The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

by Julie Zhuo

The Making of a Manager is a book that teaches readers how to become successful managers. It explains that great managers are not born but rather made and equips readers with invaluable tools to achieve this transformation. By delving into the author's personal narrative of transitioning from a designer to a manager, the book imparts crucial lessons on understanding one's team, fostering strong relationships, and honing the indispensable leadership abilities needed for effective management.

Summary Notes

The Essential Elements of Effective Management

Management is an important skill to have in life and in business. A manager plays a key role in bringing a group of people together and motivating them to achieve a shared goal.

As a manager, creating a well-functioning team is no easy feat. There are five essential conditions that increase the chances of a team's success. These include having a cohesive and dedicated team, a clear sense of direction, a supportive structure, an organizational context that encourages growth, and expert coaching.

To improve their team's outcomes, managers need to focus on three key areas: purpose, people, and process. They have to invest in training and recruitment to ensure that their team collectively produces better results. This investment yields a greater return in the long run, allowing managers to continuously enhance their team's performance and achieve their goals.

Actions to take

Transitioning Into a Managerial Role

Taking on a managerial role can be intimidating, especially when you find yourself filled with doubts about your capability and readiness for such responsibility. However, it's important to remember that you were chosen for this role because someone saw your potential to lead a team. In reality, you are more than capable than you might think.

The journey to becoming a manager can vary, and each path presents unique challenges and advantages. It's essential to make the most of the guidance provided by your own manager and take the time to assess the current state of the team you'll be leading. This evaluation will help you understand their strengths, weaknesses, and overall dynamics.

One critical aspect of transitioning into a managerial role is establishing a new dynamic with your former peers. This shift can feel uncomfortable at first, but it's important to acknowledge and adapt to the changes. Take the time to understand what matters to your new team members and provide them with the necessary feedback and support. Remember, as a manager, your relationship with them will be different from the peer relationship you had before, and you now bear the responsibility for the team's outcomes.

To foster a strong and trusting relationship with your team, you'll need to invest extra effort. Understand that your members may hesitate to approach you with concerns or questions, so actively encourage open communication and create an environment where they feel comfortable seeking guidance.

As the team grows, it becomes crucial for a manager to develop a plan for reducing their individual contributor responsibilities. It's important to recognize that effectively serving as both a design manager and a designer simultaneously is not feasible. By gradually shifting your focus to management, you can ensure that you have the necessary time and energy to guide and support your team effectively.

Actions to take

Building Trust Within the Team

Creating a trusting relationship between a manager and their team is vital for effective team management. When this relationship is built upon trust, it fosters an environment where open communication, constructive feedback, and the exchange of ideas are not only encouraged but welcomed.

To establish a trusting relationship, managers need to adopt a human approach rather than just being authoritative figures. It is important for team members to feel that their manager genuinely cares about them and that they can be open and honest without fear of repercussions.

Managers can achieve this by encouraging team members to bring their biggest challenges to their attention, fostering an environment where critical feedback is given without taking it personally, and making one-on-one meetings comfortable in order to promote authentic and meaningful conversations. Ultimately, managers should aim to create an environment where team members would willingly choose to work with them again in the future, showcasing the strength of the relationship they have built.

When it comes to maximizing the productivity of a team, there are typically two factors to consider: either the team members lack the necessary skills, or they lack motivation. If it is a skills issue, the manager can provide support by offering training opportunities or even hiring individuals with the required expertise. Meanwhile, if motivation is the challenge, the manager should engage in conversations with the team to ensure that everyone's expectations are aligned and that they feel motivated to perform at their best.

A trusting relationship is characterized by team members feeling comfortable enough to share their mistakes, challenges, and fears with their manager. This level of vulnerability and compassion signifies a strong relationship built on trust.

However, it is important to note that establishing this level of trust takes time and consistent positive experiences. By prioritizing open communication, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, and consistently demonstrating care and understanding, managers can create a foundation of trust that enhances team performance and overall success.

Actions to take

Setting Clear Expectations and Providing Feedback

Effective management relies on establishing clear expectations and providing feedback in a thoughtful and timely manner.

Feedback should be given while the task is still fresh in the recipient's mind to ensure its relevance and accuracy. It is also advisable to deliver task-specific feedback in small increments, focusing on one aspect at a time to prevent overwhelming the individual.

