your job as a leader is to empower your team to do what they were not capable of doing before (replacing yourself). They are growing and achieving more. At the same time, you are taking on new challenges.

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