What is the manager’s role?

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What is the manager’s role?

This is a question we probably all struggle with as managers and there are probably as many answers to this question as there are managers.

In her book, The Making of a Manager, Julie Zhuo, a former executive director at Facebook answers the question in three words:

  • Purpose
  • People
  • Process

Before we look at those three words, here are things that are not a manager’s MAIN role.

A manager’s job is not to:

  • have meetings with reports to help them solve their problems,
  • share feedback about what is going or not going well, and
  • figure out who should be promoted and who should be fired.

It’s much more than that. Much, much more.

But here is a statement from Julie that describes her view of what the manager’s role is:

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

This one-liner sounds simple and covers the three words mentioned earlier — purpose, people, processes.

Let’s look at each of these words to help us understand that one-liner definition.


According to Julie,

Purpose is the outcome your team is trying to accomplish, otherwise known as the why.”

Some key questions that help to understand ‘Purpose’ are:

  • Why do you wake up and choose to do this thing instead of the other thousand things you could be doing?
  • Why pour your time and energy into this particular goal with this particular group of people?
  • What would be different about the world if your team were widely successful?

Purpose is the manager’s goal to help the whole team understand why the work they do matters.

Julie writes that if the purpose is missing or unclear, then you may experience conflicts or mismatched expectations.

“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.”


On this Zhuo writes that,

“The next important bucket that managers think about is people, otherwise known as the who.”

Does the team have the right people with the right skills set up in the right way to succeed?

Are they motivated to do great work?

If you don’t have the right people for the job working in the right environment to motivate and empower them to do the job then achieving the purpose may not be possible.

There are some key actions you will need to take to get the people aspect right and they include (but are not limited to):

  • Develop trust with team members
  • Understand their strengths and weaknesses
  • Make good decisions about who should do what
  • Coach individuals to do their best

Having the right people with the right attitude in the right environment to work on the right purpose is a crucial aspect of the manager’s role.


The final role is ‘Process’. Not a word we like as it reminds us of boring, administrative, and bureaucratic stuff. But ‘Process’ in this sense refers to how the team works together.

Why is process important?

Because in Julie’s words,

You might have a superbly talented team with a very clear understanding of what the end goal is, but if not’s apparent how everyone’s supposed to work together or what the team’s values are, then even simple simple tasks can get enormously complicated.’

In essence, a key role of the manager is to arrange the work in such a way that every team member is clear about what they should do in relation to what other team members should do.

This will include things like knowing who should do what by when and how you make decisions.

Time needs to be spent coordinating how the team will work together. Processes, policies, and guidance needs to be made available to guide how the team works to prevent confusion.

Purpose, people, process. The why, the who and the how. A great manager constantly asks herself how she can influence these three levers to improve her team’s outcome.”

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