Author: Julie Zhuo
Personal Rating: 5/5
Below are quotes and notes taken from this brilliant management book.
This is how anything in life goes: You try something. You figure out what worked and what didn’t. You file away lessons for the future. And then you get better. Rinse, repeat.
Much of the daily work of managers — giving feedback, creating a healthy culture, planning for the future — is universal.
The best outcomes come from inspiring people to action, not telling them what to do.
Pay attention to your own actions — the little things you say and do — as well as what behaviors you are rewarding or discouraging. All of it works together to tell the story of what you care about and how you believe a great team should work together.
Leadership Training Courses/Books
- Crucial Conversations
- High Output Management
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
A Manager’s Job
- Build a team that works well together
- Support members in reaching their career goals
- Create processes to get work done smoothly and efficiently
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 yourself.
How Do You Tell A Great Manager From An Average Manager?
If the job is defined as getting better outcomes from a group of people working together, then a great manager’s team will consistently achieve great outcomes.
The first criterion looks at our team’s present outcomes; the second criterion asks whether we are set up for great outcomes in the future.
Through thick or thin, in spite of the hundreds of things calling for your attention every day, never forget what you are ultimately here to do: help your team achieve great outcomes.
3 Buckets of Management
The purpose is the outcome your team is trying to accomplish, otherwise known as the “why”.
You can’t simply demand that everyone believe in your vision.
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.
If you don’t have the right people for the job, or you don’t have an environment where they can thrive, then you are going to have problems.
To manage people well, you must develop trusting relationships with them, understand their strengths and weaknesses, make good decisions about who should do what, and coach individuals to do their best.
Process describes how your team works together.
For managers, important processes to master include running effective meetings, future proofing against past mistakes, planning for tomorrow, and nurturing a healthy culture.
Purpose, people, process. The why, the who, and the how.
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 manager, you are judged on your team’s outcomes, so your job is to do whatever most helps them succeed.
Managing in Survival Mode
When you are in survival mode, you do what it takes to survive.
When you are beyond survival in your team’s hierarchy of needs, then you can plan for the future and think about what you can do today that will help you achieve more in the months and years ahead.
Leadership is not something that can be bestowed. It must be earned. People must want to follow you.
You can be someone’s manager, but if that person does not trust or respect you, you will have limited ability to influence him.
In your early days as a manager, what matters most is transitioning gracefully into the role and nailing the essentials of leading a small team. Only when you have built trust with your reports will you have the credibility to help them achieve more together.
Your First 3 Months
In the early days, make sure that you are spending time calibrating with your new team on what your group’s goals, values, and processes ought to be.
Be deliberate about the people and culture you are setting up, and ask yourself:
- What qualities do I want in a team member?
- What skills do our team need to complement my own?
- How should this team look and function in a year?
- How will my own role and responsibilities evolve?
Everything Always Goes Back to People
Managing a small team is about mastering a few basic fundamentals:
- Developing a healthy manager-report relationship
- Creating an environment of support
Why would someone be motivated to do great work?
- He doesn’t have a clear picture of what great work looks like
- The role doesn’t speak to his aspirations
- He thinks nothing will change if he puts in more effort — there will be no rewards if things improve, and no penalties if they don’t, so why bother?
The first step to addressing any concerns about lackluster work is diagnosing the people and issues behind it. Is it a matter of motivation or skill?
Trust Is The Most Important Ingredient
You must trust people, or life becomes impossible.
You are the one holding more of the chips at the table. No matter how you slice it, you are your report’s boss. You have more impact on their day-to-day than they have on yours. This means that the responsibility of building a trusting relationship lies more with you than with them.
You can avoid being blindsided by developing a relationship founded on trust, in which your reports feel that they can be completely honest with you because they have no doubt that you truly care about them.
You have accomplished this if the following three statements hold true:
- My reports regularly bring their biggest challenges to my attention
- My report and I regularly give each other critical feedback and it isn’t taken personally
- My reports would gladly work for me again
Strive for all your one-to-one meetings to feel a little awkward.
Respect and Care about Your Report
Managing is caring.