When providing feedback on behaviors or interpersonal skills, it is crucial to tailor the message to the individual and support it with concrete examples. Generic statements should be avoided, as they may not provide the necessary guidance for improvement. By providing specific instances where the person excels or needs improvement, the feedback becomes more actionable and constructive.

One good approach when offering feedback is the 360-degree feedback method. This method entails gathering input from multiple sources, including a team member's peers, supervisors, and subordinates, to assess their strengths and weaknesses. By incorporating feedback from various perspectives, a more comprehensive and objective view of the individual's performance can be obtained. This approach facilitates a deeper understanding of how the team member is truly performing.

Actions to take

Investing in Yourself as a Manager

Becoming a first-time manager often brings about feelings of impostor syndrome, where one questions their abilities and doubts whether they truly belong in their new position. However, experiencing such emotions is completely normal and should not impede our chances of success.

It is also important to acknowledge that each of us possesses unique strengths and weaknesses that can significantly influence our management style. The key lies in developing an awareness of these attributes and leveraging them effectively to become effective leaders.

To thrive in a managerial role, it's essential to invest in personal learning and growth. This not only benefits the manager but also has a positive impact on the team. After all, the most important person in your management journey is yourself.

Learning to be an exceptional leader involves recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses, overcoming the mental obstacles you encounter, and mastering the art of continuous learning.

Actions to take

Conducting Effective Meetings

Meetings are an important part of management, but they can often be seen as a waste of time. However, when done correctly, meetings can be incredibly productive and beneficial!

To ensure the success of a meeting, several key factors come into play. First and foremost, having a clear goal is essential. Without a specific objective, meetings can easily become aimless and unproductive. Establishing a clear purpose ensures that everyone is aligned and working towards a common objective.

Equally important is the need to ensure that every participant is heard. Providing opportunities for everyone to contribute their thoughts and ideas fosters a sense of inclusivity and ensures a diversity of perspectives. Creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their opinions is vital for productive discussions. To prevent your participants from being distracted and bored during the meeting, you also need to make sure that it is interesting and engaging.

Actions to take

Attaining Vision and Desired Outcomes

Achieving successful outcomes requires a meticulous approach involving both planning and implementation. A key factor in creating effective processes is to establish a clear and well-defined vision from the outset. This vision should be tangible, measurable, and easily repeated. It should also focus on explaining the desired result rather than prescribing specific steps or methods to achieve it.

When developing a strategy to attain your vision, incorporating the Pareto Principle can prove beneficial. This principle suggests that a minority of causes often contribute to a majority of results. Therefore, to devise a winning strategy, it is essential to identify the key factors that yield the most significant impact and concentrate efforts on excelling in those areas. By doing so, you can allocate resources efficiently and maximize your chances of success.

Actions to take

Training Future Managers

As teams grow and expand, the role of a manager undergoes a significant transformation. Initially, the manager may just need to directly supervise and oversee the work of individual team members. But as the team gets bigger, the manager's focus shifts to indirect management. This means they have to learn how to recruit or train other managers to work under them and make decisions.

One important skill that managers need to develop during this transition is effective delegation. Delegation is all about assigning tasks and responsibilities to others while finding the right balance between being personally involved and trusting the capabilities of the people you're delegating to. It's not an exact science, but there are some key principles that can help: having faith in the person you're delegating tasks to and providing them with the right amount of guidance and support.

Finding the right balance between involvement and autonomy is key when delegating tasks. On the one hand, you don't want to micromanage or interfere too much, as it can undermine their confidence and growth. On the other hand, you still need to stay aware and involved enough to monitor progress, offer feedback, and address any issues that may arise.

Actions to take

Creating a Value-Centric Company Culture

Developing a culture that reflects your team's values and goals is essential for fostering a positive and productive work environment. To achieve this, it's important to have a clear understanding of the values you want to cultivate within your team. Take the time to identify these values by considering what is important to you and what aligns with your team's goals and objectives.

When communicating the values you wish to promote, repetition is key. Clearly and consistently articulate these values to your team members through various channels, such as team meetings, emails, and one-on-one conversations. It is also helpful to enlist the support of others within the team to help spread the message. By involving team members in the communication process, you create a sense of shared ownership and commitment to the desired culture.

Leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to shape the team's culture. As a leader, you must be the first to embody the values you want to promote. Consistently demonstrate these values in your own behavior and decision-making processes. When team members see their leader living the values, they are more likely to follow suit and adopt those values themselves.

Actions to take

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