One of the topics that I discussed with quite some mentees via the Mentoring Club is how to manage managers and what tools and frameworks I would suggest in order to build strong relationships with everyone in my team.
One tool that I established in my teams last year is a "User Guide" for working with me. Yes right: I wrote a document that describes several aspects of how I would like to work, about my expectations but also my flaws. I gave this document to all my team leads and senior team members as a reference.
With this article I publish the contents of my 'user guide' together with some explanations. You should take your time to reflect about what is important for you. List everything that comes to your mind, try to get to the root of everything. In a second step put yourself into the shoes of whoever works with you. What might be important to them? Why should they know? What do you want them to be 100% aligned with? What would they need from you in order to make your collaboration better?
Hi - this is my ‘User Guide’ that describes how to work with me. I believe in transparency and recognize that all of us are different people. So instead of finding out (probably) the hard way, instead of guessing and interpreting I offer you this document. I believe that the faster we get to know each other and how we work, the better and stronger our relationship will be - and this is a very crucial ingredient for having successful teams within our Tribe. I’d encourage you to write a similar document, so I and also your Team can learn how to best work with you.
This is not a static document. It will change as I learn more about myself and how we can best support each other.
Working hours and work ethics
- I am an early bird, usually getting out of bed between 4.30 and 5.30 starting with planning my day, cleaning my inbox, writing thoughts, and reading books / articles. You sometimes will get emails from me during those hours - no need to answer. Same for evening emails after 6. I appreciate your private time a lot.
- I am usually in the office between 8.30 and 5. On some days I am here earlier and on some days I am here until 6 or 7. However, I have two kids and between 6pm and 8.30pm family is priority number one.
- I am not expecting you to read / send emails during weekends, vacations or when you are sick. Take your time off and relax. I am usually doing the same, but if I am not, it does not mean that I expect you to also work. If I need you to read sth on the weekend or evening I’ll ask you before.
- I expect you to work at least 40 hours a week, and to be in the office at least between 10 and 4pm (in other words, follow the company policies). I appreciate and understand that in addition to the busy office hours we need time to focus, think, reflect etc. I don’t care if you do those things in the office, at home, in a train or wherever. But I encourage you to block time in your calendar for quiet time.
- Be a great role model for both outstanding performance and a healthy life (which includes having a good work/life balance)
- I tend to communicate rather too much than too little and sometimes might come across as someone who interrupts you and others with wild but unrelated ideas, big questions or findings etc. If I bother you with something, tell me … right away and I will shut up. If I talk about something that does not interest you, also tell me and I will adjust.
- Even if I am Manager in Engineering I am also interested and opinionated about all aspects of our work: Organizational Design, UX, Marketing, Product, Commercial, Strategy, HR etc. I encourage you to broaden your scope of interest as well. If you want, you can use me as a source of knowledge or inspiration if you have to deal with issues outside your areas of experience.
- It is important for me that we communicate well and often (1:1, and spontaneous).
- If things are really urgent, call me / WhatsApp me or better come to my desk, if you can wait for a couple of hours Slack me, if it is not urgent and can wait for a week or two, send me an email.
- In email I prefer if we can agree using labels such as [Action Required], [Approval Needed], [FYI], [Important] to make our work more efficient
- I will make myself available if you really need me. I consider my time with my direct reports to be the most important time of my work week. Also, even if I am home with my family already, you send me a message and I will arrange a quick call if needed.
- Let’s avoid saying “we’ll discuss” without a follow-up of when we’ll discuss
- If we talk about other people let’s talk in a way as if she/he would be in the room as well.
- I am not expecting you to respond to everything I am sending to you (e.g. articles, ideas etc.), but if there is an open loop (e.g. a question, todo) we should focus to always close those loops. A quick answer like “Will read tomorrow and come back to you” can avoid too much guessing. I will try my best to do the same (and expect feedback if I am not doing it).
- If it is on your plate it is on your plate.
- I believe in using frameworks to communicate, align and decide.
- I am always interested in the reason why you believe, decide, prefer etc. So please share your logic, especially now as we need to build trust.
- It is important we learn how we think, so do not worry about over-communicating.
- I am not controlling communication about your area of responsibility: So please be proactive with making things transparent to me, asking for help, involve me in decisions etc. If you don’t I am happy to be not visible in your day to day work, but keep me in the loop.
- Please create a shared google doc that we can use to collect topics we need to talk about, to track decisions we made, open action items etc. - it is your doc, so you decide the content and structure!
- The 1:1 is your time, your agenda mostly - I’ll do my best to let you know beforehand if I have a topic / question I would like us to talk about.
- I am interested in how you are doing, what you need from me, personnel issues, concerns, tactics, strategy questions, misc events / activities (conferences, remote working, vacations).
- I love white board Jams - so if you have sth to think through / brainstorm about let’s do it (if it helps you).
- Please be clear what you need from me to be successful: role, scope, information, comp, context, responsibility etc
- Blockers, issues with colleagues or team members, or any other problem? let’s talk. I’ll do my best to support you finding solutions, but please do not come with the same problem again and again ;)
- Have any feedback? Now it is the time.
- Ask plenty of questions. If you stop asking questions, I will see that as a red flag.
- Share your game plan.
- If I or you can’t make it the 1:1 let's figure out if we can find an alternative time at the same day or at least the day after.
- Once every 6 Month we will have a formal performance review. Every 3 month we use one of our 1:1 meetings for a mid cycle check in.You own your development plan, so please share your thoughts with me. Having a shared document is a good practice, but again up to you.