Supporting and caring for someone doesn’t mean always agreeing with them or making excuses for their mistakes.
What caring does mean, however, is doing your best to help your report to be successful and fulfilled in her work.
If your report feels that your support and respect are based on her performance, then it will be hard for her to be honest with you when things are rocky.
Invest Time to Help Your Report
I recommend no less than a weekly 1:1 with every report for 30 minutes, and more time if needed.
1-1 should be focused on your report and what would help him be more successful, not on you and what you need. If you are looking for a status update, use another channel. Rare 1-1 face time is better spent on topics that are harder to discuss in a group or over email.
How can you achieve stellar 1:1s? The answer is preparation.
I tell my reports that I want our time together to be valuable, so we should focus on what’s important for them.
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Discuss top priorities: What are the 1, 2, or 3 most critical outcomes for your report and how can you help her tackle these challenges?
- Calibrate what great looks like: Do you have a shared vision of what you are working toward? Are you in sync about goals or expectations?
- Share feedback: What feedback can you give that will help your report, and what can your report tell you that will make you more effective as a manager?
- Reflect on how things are going: Once in a while, it’s useful to zoom out and talk about your report’s general state of mind — how is he feeling on the whole? What’s making him satisfied or dissatisfied? Have any of his goals changed? What has he learned recently and what does he want to learn going forward?
Every morning, I have gotten into the habit of scanning my calendar and compiling a list of questions for each person I am meeting with.
Why questions? Because a coach’s best tool for understanding what’s going on is to ask.
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.
Helpful 1-1 Questions
- What’s top of mind for you right now?
- What priorities are you thinking about this week?
- What’s the best use of our time today?
- What do your ideal outcomes look like?
- What’s hard for you in getting to that outcome?
- What do you really care about?
- What do you think is the best course of action?
- What’s the worst-case scenario you are worried about?
- How can I help you?
- What can I do to make you more successful?
- What was the most useful part of our conversation today?
Be Honest and Transparent about your Report’s Performance
Your report should have a clear sense at all times of what your expectations are and where he stands.
Don’t assume he can read between the lines or that no news is good news.
Admit Your Own Mistakes and Growth Areas
Admit when you screwed up, and take meaningful actions to do better in the future.
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
By showing up authentically, with my fears, mistakes, and uncertainties out in the open rather than swept under the rug, I have been able to build better relationships with my reports.
Help People Play To Their Strengths
Recognition for hard work, valuable skills, helpful advice, or good values can be hugely motivating if it feels genuine and specific.
There is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: they discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it.
The Art of Feedback
Feedback, at its best, transforms people in ways they are proud of.
In the beginning, make sure you address the following:
- What a great job looks like for your report, compared to a mediocre or bad job?
- What advice do you have to help your report get started on the right foot?
- Common pitfalls your report should avoid.
Give Task Specific Feedback as Frequently as you can
Task-specific feedback is most effective when the action performed is still fresh in your report’s memory, so share it as soon as you can. Unless the task is significant, dropping a note via email or chat within the day can work just as well as giving feedback face-to-face.
At its best, task-specific feedback becomes a lightweight, habitual part of your day, and your reports benefit from getting small doses of coaching in everything you see them do.
Share Behavioral Feedback Thoughtfully and Regularly
Behavioral feedback is useful because it provides a level of personalization and depth that is missing from task-specific feedback.
When you give behavioral feedback, you are making a statement about how you perceive that person, so your words need to be thoughtfully considered and supported with specific examples to explain why you feel that way.
Collect 360-Degree Feedback For Maximum Objectivity
360-degree feedback is feedback aggregated from multiple perspectives, which means it tends to be a more complete and objective view of how someone is doing.
Every major disappointment is a failure to set expectations.
Your feedback only counts if it makes things better
Am I Giving Feedback Often Enough?
Give feedback more often and remind yourself that you are probably not doing it enough.
Strive for at least 50% positive feedback so she knows what she’s doing well.
If you hear something positive from a colleague, pass it along. Or, if you have a suggestion for improvement, even if it’s small, tell him that as well.
