Managing Up: a One-on-One with Zach Grosser

Jun 13, 2023

Janjira Sun

In this interview series, I’ll be interviewing managers across different industries to learn more about their management styles and share their own tips on how to be a manager if you’re planning on becoming one in the future!

If you missed the first edition, don’t sweat! You can read my interview with Ivan Orellana here.

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Zach Grosser is an Amsterdam-based founder and director of Zacht Studios, a presentation design consultancy focused on company storytelling and fundraising. He’s worked as a Communications Design Lead at Square, and as a Design Education Manager for Figma.

ZG: I got into a management role accidentally. I was freelancing for about 9 months and made a really classic freelance mistake: I took on too many clients at once.

Coincidentally, I was attending Dutch class in the evening, twice a week, and when we had an opportunity to get to know our classmates, I met Dona, my friend, and first hire.

Freelance turned into an agency, Zacht Studios, and I’ve continued to hire from there. We’re relatively small, with 8 people, so I am the people manager for the whole team still.

ZG: My favorite part about managing a team is that I really love getting to support my teammates. I care about them, want them to do their best work, and it’s important to me that get as many opportunities as possible to learn and grow.

ZG: For 1:1 meetings, I always want to focus on the person first: How are you doing? Too busy? Weekend plans? When was your last holiday and do you have your next one scheduled for sometime soon?

I want to make sure everyone is taking time off. I [want to] do as much as possible to help my team avoid burnout during work. However, I think we all know that taking breaks from work is what is really necessary.

ZG: If you’re a manager starting out, think about how you would try to empathize with your customers or client base. How would/do you like to be managed? Additionally, in every corporation and startup I’ve worked in, there is always one particular problem that gets highlighted by the People/HR org: Recognition.

Recognition is consistently the hardest thing, which is usually not done well, at every place I’ve worked. Ask each teammate individually how they like to be recognized. It varies so much, some like public acknowledgment, some want private appreciation, others want expanded responsibilities, and everything in-between.

ZG: If I could give my past self advice, I would say that even if you want to buck the trend and figure out things on your own, you should do 1:1s with everyone frequently! Some common conventions are there for a good reason.

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If you enjoyed this interview, share it with your friends, your managers, or your favorite individual contributors. Let me know which parts impacted you the most and your thoughts about managing and 1:1s in the comments below!

Also — I’m working on something exciting with my team, and it’s called Supermanage 💥 It’s an AI slack integration that magically distills your public channels into a brief that you can use to prep for your 1:1s, so you don’t have to play catch up in between them. If this seems like a fun tool that can help you with your 1:1s, I highly recommend you try it! We’ve been working really hard on it~

cheers —

Janjira (づ ◕‿◕ )づ

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