This is the best Management book out there for designers

Chan Karunaratne
5 min readJul 31, 2021


This is a collection of the best things I learned from reading Julie Zhuo’s ‘The Making of a Manager’ as a product designer. Julie was the VP of product design at Facebook at the time of writing, so she refers to decisions from a designer’s POV throughout the book.

cover of ‘the making of a manager’

1. ‘Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.’

A team of people can always achieve more than what a single person can. As a manager, your job is to lead your team to those outcomes.

As a fresh manager, you can be easily be misdirected to think that becoming a manager is mostly about a promotion. You’re now at a more senior level and YOUR outcome will have to be better.

Even though it’s not wrong, the most important thing isn’t that. It’s about being a leader who can get the best out of your TEAM.

Even if your outcome has improved, if your team is not seeing any growth, something isn’t working right.

2. ‘The best outcomes come from inspiring people to action, not telling them what to do.’

As a manager, it’s easy to ask people to do certain things. It’s not too hard to pass on a set of responsibilities.

But you’re accountable for your team’s quality of the output. If the final designs are lackluster, it might not entirely be the report’s fault. It might be the way you communicated those instructions.

If a designer is to create something great, they need to be genuinely interested in it and have a very clear understanding of his responsibilities. They need to know WHY they’re building something.

As a manager, you need to sell the idea behind creating something. So instead of just giving orders, focus on making the reports understand the value of creating it.

3. ‘The job of a manager … is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance.’

Remember when we talked about how important it is that your reports grow with you?

As the leader, you need to have the talent to identify which areas your reports can grow in. You need to have the ability to discover their strengths.

A good manager will capitalize on those areas of growth, help them realize it, and guide them on how to unlock their full potential.

Make sure your report grows with you.

4. ‘Just because your report didn’t work out on your team doesn’t mean it’s on him.’

There will come a time where every manager has to make difficult decisions.

When the performance of a particular report isn’t up to the standards the company expected, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

In all fairness, most of the time, the fault might be the report. But the important thing to note is that this is not always the case.

It could have been the fact that you hired the wrong person for the job. It’s up to us to make sure we hire the right person with the right skill set for the job.

Hiring someone underqualified for a senior level and expecting more from them is wrong. So is hiring someone over-qualified and not having the right projects for their skillset.

It’s always good to look inward to see if the mistake was made from your end. It might not always be the report’s fault.

5. ‘You’re more likely to have a great meeting if everyone necessary, and nobody extraneous, is there.’

There is lackluster energy when there are too many people in a meeting.

This added pressure will make the presenter very anxious and force them to think inward too much.

This might even cause them to focus on the wrong things. For example, the added anxiety might cause the presenter to spend too much time tweaking the slides to make sure they don’t get judged.

This will end up making presentations less productive. Avoid unnecessary pressure. Have only the necessary people for the meetings.

6. ‘At the beginning of the project, let your report know how you’re planning to be involved.’

You might have heard that communication is key in any relationship. This is the case in management as well.

Getting your message across as clearly as possible is vital to your report's output being the one you expect of them.

If the communication is not done properly, you might end up frustrating your reports.

Imagine a scenario where you mentioned that you will be requiring a certain deliverable by the end of the week but you suddenly change the deadline midweek.

Your report will be frustrated and this could have easily been avoided if you communicated your involvement in the process clearly and stuck to it.

Always make your involvement cristal clear. Have some ground rules in place before any project or task.

7. ‘Jobs may be short, but careers are long.’

As a manager, you will always be on the lookout for good talent.

During the interview process, you might come across the perfect candidate for the job and someone who fits your company culture as well.

The interviews go well only for them to decline your offer eventually. You are left devastated.

We all have heard that a company is as good as its employees. So whenever that perfect candidate pops up, we do our best to snatch them up.

But if something doesn’t work out, it doesn’t necessarily have to end there.

Jobs and careers are two different things. That same candidate might be available in the future. As with what happened to Julie, they themself might reach out to you later.

Instead of having a bad taste in your mouth, it’s better to grab this new opportunity and see where the company can go with them onboard.

This advice holds up for any profession. But the book focuses on the responsibilities usually taken up by a design leader. There is no business jargon you’re not going to understand.

As a product designer, I was able to grasp the concepts quite easily. If you’re a designer in a management position or are looking to becoming one, I highly recommend ‘The Making of a Manager’.

*This article was not sponsored and doesn’t contain any affiliate links

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