Is My Feedback Being Heard?
What you intend to say and what the listener hears are not always the same.
The best way to make your feedback heard is to make the listener feel safe and to show that you are saying it because you care about her and what her to succeed.
At the end of a conversation, when you are not sure whether you have been heard, there are a few things you can do:
- Get a verbal confirmation
- Summarize via email what was discussed
Does My Feedback Lead to Positive Action?
- Make your feedback as specific as possible
- Clarify what success looks and feels like
- Suggest next steps
Delivering Critical Feedback or Bad News
Charged language or declarations that are personal immediately puts the other person on the defensive. Suddenly you are a threat they are protecting themselves from, and it’s unlikely they are going to sit down and listen to what you have to say after that.
Don’t engage when you are upset. We regret the things we say in anger, and while bridges take months or years to build, they can be burned in an instant.
The best way to give critical feedback is to deliver directly and dispassionately. Plainly say what you perceive the issue to be, what made you feel that way, and how you would like to work together to resolve the concern.
If you are delivering bad news about a decision, the decision should be the first thing out of your mouth when you both sit down.
Own the decision. Be firm, and don’t open it up for discussion.
When you give feedback or make a decision, your report may not agree with it. That’s okay. Keep in mind that some decisions are yours to make.
Being a great manager is a highly personable journey, and if you don’t have a good handle on yourself, you won’t have a good handle on how to best support your team.
Everybody feels like an imposter sometimes
Every manager feels like an imposter sometimes.
Why does imposter syndrome hit managers so hard?
There are two reasons:
- You are often looked to for answers
- You are constantly put in the position of doing things you haven’t done before
When the sailing gets rocky, the manager is often the first person others turn to, so it’s common to feel intense pressure to know what to do or say.
Get to brutal honesty with yourself
The world’s top leaders come from vastly different molds:
- Extroverts (Winston Churchill)
- Introverts (Abraham Lincoln)
- Demanding (Margaret Thatcher)
- Favorite Relative (Mother Teresa)
- Vision (Nelson Mandela)
- Avoid the spotlight (Bill Gates)
Knowing what your strengths are is crucial because great management typically comes from playing to your strengths rather than from fixing your weaknesses.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How would the people who know and like me best describe me in 3 words?
- What 3 qualities do I possess that I am the proudest of?
- When I look back on something I did that was successful, what personal traits do I give credit to?
- What are the top 3 most common pieces of positive feedback that I have received from my managers or peers?
You also need to know your weaknesses.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Whenever my worst inner critic sits on my shoulder, what does she yell at me for?
- If a magical fairy were to come and bestow on me 3 gifts I don’t yet have, what would they be?
- What are 3 things that trigger me?
- What are the top 3 most common pieces of feedback from my manager or peer on how I could be more effective?
Step 1: Answer these questions
Step 2: Calibration: Make sure that the view we have of ourselves matches reality (Dunning-Kruger effect)
Why does calibration matter?
Calibration matters because it doesn’t do me any good to think that I am one thing when the world views me as another.
To develop our self-awareness and to calibrate our strengths and weaknesses, we must confront the truth of what we are really like by asking others for their unvarnished opinions.
Ask your manager to help you calibrate yourself through the following questions:
- What opportunities do you see for me to do more of what I do well? What do you think are the biggest things holding me back from having a greater impact?
- What skills do you think a hypothetical perfect person in my role would have? For each skill, how would you rate me against that ideal on a scale of 1 to 5?
A couple more things you can try to calibrate yourself:
- Pick 3 to 7 people whom you work closely with and ask if they’d be willing to share some feedback to help you improve.
- Ask for task-specific feedback to calibrate yourself on specific skills.
Don’t shy away from feedback.
Because I constantly worried that I wasn’t good enough, I shied away from doing anything that might confirm that view.
No matter how good or bad I am at any particular skill, the notion that it’s within my power to improve has allowed me to approach learning with curiosity instead of apprehension.
Fixed vs Growth Mindset
Fixed Mindset: Ugh, I really messed that up. My manager must think I am an idiot
Growth Mindset: I am thankful my manager gave me those tips. Now all my future assignments are going to go better.
