Highlights & Annotations
Chapter One: What Is Management?
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Hackman’s research describes five conditions that increase a team’s odds of success: having a real team (one with clear boundaries and stable membership), 3 a compelling direction, an enabling structure, a supportive organizational context, and expert coaching.
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The purpose is the outcome your team is trying to accomplish, otherwise known as the why . Why do you wake up and choose to do this thing instead of the thousands of other things you could be doing?
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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
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As talented as we are, mind reading is not a core human competency.
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Your role as a manager is not to do the work yourself, even if you are the best at it, because that will only take you so far. 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.
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“What makes a good leader is that they eschew the spotlight in favor of spending time and energy to do what they need to do to support and protect their people,” 6 writes Simon Sinek in Leaders Eat Last
Chapter Two: Your First Three Months
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She started me off with just a handful of reports whom she felt I could successfully manage, and she worked to ensure I was set up well (including helping me get to a great relationship with my initially skeptical report from that first 1:1).
- Note - Page 40 – Set people up for success
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In your first few one-on-one meetings, ask your reports the following questions to understand what their “dream manager” looks like. What did you and your past manager discuss that was most helpful to you? What are the ways in which you’d like to be supported? How do you like to be recognized for great work? What kind of feedback is most useful for you? Imagine that you and I had an amazing relationship. What would that look like?
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Few things are more annoying than a new person wasting everyone else’s time because they are trying to prove they know something when their opinion isn’t actually informed.
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“I’m getting contacted left and right every day, and I realize now how much work he did behind the scenes to take care of things.”
Chapter Three: Leading a Small Team
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Managing a small team is about mastering a few basic fundamentals: developing a healthy manager–report relationship and creating an environment of support.
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What gets in the way of good work? There are only two possibilities. 1 The first is that people don’t know how to do good work . The second is that they know how, but they aren’t motivated
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Why would someone not be motivated to do great work? One possible answer is that he doesn’t have a clear picture of what great work looks like. Another possibility is that the role doesn’t speak to his aspirations; he can , but he’d rather be doing something else. Or perhaps 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 issues behind it. Is it a matter of motivation or skill? This doesn’t have to be complicated. You can understand this through a series of conversations with your report. First, discuss whether your expectations are aligned—does “great work” mean the same thing for both of you? Then discuss whether it’s a matter of motivation. If both of those don’t resolve your concerns, then dive in to whether the issue is with skills.
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If you’re like I was in my first few years, the answer is: nothing. I wasn’t comfortable admitting to my manager that I was struggling. I didn’t want her to think that she misplaced her faith in me. If one of the projects I was working on was going off the rails because I had too much on my plate, I’d paint it as “I’m juggling a lot right now, but no need to worry, I’ll be fine.” Meanwhile, my stress level would shoot up to eleven out of ten as I worked madly around the clock.
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It isn’t easy to discuss mistakes, confront tensions, or talk about deep fears or secret hopes, but no strong relationship can be built on superficial pleasantries alone.
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It takes repeated good experiences to build up to a level of trust where you can be vulnerable and compassionately critical with each other.
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We are more than the output of our work on a particular team at a particular moment in time, and true respect reflects that.
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And yet, all of us likely remember moments when a kind word about our unique strengths made us swell with pride and gave us more fuel to achieve our goals.
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Recognition for hard work, valuable skills, helpful advice, or good values can be hugely motivating if it feels genuine and specific.
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The rising stars on your team may not be clamoring for your attention, but if you help them to dream bigger and become more capable leaders, you’ll be amazed at how much more your team can do as a whole.
Chapter Four: The Art of Feedback
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Whenever you find yourself deeply disappointed, or disappointing someone else, ask yourself: Where did I miss out on setting clear expectations, and how might I do better in the future?
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And if he couldn’t see it, he couldn’t fix it.
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The mark of a great coach is that others improve under your guidance.
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When feedback is given, Batista writes, the listener’s “heart rate and blood pressure are almost certain to increase, 1 [accompanied by] a cascade of neurological and physiological events that impair the ability to process complex information and react thoughtfully. When people are in the grip of a threat response, they’re less capable of absorbing and applying your observations.”
Chapter Six: Amazing Meetings
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Because the presenters knew their material forward and back, they experienced what social psychologists call “the curse of knowledge”—the cognitive bias that makes it difficult for them to remember what it’s like to be a beginner seeing the content for the first time.
Chapter Seven: Hiring Well
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Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer at Netflix, describes how her recruiting team noticed that a surprising number of their top data-science leaders shared an interest in music. So in addition to searching for résumés with the typical data-oriented keywords, they also began looking for people who played piano or guitar. “[We] concluded that such people can easily toggle between their left and right brains—a great skill for data analysis,” 1 McCord writes.
