Michael, as your manager

Welcome to the team! First and foremost I’ll usually be a colleague rather than a manager. With that in mind, you may find it useful to read Michael, as your colleague before continuing with this post.

In addition to being a colleague, I’ll also be your manager. This means that you can come to me with anything – feedback, ideas, complaints – I’m here to listen. There’s a certain amount of admin involved (expense reports, holiday approvals) and some career planning (mandatory annual goal setting, but we’ll do this more frequently), but that’s not what being a manager is to me.

For me, management can be summed up by this tweet by Sarah Mei.

Most people see management as an authority role, but it’s not. It’s a service role.

I’m here to make sure you have everything you need to achieve your aims. If you have questions, ideas, feedback – anything in fact – I’m here to listen and help.

North Star Principles

I have a few guiding principles which influence my management style:

  • I strongly believe in not asking someone else to do a job I wouldn’t take on myself
  • I bias towards transparency and candor. You can ask me anything, and most of the time I’ll answer. In some cases I’ll be unable to and will tell you that I can’t answer your question. I’ll never lie to you
  • The company cannot require me to lie to you. They have never asked me to do so in the past, and I would not agree to any requests going forwards.
  • The company may require me not to tell you about something before a certain date (e.g. stock option changes). In this case I won’t mention anything, and if asked directly I’ll respond that I have no information to share.
  • You are better at fulfilling the needs of your role than I am. I’m here to provide support, not to make all of the decisions. I’ll ask questions and provide context, but I won’t override your decisions. Everyone is empowered to do their job and accountable for the decisions they make. You will be a Directly Responsible Individual

Assumptions I’ve made

I’ve made a few assumptions about you and your role. Please let me know if any of the following are ever incorrect:

  • You’ll let me know if you can’t do your job for any reason. It’s my job to make you successful, but occasionally things will get missed and I won’t know I’m letting you down.
  • You’re very good at your job, that’s why we hired you. If it feels like I’m asking a lot of questions it’s because I’m trying to gather context and/or be a rubber duck.
  • You feel safe to disagree and discuss ideas with me (and everyone on the team). If it sounds like I’m disagreeing I’m likely playing devil’s advocate, as I find that considering all of the pros and cons of an idea leads to stronger solutions in the long term. This one is important – if you feel as though we can’t have a safe debate please tell any other manager on the team.

What you can expect of me as your manager

  • A regular 1:1 where we’ll discuss challenges, goals and priorities. We’ll play to your strengths and find opportunities to develop other skills
  • I’ll share my own challenges, goals and priorities with you. If you ever find yourself wondering what I do all day, please remind me to share more!
  • Clear, gentle communication. I promise not to leave you guessing what I really think or expect you to read between the lines of what I’m saying. If you ever have a nagging feeling about something, let me know and we can clear it up.
  • No surprises. If I have something to share with you, I’ll share it. The first time you hear about something personal to you will never be in a team meeting or an annual review.

What I expect of you as a team member

  • You’re proactive about improving the developer experience for those using the Nexmo platform. If you spot something that isn’t quite right, raise a ticket and/or fix it.
  • Ship at least one thing per week. It doesn’t need to be huge, but it needs to be a step in the right direction
  • I love to hear “I could use a hand with…”. I’m here to make you successful, so let’s work together to achieve great things!
  • If you make a mistake, share it with me. If shared, a mistake becomes a challenge for us to solve. If hidden, it becomes a failure. Let’s own our mistakes and learn from them.

How we work together

  • Ask a lot of questions. If I don’t have the answers, I’ll work with you to get them.
  • Most of the time you’ll decide what to work on and keep me informed. Sometimes I’ll ask you to work on something specific.
  • By default I’m a real-time processor. This means that I tend to reply quickly with ideas and bounce them back and forth to come to a conclusion. Others are gradual processors who want to think about a response and provide feedback at a later date. I’m happy to work in either mode to suit your working style.
  • I’ve historically been very hands on when leading a team. I like to know what’s going on at all times and help solve everyone’s problems myself. This isn’t scaleable for me, or fun for you. If you find that I’m starting to micromanage or try and do your job for you, please call me out on it.

1:1s

  • Please schedule a regular call with me (my calendar’s up to date). This is your meeting, so choose a time that works best for you. Choose a frequency and duration that works for you. If I can’t make it at any point, I’ll speak to you to move it. If you’d like guidance, let me know and we’ll work out a schedule together.
  • We’ll have a shared way of taking notes during our 1:1s. If you have a preferred system, let me know and I’ll use that for you. Popular options include Google Docs and Email
  • Our 1:1 agenda is a living document. Update it as frequently as you’d like before we meet (I will!). This will give us both an opportunity to think about the items before we discuss
  • 1:1s are your time. Use it to let me know how you’re doing, what you need, what you wish could be different, how you feel about the team and what your goals are. Also use it to tell me about the awesome place you visited at the weekend, personal achievements in things outside of work and anything else you think I may find interesting.
  • If you’d like to give me a brief update on what you’re working on or what you’re stuck on that’s fine, but those are better suited to a quick call, a Slack message or a separate meeting. Our 1:1s should be focused on people, not status updates about tasks we’re working on
  • Our team travels a lot. If you’re travelling and can’t make our regularly scheduled time, let’s rearrange to a time that suits you better. I’ll do the same if I’m travelling. Even if we’re travelling, keeping a regular cadence is important to me so let’s prioritise finding time to talk regularly.
  • Finally, I ask that you ask me at least one question during each 1:1. This can be anything you were wondering, from “what’s our main priority this month?” to “why do you rarely use video on the weekly team catchup?” to “what’s your favourite food?”. In return, I’ll come prepared with a question (or three) for you. This meeting is an opportunity for us both to learn.

What will a typical week look like?

Over the course of a week, some of the work you do should be new and challenging (ambitious), a big chunk of it should be something that you’re already really good at (comfortable) and there will probably be some work that you’re overqualified for (or is just boring) but it just needs to get done (mundane).

A typical week should have the right balance of enough ambitious work that you’re not overwhelmed and little enough mundane work that you’re not getting bored. The comfortable work should fill the gap and keep us moving forwards. If the balance is off, let me know as we can rebalance things by shifting work around, discovering new work or stopping work on some items entirely.

Michael is a polyglot software engineer, committed to reducing complexity in systems and making them more predictable. Working with a variety of languages and tools, he shares his technical expertise to audiences all around the world at user groups and conferences. You can follow @mheap on Twitter

Thoughts on this post

Leave a comment?

Leave a Reply