The perspective you have changes everything.
With a fixed mindset, your actions are governed by fear — fear of failure, fear of judgment, fear of being found out as an imposter.
With a growth mindset, you are motivated to seek out the truth and ask for feedback because you know it’s the fastest path to get you where you want to go.
Understand Yourself At Your Best And Worst
If you are not sure what your ideal environment looks like, ask yourself the following:
- Which 6-month period of my life did I feel the most energetic and productive? What gave me that energy?
- In the past month, what moments stand out as highlights? What conditions enabled those moments to happen, and can I re-create them?
- In the past week, when was I in a state of deep focus? How did I get there?
By knowing what triggers you, you can catch yourself in the moment and take a step back before responding like a hothead. If I take even 5 minutes to calm down, I am back to being even-keeled.
Finding Your Confidence When You Are in the Pit
- Don’t beat yourself up for feeling bad
- Repeat after me: “The Story I Have in My Head is Probably Irrational”
- Close Your Eyes and Visualize
- Ask for Help from People You Can Be Real With
- Celebrate the Little Wins
- Practice Self-Care by Establishing Boundaries
- Learning To Be Twice As Good
- Ask for Feedback
- Treat Your Manager as a Coach
- Make a Mentor out of everyone
- Set Aside Time to Reflect and Set Goals
- Take Advantage of Formal Training
The stories we tell ourselves from a few scant pieces of evidence are often flat-out wrong, especially when we are in the pit.
Even if you are afraid of the answer, confronting reality is always better than spinning disaster in your head.
I started a journal called Little Wins. Every day, I’d jot down something I did that I was proud of, even if it was small.
Studies show that if you write down 5 things you are grateful for every night, you will feel happier in the long run.
In my busiest periods, one exercise I turn to is scheduling a 15-minute activity at the beginning and end of the day that isn’t related to work.
You can’t do your best work unless you physically feel your best, so take care of yourself. It’s always worth it.
If there is a secret sauce to self-improvement, it’s to ask for feedback from other people all the time.
Your own growth is in your hands, so if you feel you aren’t learning from your manager, as yourself what you can do to get the relationship that you want.
A manager’s job is to help her team get better results. When you do better, by extension, she does better. Hence, your manager is someone who is on your side, who wants you to succeed, and who is usually willing to invest her time and energy into helping you.
When I started to see 1:1s with my manager as an opportunity for used learning, I got so much more out of it.
People in your peer group can be excellent sources of support and advice.
Approaching new mentorship:
Hey, I am really impressed with the way you do X. I would love to learn from you. Would you be willing to grab a coffee with me and share your approach?
I like to schedule an hour on my calendar at the end of every week to think about what I accomplished, what I am satisfied or dissatisfied with, and what I am taking away for next week. I then jot down some notes in an email to my team, as an easy way to keep up the habit.
Good meetings are simple and straightforward. You leave them feeling the same way every time:
- The meeting was a great use of my time
- I learned something new that will help me be more effective at my job
- I left with a clearer sense of what I should do next
- Everyone was engaged
- I felt welcomed
What is a Great Outcome of your Meeting?
There are only a handful of reasons for people to get together in person, so being crystal clear about the outcome you are shooting for is the first step to running great meetings.
Making A Decision Meetings
In a decision meeting, you are framing the different options on the table and asking a decision-maker to make a call.
Success here is both getting to a clear decision and everyone leaving with a sense of trust in the process. You don’t need consensus, but those whom the decision affects should feel that the way it was made was efficient and fair.
A great decision-making meeting does the following:
- Gets a decision made
- Includes the people most directly affected by the decision as well as clearly designated decision-maker
- Presents all credible options objectively and with relevant background information, and includes the team’s recommendation if there is one
- Gives equal airtime to dissenting opinions and makes people feel that they are heard
Here are some examples of bad outcomes to avoid:
- People feel that their side wasn’t presented well, so they don’t trust the resulting decision
- Decisions take a long time to make, which delays progress.
