This document is an effort to explain my role, my values, my expectations and my quirks as a manager. It might seem a bit weird, but I see it as a way to gain time when starting to work together. Of course this does not replace actually learning to know each other! If you want more context regarding why I wrote this, please read this blog article.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is a living document and, as such, it will change over time. Remember as well that I’m here to help you succeed and will do my best to adapt my management style to you, so please don’t see anything here as set in stone and feel free to come and discuss specific points with me.
Finally, if you see a discrepancy between this document and my behaviour, please tell me.
Note to future teammates and employers: This is obviously catered to the way my current company works. Some things will remain true no matter where I am at, but others might change depending on the context.
The way I see it, my job is to find the right spot between what the company wants to be accomplished and what the person wants to do, with a focus on medium to long term.
We’ll never have a perfect overlap, so there are tradeoffs to be made. To caricature, the easy and first tradeoff to agree on is that the company should pay the employee (it would have been easier to pay nothing), and the employee should work on projects helping the company (it would have been easier to stay at home and chill).
To get to a good spot I need to have a good understanding of both parties and figure out the best solution to move forward, and then translate this into actions. The actual things to do are massively depending on the context, so my day to day varies a lot. I might work on budgets, review pull requests, prepare performance reviews, meet job candidates, write some code to fix a flaky test…
If I do my job correctly, it will lead to great people wanting to join and stay while delivering value for the company, ultimately helping everyone succeed.
What I Value
I love when things fit together well and deliver value.
It can be a group of people working well together, a piece of code shipped without bugs, a well crafted design, a great piece of software architecture, an elegant solution to a user’s problem… if it works well and serves a purpose, then I most likely enjoy and be proud to be associated with it!
Because of this I like optimising things — no matter the thing. Meetings need to be focused and interesting, code without bugs, processes simple and clear. In my spare time I even play games like Factorio or Oxygen Not Included - games about automatisation and optimisation!
In a work environment, I value…
- Working with a group of genuinely nice & interesting people
- The positive real life impact our work can have
- Work well done , meaning code that doesn’t crash, clear specifications, effective design…
- People who keep learning and are curious about all parts of the organisation
- Team members who challenge ideas in a constructive and healthy way
- Autonomous people proactively taking ownership and accountability
- Honesty , humility , good faith, transparency and openness to dialog
- An ethical approach to problems and solutions
- A sane work/life balance
- Diversity coming in many forms, like gender but also socio-economic background or nationality
- Continuous improvement for both systems and peoples
What I Can Help You With
My goal will be to give you what you need to be successful in this company. There are multiple topics I can help with, and most of them we’ll figure out together, but here is a list of the things I usually do:
Provide context and perspective about the business, other teams, the ecosystem…
Give feedback so that you have a good understanding of your performances. My objective is always to aim at yearly reviews without surprises.
Help sort out priorities if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work to do.
My strong suits are backend development, organisation, software architecture & management. I’ll be particularly relevant there, if you want to sit down and have a brainstorm about a particular topic. However I can give insights and advice in all product & engineering related topics.
Provide guidance and opportunities for career development. What you are doing right now might not be what you want to be doing in three years, so let’s discuss this freely.
Firefight with you if needed. It can be a production issue, a hard topic to tackle, an HR issue with one of your reports, reading a complex pull request, understanding a piece of legacy code… if you are stuck I can most likely help you out.
I tend to repeat myself. There might be a lot of people in the team, and I might forget I already told you about something. I might also think that it’s a point important enough to be constantly repeated. If it becomes annoying, don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll stop for this particular topic :)
I’m quite pessimistic by nature about the future. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in what we are trying to do, I simply tend to mostly see the flaws and improvements rather than the good side of things. This helps in anticipating issues, but can give a bad vibe to some.
I often ask open-ended questions about a number of topics. It’s always a conversation, not a test. There is no “right” answer, even if I have an opinion about what we should be doing.
If you’re explaining a production issue to me, I want to hear the impact on users & if it’s fixed before getting into any other details. If you don’t start with the impact I’ll be stressed out the whole time you are talking to me.
The company might need me to not share a particular piece of information with you, and I will not do it. However I will never lie to you, the worst I can do is remain vague.
By default I prefer to be direct and push people to do better. It’s truly very frustrating to me to see someone not reaching their potential. While it is appreciated by some, I know that it can be a bit too much for some people. If this a problem, please let me know and I’ll adapt.
