How To Be a Good Manager: An Interview With Julie Zhuo

Most of us have had managers since long before our careers began, including teachers and coaches when we were kids; professors in college; and supervisors during our first internships. Despite this, it can be hard to pinpoint the skills that make someone great at management.

Julie Zhuo is vice president of design at Facebook; she’s also a CNBC expert, blogger and author of “The Making of a Manager: What to do When Everyone Looks to You.” We spoke with Zhuo to learn the secrets behind being a great manager — and the answer might surprise you.

Management skills are more than being ‘boss’

Zhuo started her career in a now-coveted spot: as an intern at Facebook. In fact, she was Facebook’s first intern. She became a manager at age 25 — but most of the leadership books she turned to for guidance were written by people at the peaks of their careers, such as CEOs and industry leaders, lacking granular advice for someone just starting out. 

“Frankly, I also thought there weren’t enough management books written by women, especially women of color,” Zhuo adds.

“The Making of a Manager” is the book Zhuo wished she had during that first big opportunity, she says: “a book that would be really accessible, really friendly and actually just very practical for someone in that zone.” 

Some of her most practical advice? Management is more than just being a “boss” or landing a promotion — and not everyone is cut out for it. But this is fine, Zhuo says, encouraging readers to take a big-picture approach, examining the daily realities of management and whether these are a good fit.

Great managers enjoy success, but are willing to cede the spotlight

If you think you want to be a manager, Zhuo says, begin with a simple question: “Do you get a lot of satisfaction out of reaching a particular outcome, or from the particular role that you’re playing in getting to the outcome?” 

Good managers genuinely enjoy working with people; it’s not about the title, it’s about helping the team reach their goals. This involves facilitating collaborations, delegating tasks and minding your boundaries.

“The answer’s generally not ‘go and do the work yourself,’” Zhuo cautions. “It’s about nurturing the team. It’s about coaching people.”

Good managers are also willing to step aside and let the team shine, leaving their egos at the door.

“It’s not really about being in the spotlight or doing the most exciting or sexy thing,” Zhuo says. “It’s about doing what needs to be done, and then feeling a lot of satisfaction in working for others or [with] a team.”

Like a coach, Zhuo says, good managers help team members increase performance, building on their talents while strengthening their weak spots. They also create a welcoming environment where employees can be open if they’re struggling to master a skill or solve a problem.

Flexibility is another crucial attribute, and good managers are willing to take on work they might not feel is their passion. Zhuo gives the example of hiring, which can be time-consuming and pull managers away from…

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