- Decisions keep flip-flopping back and forth, which makes it hard to trust and act on them
- Too much time is spent trying to get a group to a consensus rather than escalating quickly to a decision-maker
- Time is wasted on rehashing the same argument in twenty different ways
A great informational meeting accomplishes the following:
- Enables the group to feel like they learned something valuable
- Conveys key messages clearly and memorably
- Keeps the audience’s attention
- Evokes an intended emotion — whether inspiration, trust, pride, courage, empathy, etc
A great feedback meeting achieves the following:
- Gets everyone on the same page about what success for the project looks like
- Honestly represents the current status of the work, including an assessment of how things are going, any changes since the last check-in, and what the future plans are
- Clearly frames open questions, key decisions, or known concerns to get the most helpful feedback
- Ends with agreed-upon next steps
Generating Ideas Meeting
The best idea generation comes from understanding that we need both time to think alone and time to engage with others.
A great generative meeting does the following:
- Produces many diverse, nonobvious solutions by ensuring each participant has quiet alone time to think of ideas and write them down (either before or during the meeting)
- Considers the totality of ideas from everyone, not just the loudest voices
- Helps ideas evolve and build off each other through meaningful discussion
- It ends with clear next steps for how to turn ideas into action
Strengthening Relationship Meetings
When we all understand each other a little better as human beings, then working together also becomes easier and more enjoyable.
A great team-bonding meeting isn’t about the number of hours spent together or the lavishness of the event. Instead, it enables the following:
- Creates better understanding and trust between participants
- Encourages people to be open and authentic
- Makes people feel cared for
Practice clarity and ruthless efficiency with your meetings, and people will thank you for respecting the sanctity of their time.
More Meeting Ideas
You are most likely to have a great meeting if everyone is necessary, and nobody extraneous, is there.
The Curse of Knowledge: the cognitive bias that makes it difficult for people to remember what it’s like to be a beginner seeing the content for the first time.
Give people a chance to come prepared for the meeting.
Ask the meeting organizer to send out any presentations or documents the day before so that everyone got the chance to process the information in advance.
Go around the room when necessary. If there is a decision to make among three options, you might ask every person which one he or she favors and why. This guarantees that no perspectives are left unsaid.
Post-it note opening: Give everyone a pad of post-it notes and ask them to write down their thoughts on the topic. Then, have the room work in quiet concentration for about 10-15 minutes. Afterward, each participant puts his or her notes up on the board and talks through their thinking. Similar ideas are clumped together, and after the very last note has been added, the room discusses the various “clumps”.
As a manager, your time is precious and finite, so guard it like a dragon guards its treasure stash.
Be on the lookout as well for meetings that don’t seem valuable to anyone. They should be canceled or revamped.
In the last few minutes of a meeting, get into the habit of asking, “So before we break, let’s make sure we agree on the next steps…”
After the meeting, send out a recap to the attendees with a summary of the discussion, a list of specific action items and who is responsible for each, and when the next check-in will be.
If a decision was made, then that should be communicated to the right people. If the feedback was given, then that should be acted upon. If ideas were generated, then the meeting organizer should clarify what the process is to take those to the next stage
Having a great bench is one of the strongest signs of stellar leadership because it means the team you have built can steer the ship and thrive, even if you are not at the helm.
The job your team does shouldn’t be static — as the group becomes capable of more, your ambitions should also grow. What is the next big problem that your team can take on, and how can you help make it happen?
Create a Believable Game Plan
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.
Though surprises happen and not everything is within our control, it’s through the process of planning that we make sense of our situation and plot our best shot at success. When emergencies do arise, a solid strategy provides the foundation for us to quickly adapt our plans instead of going back to the chaos from square one.
Focus on Doing A Few Things Well
The general idea is that the majority of the results come from a minority of the causes. The key is identifying which things matter the most.
Few people take objectives really seriously. They put average effort into too many things, rather than superior thought and effort into a few important things. People who achieve the most are selective as well as determined.
Prioritization is key, and it’s an essential management skill.
The best way to practice prioritization is to order any list you make by importance.
Effort doesn’t count; results are what matter.
