"Failing Faster" in Management

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Although "You must like dealing with people to be great at management," may sound intuitive to you, manager Julie Zhuo uses it as the first item in her essay on "Unintuitive Things I've Learned About Management." I found the essay quite insightful, and reinforced with good examples from Zhuo's experience, to wit:

Eventually, what will happen is that someone will come to you with a problem -- they don't get along with their coworker, they feel burnt out and need to take a month off, they have little faith the project is going to turn out well -- and as you're talking to them you will get a sinking realization in the pit of your stomach that you hate doing this and you just can't anymore. You will long for the days when you were able to manipulate something directly -- pixels, words, lines of code, bars of music -- quietly and with headphones on, and in that blissful world nobody would need to talk to you and unload on you their burdens.

I know this lesson well because I have pushed people to become managers when I thought they had the right skills, only to burn them out and lose them down the line. It is crushing to have someone you asked to be a manager admit to you a year later that she is having trouble getting out of bed in the morning because the prospect of having to deal with her reports every day was that unappealing.
Zhuo has remedied the problem of herself pushing the wrong people into management by asking prospects the following hypothetical question:
Imagine you spend a full day in back-to-back 1:1s talking to people. Does that sound awful or awesome?
And, by publishing her essay, she had helped her readers avoid a similar pitfall, including for themselves, in addition to helping the undeterred become better faster.

This reminds me a little of the advice to "fail faster." This truly excellent manager has accepted that call and led by example, helping the rest of us do so via a thought experiment.

-- CAV

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