Working for Me @alan
This is the owner's manual of sorts, or a "manager readme" for anyone who works in my org (or works with me). Honestly, you'd figure all of this out within your first month or so with me, but often when you join a company - or change teams, there's a firehose of information to learn anyway. My hope is that this provides some necessary insight and overview that can accelerate us learning how to work together.
1 on 1 Meetings
I value connecting with my team regularly. I'll set up a weekly 30-minute meeting with each of my direct reports (but encourage you to suggest times that may work better for you). I'll keep our set time 90% of the time, but sometimes I will need to reschedule. This should be rare, and you can suggest different times as needed.
If I'm traveling, I will plan to have our 1o1 during our scheduled time, but on some occasions I may need to cancel if schedule and timezone oddities make our regular time impossible. Even if we need to cancel, I can always make time for a slack conversation or video f2f at some overlapping time. As a manager, I am here to help you be successful in achieving your goals, so use me for that as much as you want.
Skip level 1 on 1 Meetings
I'm open to ad-hoc, or scheduled meetings with anyone who wants to chat. Same rules as above apply to our schedule. I try (strive?) to have 1o1 meetings with everyone in the org, but sometimes the org grows faster than I can find time to get these things scheduled. If we don't have a recurring 1o1 on the calendar, feel free to schedule something with me anytime.
Your Role as a Leader
My job as a leader is to grow more leaders. Whether you're leading people, solving customer problem, or working with other teams, you should be able and willing to influence the team to change, improve, or add processes and tools to our systems. At times, you may need to change the mindset or beliefs of your team as you help them improve the way they approach making quality software.
I am committed to helping you become better leaders, and we’ll talk about leadership and influence frequently during our 1o1s. I expect you to let me know your own leadership challenges, and I will do everything I can to help you succeed as you address those challenges. While I could use my position to add “weight” to your influence, I will step in only on rare occasions. I am here for advice and ideas to help you as needed, but I have complete trust in you to lead your team and your peers as needed.
I believe that healthy organizations have a culture of accountability, transparency, and safety. This means that we commit to delivering things together, communicate constantly on status and risks, and that when we fail (and we should strive to fail) that we own up to it and use it as a learning experience with no blame or judgement involved.
That said, it's difficult to keep this culture strong as an organization grows, but I encourage everyone to call it out anytime that we're not walking the talk with culture.
How I manage
I read and study a lot about management and leadership - and a fair number of books about software engineering and architecture. I find that some books have good ideas, some are awful, and some are in between. What I've learned most from gathering all of these ideas from books is to form my own opinions. I'm not sure if the books guided me, or if I just had more acceptance for the books that aligned with my values and experiences. Nevertheless, my management and leadership philosophy cannot be explained without a few references to existing ideas.
In short, the following 4 points sum up a large part of my management approach.
1. Our relationship is an alliance
Your relationship with me as a manager is a mutually beneficial deal for both of us. Our goal is to add value to each other, and we will help each other be successful. I will help you grow in your career and help you become more valuable to the company and make the company successful. Our alliance may take on several forms, and we should be clear with each other on how we help each other's success.
For more on an alliance as a manager/employee relationship, check out http://www.theallianceframework.com/ - Reid Hoffman from linkedin created the framework, and I've found a lot of value in using this as a framework to describe how I work with people in my organization.
2. Balance independence and coaching
Your success relies on your independence and autonomy. My role as a manager is to provide a framework you can work in (e.g. help define your role and mission), and then get out of your way. You are capable of working with others and figuring things out - I'm here for guidance, coaching, and to help otherwise as needed. If you have questions - or need advice - or just someone to bounce an idea off of, I'm always available. I will also step in and apply additional guidance from time to time. It doesn't mean you've made a mistake or you're doing something wrong - it just means that I spotted an opportunity where I think I can help you. The One Minute Manager (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Minute_Manager) also covers a lot of this philosophy.
3. Improvement is a Priority
I use two different frameworks to think about employee growth. The first is from Max Landsberg - but I first read about it in Michael Lopp's fantastic book, Managing Humans (http://managinghumans.com/). It's a quadrant of skill and will. You may spend time in each of the parts of the quadrant from time to time, but my role as a manager / coach is to guide you towards high skill, high will work as much as possible. This is where you provide the most value, and where your strengths and skills grow the fastest.
The other model I use is highly related. It's my own, so the name is in flux. For now, I'm calling it the ACM framework (Ambitious, Comfortable, Mundane). The idea is that if you look at the work you do over a week / sprint / quarter, some of that work is new, challenging, or ambitious, a big chunk of work is stuff that you're just really good at (comfortable work), and you may end up with some work that you're overqualified for, or is boring, but that just needs to get done (mundane).
We should work together to make sure you have enough ambitious work that you are challenged and growing, if you're not learning something new every week, that's something we should work on together. We also want to minimize your mundane work. Often, your mundane work may be someone else's ambitious work.
An exercise with this model is to simply list the work you do in a sprint (or in a 1-2 week period), and then classify it into the three categories. The list should have a balance of enough Ambitious work that you're not overwhelmed, and little or no Mundane work - with Comfortable work to fill the gap. If the balance is off, we should discuss, as there's likely a way to find balance by shifting work around, discovering new work, or stopping work on some items entirely.
4. Feedback is Critical - for Everyone
I will often use the model from Radical Candor of, 'Care Personally, Challenge Directly' (https://radicalcandor.com). I will provide feedback often enough that it will begin to feel like a common thing. Of course, in order for you to trust this feedback, we need to build trust between us as well.
I will give you frequent feedback on your work and your impact. I've found that the value of feedback is highest when delivered as close as possible to the related action. When applicable, I will try to give feedback immediately, but it will often wait until our 1o1 meeting. I will NOT wait until a perforamnce review conversation to give you feedback that you have not heard before.
Of course, I welcome your feedback too. I will make mistakes - but I want to learn and improve. I would especially like to know if there's something in this README that you don't think I'm doing. Or, if there's something I am doing that you think should be included here, let me know (or submit a PR with the change).