The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

June 6, 2019

Book Review by Andy Ghillyer

For newly-promoted or rookie managers, one of the harshest lessons they will learn is that the skills that got them their promotions will bear no relation to the skills they will need to succeed in those new roles. Being a top-producing salesperson doesn’t automatically qualify you for sales management. Nor does consistently meeting or exceeding your key performance indicators (KPI’s). Unfortunately, those are the most common criteria used for the identification of future managers.

Management is a different ball game, and one of the smartest things you can do at the start of your managerial career is to be honest with yourself when you get that sinking feeling that you really have no idea what you are doing.

In her new book The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You, Julie Zhuo, the former vice president of product design at Facebook, shares her own recollections as to how woefully unprepared she was to tackle her first managerial role.

The justification she was given for her promotion at age 25 in a small but rapidly growing startup was that: “you get along with everyone,” ––not the most comprehensive management training program, but a very common scenario for many rookie managers.

Great Managers Are Made, Not Born

From this auspicious beginning, Zhuo quickly adopted the philosophy that great managers are made, not born, and set about sharing her journey of self-education through her blog, The Year of the Looking Glass. The popularity of the blog reflected Zhuo’s humor and ‘warts-and-all’ honesty in sharing her trials and tribulations as a new manager. Her experiences resonated with a large audience and she was soon writing for The New York Times and Fast Company.

The Making of a Manager represents a compilation of those blog posts in addition to some hard-earned insights that only time in the trenches can offer. In the spirit of that trench warfare experience, the insights in this book are presented as a modern field guide, designed to be read and re-read as common situations arise.

Dealing with People

Beginning with her most valuable insight, Zhuo emphasizes that her biggest successes and failures came with the greatest challenge for any manager: dealing with people. From working with former peers to hiring, training, coaching, and inevitably firing team members, Zhuo offers engaging and practical examples supported by a refreshing sense of humor. To keep your sanity, it’s important not to take all this management theory too seriously.

The author clearly understands the importance of well-developed and proactive teams in achieving organizational goals and shares valuable behind-the-scenes insights of how challenging that development process can be.

If you are a new manager or a veteran leader looking for a less-prescriptive approach to management, The Making of a Manager offers a practical and accessible playbook that deserves pole position on your reading list.


Andy Ghillyer

Andy Ghillyer is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He lives in Tampa, FL where he specializes in writing for the B2B and academic markets while raising a growing menagerie of cats and dogs. His other reviews are here.


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