23 September 2018

Manager READMEs have been all the rage over the past few years, and thanks to the inspiration I have received from many other managers and mentors, as well as encouragement from my own team, I have put together a version of my own.

On What This Is

The goal of this document is to share a bit about me and to give you a better idea of how best we can work together: how I operate, what I value, and what I’m trying to improve. And while I hope that this is representative and descriptive, I cannot pretend that it is anywhere near an exhaustive explanation of who I am or what our working relationship will be like.

I plan to revisit and edit this document periodically as my style, attitude, and role changes. In fact, through the opportunity that we have to work together, my approach may change as a result.

On Me

While it’s impossible to objectively measure a person, their personality, or their behaviors, there are a few well-established tests out there to which you may be able to relate to help understand who I am.

The Myers-Briggs personality assessment labels me as an INFJ, which feels remarkably accurate. I am generally an introverted person. That doesn’t mean I don’t value my time around people, but it does mean I need a separate environment to recharge my batteries. I identify shockingly well with this quote: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”

I am a systems-thinker. Whether it’s processes, people and social connections, or technologies, I think in terms of flow charts, cause-and-effect, and triggers. I value standardization and predictability, but I also value personalization and adaptability. I also firmly believe that those two points are not at odds with each other.

The DISC assessment (this one was done through PeopleKeys) is a fantastic measure of behaviors (versus the previous personality assessment). My tendencies lean strongly towards team-building, establishing trust, and data-backed decisions. The following graphic, from that assessment, is fairly representative of that:

On Delivery and Quality

I am a strong believer in iteration and customer experience. I am also a strong believer in long-term vision. I will err on the side of a large initiative taking a longer, more circuitous route to completion if it means delivering incremental value and learning along the way. There will certainly be occasions where we need to commit to delivering a large chunk of work in the shortest time possible, but I tend to be skeptical of that approach.

I will strive to understand context as well as offer any context that I can. I am extremely comfortable being a sounding board and a rubber duck. I will happily play the role of challenger and devil’s advocate as well. I am also comfortable being the decision-maker when absolutely necessary (although I strongly prefer that responsibility come from within the team).

I value visibility and context on the projects you take on; however, I also want to stay out of your way and let you do what you do best: I trust that I am not as good at your job as you are. If keeping me informed becomes a burden, I am committed to helping define a better communication framework that works for both of us.

On Goals

I believe personal development goals are crucial for an individual’s success. However, I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to goal setting.

On one end of the goal-setting spectrum, if we are just getting to know each other, if you are new in your career, or if you are trying to find your path, I will help you to identify areas you are passionate about and find small (1–2 day) opportunities for exposure and experimentation. We’ll iterate, reevaluate, and refocus as new opportunities present themselves.

On the other end of the spectrum, larger and more-defined S.M.A.R.T. goalsrelated to personal development might be a better fit. I am committed to help you identify and track these goals, even if they are not completely in line with your “day job.”

If you and I haven’t gotten around to setting up goals, please help keep me accountable to help you define these. If we haven’t revisited goals in a while, don’t hesitate to bring it up.

On 1:1s

Our 1:1s are for you to talk about anything on your mind. These are not status reports, unless you want to update me on your status (or you want me to update you on the status of something else). I love talking about your career growth, and I especially love when you bring forward initiatives you want to pursue and own. I value periodic and consistent 1:1 time with you, but the frequency and duration can be adapted to whatever we mutually find valuable.

If there is something on your mind, get hold of me and I will make every effort to meet with you. I am usually in meetings all day long, but those meetings are almost never more important than meeting with you.

Speaking of 1:1s, I do not believe 1:1 time is reserved solely for manager/report relationships. I will encourage you to find predictable time to have 1:1s with your peers, to set up skip-level 1:1s (manager’s manager), and to regularly connect with people outside of your department and function.

I recognize everyone communicates differently and you may value a different style of 1:1. Some prefer agenda-driven conversations, some prefer it to be more conversational. Some prefer sitting in an office, some prefer taking a walk. Let me know what works best for you.

On Other Meetings

In order to most effectively engage me in a meeting is through a clear definition of what we hope to accomplish. Is the meeting being held to come to a decision on something? Is it a brainstorming session? Is it a working session where we hope to have a task complete at the end?

I believe in transparency, and as a part of that, I keep my calendar public. I regularly schedule blocks of time on my calendar called GSD (or “Getting Stuff Done”). This is a bit of a defense mechanism against meeting-overload so I can find time to access the creative and problem-solving parts of my brain that tend to be neglected amidst large quantities of context switching (see “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule”). This is the calendar equivalent to “headphones on” and “do not disturb”, but is certainly not a moratorium on necessary interruptions, should you need to get a hold of me.

On Work/Life Harmony

I believe in accountability. This means that I believe you should hold yourself accountable to your team for your commitments at work. This also means that I believe you should hold yourself accountable to your commitments to your friends and family. I am committed to helping you keep those two in balance.

Given the occasional unpredictability of my own schedule, I may message you at odd hours via Slack or email. This in no way makes the presumption that I think you should be working at those odd hours, and it certainly does not warrant a response to me outside of your working hours. My only request is you set the appropriate expectations with the people you work with closely regarding your availability and accessibility, which includes setting the expectation there will be times you need to disconnect and charge your batteries.

Recognizing the need to disconnect and recharge is an area I am also looking to improve, and I look to you to help me stay accountable. If you’re burning the midnight oil at what I might feel is an unsustainable rate, I will suggest you take some time off. You have every right, and are absolutely encouraged, to do the same for me.

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