Define Who is Responsible for What
When ownership isn’t clear, things slip through the cracks.
This doesn’t just happen in meetings; every time you send an email to more than one person about an issue that requires a follow-up, the recipients may be confused about whom you are expecting to do what. Each might assume someone else is responsible.
Break Down a Big Goal into Smaller Pieces
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
If you divide your plan up into smaller chunks and focus on your next milestone — finishing the task at hand, preparing for that next meeting, getting through two pages — success suddenly seems entirely within your reach. And the sense of urgency becomes real.
Planning Fallacy: Our natural bias is to predict that things will take less time and money than they actually do. Allot a buffer for dealing with unexpected issues.
From your target date, work backward and figure out who needs to do what every week. Ask people to set and publicly commit to their weekly goals — this creates accountability.
Perfect Execution Over Perfect Strategy
The best plans don’t matter if you can’t achieve them accurately or quickly enough to make a difference.
The most brilliant plans in the world won’t help you succeed if you can’t bring them to life. Executing well means that you pick a reasonable direction, move quickly to learn what works and what doesn’t, and make adjustments to get to your desired outcome.
Good Process is Ever Evolving
One of the most useful tools for improving the process is the practice of doing debriefs (also called retrospectives or postmortems). You can do this at the completion of a project, on a periodic basis, or anytime an unexpected event or error occurs.
The goal of a debrief is not judgment.
This is a good opportunity to mine the experience for future lessons. To do this, you must create a safe environment to have open and honest discussions. Use language that takes collective accountability instead of pointing fingers.
After a retrospective, it’s a good idea to write down the learnings and share them widely.
A resilient organization isn’t one that never makes mistakes but rather one whose mistakes make it stronger over time.
If you find yourself doing similar things over and over again, chances are good that it can be codified into an instruction manual or checklist that can make the task go smoother in the future.
Context Switching All Day, Every Day
A few techniques:
- Scanning through my calendar every morning and preparing for each meeting
- Developing a robust note-taking and task-management system
- Finding pockets for reflection at the end of every week
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.
Giving People Big Problems is a Sign of Trust
The most talented employees aren’t looking for special treatment or “easy” projects. They want to be challenged. There is no greater sign of trust than handing your report an intricately tangled knot that you believe she can pull apart, even if you are not sure how.
Delegating a hard problem doesn’t mean you simply walk away. You shouldn’t leave your report to fend for yourself.
A manager I admire once told me that an organization’s culture is best understood not from reading what’s written on its corporate website but from seeing what it’s willing to give up for its values.
Culture describes the norms and values that govern how things get done.
Even if you are not the CEO, your actions reinforce what the company values.
Understanding Your Current Team
Ask the following questions:
- What are the first 3 adjectives that come to mind when describing the personality of your team?
- What moments made you feel most proud to be a part of your team? Why?
- What does your team do better than the majority of other teams out there?
- If you picked 5 random members of your team and individually asked each person, “What does our team value?” what would you hear?
- How similar is your team’s culture to the broader organization’s culture?
- Imagine a journalist scrutinizing your team. What would she say your team does well or not well?
- When people complain about how things work, what are the top 3 things that they bring up?
Never Stop Talking About What’s Important
When you value something deeply, don’t shy away from talking about it.
Assume that for the message to stick, it should be heard ten times and said in ten different ways.
Talking about your values makes you a more authentic and inspiring leader.
Always Walk The Walk
People watch their bosses closely to understand the team’s values and norms. Our radars are fine-tuned to spot instances where someone in a position of authority says one thing and does another.
This is one of the fastest ways to lose trust.
If you are not willing to change your behavior for a shared value, then don’t bring it up in the first place.
If you say something is important to you and you would like the rest of your team to care about it, be the first person to live that value. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when nobody else does either.
Create The Right Incentives
I am wary of seemingly simple incentive rules that promise amazing results. They are rarely simple, and often leave collateral damage. Usually, a better option is to have a frank discussion about what we should value and why.
Personal prompts (like Favorite childhood movie, the best gift you ever received at Christmas) at the start of a meeting so people can get to know their teammates better.