AuthorConnect Chat: Julie Zhuo’s Advice for New Managers in Growing Businesses

AuthorConnect Chat with Julie Zhuo

“You may not feel like you have all the answers…and that is OK.” —Julie Zhuo

Julie Zhuo. You may know the name as one of Silicon Valley’s top product design executives, notably a long-time leader at Facebook. She was on the frontlines as the company grew from a college-only platform to the social networking monolith it is today.

From her experience in a scaling startup and learning to manage teams on-the-job came her groundbreaking book The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You. Our team at BookPal had the pleasure of sitting down with Julie in this AuthorConnect Chat, in which she shares her advice for new managers and best practices for meetings, feedback, team leadership, and more.

“I was always getting asked to do things that I had never done before.”

While at Facebook, Julie explains she adapted to constantly changing situations and projects, giving a tour one day and diving deep in design the next. But when asked to step up and manage a team, she had trouble finding resources targeted to help new managers—so many were designed for current leaders who wanted to learn how to be more effective. The Making of a Manager fills that gap. Even ten years later, Julie says, “I remembered a lot of what it felt like to be new to that job—not just all the things I didn’t know but also a lot of the emotions that came from transitioning,” and those lessons and experiences were all poured into her book.

Part of her struggle as a new manager came with having to lead a former peer (or even a superior). When asked how to handle this, Julie answered with what not to do. Instead of maintaining a fluid dynamic with her team, Julie tried to act the way she thought managers were “supposed” to act, causing more rifts than intended. “I definitely did not acknowledge the awkwardness, and in retrospect, I really wish I had because it wasn’t authentic to what I was actually feeling, and I think…people can tell.”

The biggest lesson she has for managers in these conversations is: listen. Listen to your team members. Listen to their goals and what they hope to achieve so you know how to best support them. Listen to their ideas of what’s working and what could improve at the team level—and how to improve it. Listen as much as you can. You do not need to have all the answers.

“The job of the manager is to help the team do its best work.”

Sometimes, empowering a team to do its best work means making sure time is utilized in the most effective way. When it comes to improving meetings, Julie’s advice is twofold: outcomes and feedback. Julie explains that by focusing on an “outcome” (rather than the more common “purpose”), the meeting organizer and attendees are forced to envision the end result and drive towards it. That outcome is then the foundation upon which two-way feedback is built. A great place to start is by asking if attendees feel the meeting outcome was achieved. If not, you will need to find out why in order to improve.

Finally, Julie offers three simple tips for managing a scaling team. As the business around you grows and your responsibilities shift to accommodate that growth, follow these key steps:

      1. Get good at delegating and growing leaders. The more your team scales, the harder it will be for you (as a manager) to understand what’s happening on the ground floor. You need to have a reliable leadership system all the way up and down the chain in order to feel confident in decisions and management.
      2. Establish a team identity. Everyone on the team should be able to answer the question, What does this team stand for? Build an identity with strong values and norms to keep everyone connected and on track.
      3. Align new hires with team values. Once that identity is set, Julie insists you maintain it by “ensuring that the people who are going to join the team are talented, are capable, and most importantly, are people who are going to further [those] values.”

Every managerial experience is different, but Julie has crafted a comprehensive guide (that reads more like an intimate conversation) to help new managers conquer their insecurities and lead their teams to success. For the full AuthorConnect Chat, check out the video below. You can order The Making of a Manager in bulk today for your staff, business, or organization. Looking for more books like Julie’s? She recommends Crucial Conversations, High Output Management, and Mindset.

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This post was written by Danielle Brown, Ecommerce Specialist at BookPal. She is currently reading Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.

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