Following up is very important to me. I assume that you will make a note of any action required and let me know when it’s done / if it’s delayed / if you need help. Once I consider that it is in your scope, I will stop worrying about it and trust you to deliver. What I dislike is people forgetting tasks or dropping topics without telling me.
Sometimes I can speak too much, especially when it’s a topic I enjoy. Feel free to interrupt me if you feel like this is not relevant and I’m wasting time.
I have a very high esteem for what has been accomplished in the past, such as legacy code or previous product decisions. Yes sometimes it can be clunky, but the people who did it tried their best with the information and skills they had at the time.
I hate meetings that start or end late. It feels like a complete waste of time. If you are significantly late for a meeting, there’s a good chance I’ll cancel or start without you if it’s not a one on one. Because of this, I also try my best to be on time to every meeting and you can expect my meetings to start on time. As a rule of thumb I’d say a few minutes late are acceptable, but above 5 minutes I will tend to expect a small excuse. At least that’s the way I’ll act with you if I’m late :)
There are cases where I’ll work overtime. I don’t expect you to do the same unless explicitly specified. If I message you and you’re done with your day, I don’t expect a response right away. In most cases it can wait the next day. When unsure, ask me.
I take vacations and you should too. When I’m off, I usually do not to check my emails nor slacks, but I’m always available via SMS for anything that can’t wait for my return. Don’t hesitate to use it if relevant, as I will feel way more at ease knowing that people will contact me in case of major trouble.
I have a bias for doing something instead of planning. I much prefer trying out an idea after a couple of discussions rather than having long meetings or studies. I also like to have a lot of quickly drafted alternative plans, so while I’ll try out plan A, I keep plans B, C, D & E in mind.
To save time, I might invite you to some meetings without talking to you first. If the moment is not convenient or if you want more information about the agenda, don’t hesitate to ask me and I can often move it.
I tend to have high expectations and will challenge you on what you are doing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing a poor job. It often means that I believe you can progress even more.
I don’t entirely believe in putting people into boxes, but personality tests can be a decent proxy to understand someone. So if you’re into that, here are my results:
- Myers Briggs: INTP
- CliftonStrengths top 5 strengths, in order: Learner, Activator, Relator, Context & Arranger
I generally agree with the results and can’t deny that I do have traits from the various profiles.
Day To Day Framework
I’m Available For You
I always make myself available during our 1:1s. We might also have some ad-hoc meetings about ongoing projects. I understand that this might be too little for you, hindering your chances of success. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to ask me questions,, as I will always have 5 minutes to spare for you. Even if my calendar is completely full. Even if I look busy. Keep in mind that 5 minutes will never be too much for me, and can sometimes save you a lot of time or headaches.
A small note however: please always give me some context when asking for my time. I really don’t like “do you have 5 minutes?” messages on Slack. Prefer “do you have 5 minutes to talk about X?”, I will appreciate it greatly.
I don’t expect any particular schedule from you, just that you are present for any important event and spend a significant chunk of both the morning and afternoon present at the same time as other team members. In some cases you’ll be asked to show up at a given hour, this will be rare but I’ll then expect you to show up on time.
If you have constraints, like practicing a sport or picking your kids from school, don’t hesitate to let me know and make it clear in your calendar whether you are present or not.
Work From Home
I strongly believe that my team should operate correctly even if everyone is remote, and I generally have a bias in favour of remote work.
Before going remote, you usually have to send me a work from home request. If you do it a few days a month I will always validate them. If you want to work remotely more regularly, let’s talk about it. If you want to be fully working from home, that’s another discussion that might require a contract renegotiation.
I will assume the following and if you respect them, remote work won’t be a topic of discussion between us:
- You talked to your team and other people that might need you
- You made sure to be reachable & have a sufficient internet connection
- You will be present in all meetings you were supposed to be in
- You will actually work :)
I very rarely refuse holiday requests. Use your best judgment and understand the context. In doubt, ask me before booking your flight or planning your holidays.
If you are my direct report, we will have a recurring meeting. Here is what you can expect from it:
- I will do my best to never cancel or reschedule it
- It will be 30 minutes, every week
- It doesn’t have to be a status report
- We will discuss day to day but also more long term topics
- We will use this moment to work on avoiding surprises at the yearly performance review
Yearly Performance Review
Every year we’ll have a meeting of a few hours about your performances. Ideally we will have discussed everything during the year and will use this moment to wrap the year up. I will also give you some vision over what’s going to happen in the coming years, the different career paths available to you , etc.
This will also be the best moment to discuss salary changes.