- I am your manager, but I am not the most important person on the planet - and also not some kind of universal feedback provider for you. I expect you to be open to my feedback, to discuss it with me, but you should also know the feedback of your direct reports, colleagues other managers etc. At the end of the day, our work is about results, and the feedback will help us to figure out how to improve and grow. I am here to help you understand the feedback and use it as a navigation system for your job and your career.
- Please track your performance, the feedback you get etc. it will only help us to have good conversations
Skip Level 1:1
- I will have skip-level 1:1 with all team members once every two months.
- I will let you know before
- Let’s always be aligned on your plans with each individual, issues etc.
- I will never talk about Development Plans, Career Plans etc with them without you. Those meetings are a way for me to be present in the team as well, understand the team’s culture and share vision / strategy etc in a more direct way.
- I like to have 45 min check in meetings with all of each Tech team in my area every month. Prep your team for those meetings - it is about them, their questions, their agenda etc.
Feedback - from me to you
- I commit to providing direct, open feedback (the radical candor way)
- If you like to know how I see X, ask me about it.
- If you’re exceeding my expectations of you, I will share that with you both privately and publicly (if you don’t like that, tell me)!
- I might come of as combative sometimes because (a) I love if we do not agree. I believe that’s a great sign for finding an even better solution together, or (b) because you did something I think is not great, not thought through well enough, incomplete etc. Let’s use this tension to learn from each other.
- My triggers for being concerned / frustrated etc are
- You do something only for your own agenda and not the company or team
- You give up too soon. I love it when people show creativity, resilience, and tenacity
- You don’t think in a holistic, systemic way - I love seeing sound judgement to drive smart and rapid decisions
- You are frustrated without seeing the bigger picture and without owning the solution
- You are not fostering collaboration but a culture of Us VS Them. I love to see us building an upbeat environment, filled with positivity, humility, and self-awarenesses.
- You are not acting like an owner. Be an agent for the change you want to make. Show fearlessness.
- You do not show enough leadership / investment in engaging your team.You are their direct manager, so they look up to you. Evangelize about the tribe and company vision, mission and strategy. Help them to connect the dots. Show that your team is personally important to you and not just a random job. Deliver clear feedback. Build morale.
- If you do those things multiple times, we might become a serious trust issue, however. I know it is most likely my fault and not yours, so we need to understand and align quickly how to improve.
- It might be that I am not listening well enough or misinterpret things - tell me if you think my perspective is not realistic
- I am always starting with high trust, I believe in you and your skills / talents and I want to see you grow
Feedback - from you to me
- I ask you to commit to direct and open feedback when I am blocking you or the teams, or even worse the company’s success.
- I would be happy to work for you in the future - that would be a great result for me being your manager. I want you to lead for the success of your team, not to please me. If I am a blocker, I need to change. So tell me.
- I am far from being a perfect human being. I am flawed. I leap to conclusions too fast. I concentrate on starting something and move to the next thing without finalizing. I can be focused too much on irrelevant things. I introduce frameworks or processes that I don’t hang on. Sometimes I might not listen well enough because I’m stuck on another idea/ I can be both impulsive on some and over analytical on other topics. I might start talking about something without providing the context to you. And there are many more, hope you find out soon.
- I try hard to hold myself to the same standards I hold my team, but don’t always do this very well
- My sons are very important to me, so I spend time with them. I try to make them dinner daily, travel with them, help them with their homework etc. That sometimes is like having two jobs. So I might be tired, stressed, unfocused sometimes … I try to be as open as possible about private responsibilities etc so that you know what’s up with me
- I respond well to feedback. I do not like yes-men/women. I believe our relationship will be better if we give feedback to each other.
- You are a manager as well, so I trust your feedback and I am happy for your support to grow myself.
- Please be clear to me about how I can best work with you.
- If I am the reason for you being unhappy, tell me. Please. Don’t wait.
Hiring and managing your team
- Lets collaborate closely on your team structure and hiring plans - I hate surprises here
- I like to have a 30 min interview with good candidates towards the end of the process
- Ultimately if you want to hire someone into your team is your decision, but I might veto and will explain why. We will consent and commit if we disagree
- Hire for mindset and attitude (see my article on this) (and potential).
- You commit to only recruit incredibly high talent - these people need to be better than you in coding (and hopefully other skills as well).
- I hire people I’d love to work for, please do the same
- Please share your leadership style with me (how do you communicate, create alignment, foster high engagement etc)
- I’ll push you to push out consistent poor performers and get frustrated when we take too long to act. Be fair with terminations— take responsibility that you (or your predecessor) made a mistake hiring them, and don’t surprise your employees that they are being let go. If there are any cases, we will work together to solve.
- Help me to recognize your top performers
- Don’t surprise me with people leaving. We need to know before that this will happen.
- Know the tech talent ecosystem and where the best talent resides. Don’t rely solely on our internal recruiters to hit your hiring goals.
Beyond your direct leadership responsibilities
- Your team and your area of responsibility is prime
- However, I also expect you to contribute to our tribes strategy
- If there are organization wide programs, projects or initiatives you like to contribute to - please do - but let me know. Always remember: the health and success of your team comes first
- Have an idea for the Business? Want to talk to a vp or other ELT members - just go ahead, there is no need to ask me for any approval or sth. But: you can use me as a door opener, as a coach for how you can approach someone, how you can structure your thinking or whatever