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The best practice for interviews is to have the candidate talk to multiple people who know what the role needs, with each interviewer asking different questions so that the group emerges with a well-rounded perspective. For example, if you are hiring a finance manager, one interviewer might assess management and collaboration skills while another asks detailed finance questions, and yet another explores the candidate’s past work experience.
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A 2014 report of hundreds of public companies found that those with the greatest ethnic and racial diversity in their management ranks were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns higher than average.
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Even if you don’t look at the data, it just makes logical sense: Are you more likely to get innovative ideas from a bunch of other people who look, think, and behave like you, or from people who come with different perspectives?
Prioritizing diversity means that you actively seek out candidates who offer something different. It means not just promoting from within but also hiring from the outside. And it means recognizing that every single person, you and me included, comes with his or her own bag of beliefs that should be challenged by others. The power of diversity helps our team avoid biases, make better decisions, and think more creatively.
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That’s why attracting the best people is a long-term investment. Pay attention to the rising stars of your field and get to know them through conferences, mixers, and other events. Continuously build your network. And develop your team’s reputation as well, whether through participating in the community, contributing new learnings to your field, telling your story in the press, or simply through being known as a class act. Even with the many, many declined offers I’ve gotten over the years, I’ve come to realize that they weren’t for nothing. Many of the leaders on my team today only joined after saying no once or twice before. Nowadays, I tell people who turn us down that I hope our paths cross again. Jobs may be short, but careers are long. Perhaps we didn’t have the right opportunity at the right moment or they weren’t ready to do something new yet. One day that could change, and when it does, I want them to think of us.
Chapter Eight: Making Things Happen
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Bad process is heavy and arbitrary. It feels like a series of hoops to jump through. But good process is what helps us execute at our best. We learn from our mistakes, move quickly, and make smarter decisions for the future.
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I tell my team that I’ll know they did a good job describing their vision if I randomly ask five people who’ve heard it to repeat it to me and they all say the exact same thing.
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Sometimes, this confuses my engineering colleagues. “But aren’t you designers?” they ask. “Designers draw and animate, right?” I explain that while many people on our team can , that doesn’t mean we should . It’s not our core competency, and we’ll probably end up spending double the time for 80 percent the quality of what a specialized team could do.
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When determining which patients to see in the emergency room, doctors will triage and tackle the most urgent issues first. Prioritization is key, and it’s an essential managerial skill.
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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.
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“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
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Thinking only about the finish line of a long race can be discouraging because it seems miles and miles away. You might wonder if anything you do today can really make a difference. But 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.
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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. Speed matters—a fast runner can take a few wrong turns and still beat a slow runner who knows the shortest path.
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My colleague makes sure that a third of her team works on projects that can be completed on the order of weeks, another third works on medium-term projects that may take months, and finally, the last third works on innovative, early-stage ideas whose impact won’t be known for years.
- // kind of how I want to separate the dev team - I may not do it in the cleanest way - but I can get there fast if you you shield me from other things - I want to lead the innovation sector: Why? How? Map out the progression of vue and Nuxt - tell Barry what I always tell him - we’re moving too slow Bring up WP editor Acknowledge I need to get better at persuading Lionel There can be order in constant flux
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By taking this portfolio approach, her team balances making constant improvements to their core features while casting an eye toward the horizon.
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Talk about How Everything Relates to the Vision
- What is Barry’s vision and what is the company mission? Goes back to Jen’s exercise about introducing ourselves and what Hypenotic is.
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One of the most useful tools for improving 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.
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After a retrospective, it’s a good idea to write down the learnings and share them widely.
Chapter Nine: Leading a Growing Team
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I discovered a few techniques to make this easier: 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.
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The best work comes from those who have the time to live and breathe a problem fully, who can dedicate themselves to finding the best solution.
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People trump projects—a great team is a prerequisite for great work.
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As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been attributed as saying, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
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A friend of mine gave me the gift of another clarifying question. He asked: “Assume the role was open. Would you rather rehire your current leader or take a gamble on someone else?”
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Change is hard, but trust your instincts. Would you hire this person again if the role were open? If the answer is no, make the move.
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That was when I realized my mistake. I should have handed off that meeting a long time ago. I felt tied to it because it had become habitual, even a part of my identity.
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The rule of thumb for delegation goes like this: spend your time and energy on the intersection of 1) what’s most important to the organization and 2) what you’re uniquely able to do better than anyone else. From this, you can extrapolate that anything your report can do just as well or better than you, you should delegate.
Chapter Ten: Nurturing Culture
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KNOW THE KIND OF TEAM YOU WANT TO BE A PART OF
- Go through this exercise (in the book)
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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.
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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.