Reading my Calendar
My schedule can get pretty complicated. I have one kid, and I have to pick her up from the daycare in some evenings and/or mornings. I also have a lot of meetings, interviews, 1:1s…
However, my calendar I almost always up to date and public, so please check it before booking a meeting with me. If you can’t find a spot, ask me if I can find one.
- Slack to get my attention quickly or chat about something. I check it every few hours and generally answer within a day. Please avoid sending multiple messages to share only one idea.
- Email if you want in depth answers or have complicated questions. I check it 3 times a day and answer within a week usually.
- At the coffee machine for anything we can easily discuss while sipping a drink.
- At my desk when urgent.
- In whatever meeting I’m in when urgent and I’m in the office.
- SMS when urgent and I’m not at the office.
- Phone call + SMS when VERY urgent and I’m not at the office.
If you are waiting on me for something and I’m not doing anything, maybe I forgot or maybe I planned on getting it done later than you expected. In this situation, don’t hesitate to remind me. I’ll never get mad about this and will appreciate the fact that you want your project to move forward.
Expectations & Feedback Loop
My First Expectations
We hired you because of your experience and skills, so my role is not to tell you how to do your job. Because of this assumption, I’m expecting that you are able to operate as a professional, making smart decisions moving your projects forward and while communicating along the way.
This doesn’t mean that I think you’ll do everything on your own. I am here to provide you guidance, mentorship (either through me, or by finding the people you should be getting it from) and assistance. When you need help, I expect you to not hesitate and ask for it. If you feel you made a mistake, you should share it openly with me so that we can figure out how to improve.
Expressing Other Expectations
I try to make my expectations as clear as possible, I just find it to be a simpler way to work and communicate. If you don’t know what I’m expecting of you, please ask for clarifications — let’s not wait until we misunderstand each other! If you disagree with my expectations, please let me know, I can adjust or explain my position.
If you have expectations for me, please let me know and try to be clear as well.
Disappointed > Surprised
If you mess up in some way, please let me know. If I hear it from you, I’ll be disappointed but at least I can help and we can figure out a way together to deal with it.
Learning about the problem from someone else outside of my team would be a significant issue for me.
I’ll Make Mistakes
I’ll do my best, but I’m bound to make mistakes. When it happens, please assume that I have good intentions. Then don’t hesitate to let me know if you think that I’m making a poor decision or acting in a way that doesn’t make sense to you.
I’ll be happy to give you more context to explain my actions or try to fix whatever is wrong. I’ll also do my best to react in a productive fashion to any negative feedback.
What “Done” Means To Me
To me any project is considered done when it’s live and bringing value to our end users. To get there it will require an appropriate amount of followup past just completing the initial task.
For instance if you wrote the entire feature but it’s not shipped, then it’s not done. If the code is live, but the feature is broken or not working as expected, it’s not done either. If the design is created but is not implementable then it’s not done.
If you have a problem with a way I’m doing something, or if you feel like I’m making a mistake, I will appreciate it if you shared it with me. Just come to me whenever it feels the best for you, during our 1:1s or any private setting we can find each other in. If nothing is planned, you can book a room and ask me for five minutes.
Please don’t wait for too long if something is on your mind: the sooner I know about it, the sooner I can acknowledge it and possibly act on it.
I know that sharing negative feedback is hard, but I will really appreciate you taking the time to help me progress and identify problems.
Regarding positive feedback , if you enjoyed something I did, I’d also be very happy to hear about it. Not only because it’ll make me feel good, but also so that I can do more of it! I’m ok if you do it privately or publicly.
When something goes wrong , we’ll most likely discuss it and I’ll try to give relevant feedback in the most constructive way possible. This is of course not to belittle you, but mainly to figure out ways to improve and keep learning and progressing. It’s also a good place to figure out misunderstandings and squash problems before they get out of control.
I will always try to give you the feedback as soon as possible, but in some cases I’ll need to confirm my gut feeling, or gather additional data. In other cases I might miss the error entirely for a while and only discover it randomly a long time after. The consequence of this is that in some cases some feedback will come a couple of weeks after the fact.
Regarding positive feedback , it’s not my personality to be a massively enthusiastic person that will jump around at achievements. I’ll sometimes mention a great achievement at a standup, meeting or in a slack channel. If you’re not comfortable with this and prefer only private “praises”, please let me know.
I will also mention it to you in private within a couple of weeks of the achievement, be it at a coffee break, on Slack or at a 1:1.