When I was partway through The making of a manager: what to do when everyone looks to you I was sure that I would be giving this an unqualified five-star review. Then, I got to the second half.
There are two very different halves to this book. The first half of the book is excellent and helpful for almost anyone. The second half of the book may be for you if you work at Facebook or a company very much like it.
Here’s how Ms. Zhuo defines a manager’s job. “A manager’s job is to help her team get better results.” That’s the key insight for the book. It’s clear and actionable. It’s true no matter who you are or where you work as a manager.
If you’re thinking about becoming a manager this is a great book for you.
If you’re thinking about becoming a manager. buy this book. In the section that begins on 28, Ms. Zhou asks you questions about who you are and what you’re like. She describes how your answers can help you decide if management is for you. Those few pages are worth the price of the book. They may keep you from making a terrible, irreversible mistake. If management is not for you, it’s good to know before you become one. The key insight is that you must love the work.
If you’re a new manager, this is a great book for you.
It usually takes a new manager a year or two to settle into the job, learn the basics, and manage effectively. If you’re somewhere in that first two years, buy this book. Ms. Zhuo’s descriptions of a manager’s work are clear, and you’ll be able to see yourself in them. Her analysis is good and includes ideas about what you can and should do. She describes her mistakes and misconceptions.
Now for the second half of the book.
The second half of the book will be great for you if you work at Facebook. It will be good for you if you work in a creative job in a tech company, especially one experiencing hyper-growth. It will not be so good for you if you work at a trucking company or a clothing store or any smaller company. Here’s why I think the second half of the book is so different from the first half.
Ms. Zhuo implies that she’s new and remembers the beginning well. Here’s a quote from the Introduction.
“I thought, Maybe I can write this book, because it’s more relevant for a certain group of people now: new managers thrown into the deep end, overwhelmed managers wondering how to best help their reports, managers dealing with fast-growing teams, or those simply curious about management. I was one of them not so long ago.”
When this book came out, she had been at Facebook for more than a decade and she was the VP of Product Design. In February 2020, she left Facebook to become a cofounder of InSpirit. But here’s the thing. The first half of the book sounds like “not so long ago.” The second half sounds like reflections of someone who’s been a manager for a while.
I suspect she may have written the first at one time and the other material much later.
The writing styles are very different. The first half flows easily and sounds natural. The second half is how authors write when they must finish by a deadline.
I would have preferred an excellent book for new managers in any kind of company. That’s the first 150 pages. I could have done without the last 150 pages, even if the publisher thought it was necessary.
In A Nutshell
If you’re thinking about becoming a manager, buy The making of a manager: what to do when everyone looks to you. Read the section on what managers do that begins about page 28.
If you’re a new manager, especially if you’re in your first two years, buy this book and read the first half.
What about the second half? Start reading it. You’ve already invested in the book and gotten your money’s worth from the first half. Read the second half as long as it stays interesting and helpful.
You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on GoodReads.
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