Jan 27, 2023
After a recent reorganization at my company, I'm taking this opportunity to start fresh with how I approach my relationship with my direct reports. I've found that my instructions to my reports are often handed down piecemeal, expectations aren't set, or I've just forgotten things I should be doing. That is not a great experience as a direct report.
This document is really meant to keep me accountable as your manager. It's here, so you understand what I can do for you and what I expect from you. I'll refine this document as I go, and if there is anything in here you disagree with, please let me know!
My general philosophy towards management
My overall philosophy can be summed in my blog post: The Grug Brained Manager. Don't feel like you have to read it unless you want to get a deeper understanding of my management philosophy. In a nutshell:
- No Surprises. I can't promise you won't ever be surprised, but I will try my hardest to make sure you have full information as soon as I can give it to you.
- Give me the technical details. I love the technical details, even if it's not my area of expertise. I'm happy being a rubber duck or listening to you deep-dive into a technical issue. I may not be much help, but I'll always listen.
- I trust you. By default, I will trust you to do your job to the best of your ability. I will also trust you to tell me if you need help, and I will do everything in my power to help you. Remember that trust is easy to break and difficult to repair, so I ask you to level with me whenever possible, and I will try to do the same.
- Feedback is hard. I will do my best to give you feedback with empathy and kindness, and work with you if there is something you can work on.
If you're new to the company, congrats! I'll be helping to support you during your onboarding period. You should be creating onboarding goals during your first few weeks on what you'd like to accomplish with my help.
I'll supply you with our onboarding materials, an onboarding buddy, and make myself available to answer questions.
I understand onboarding is a pretty daunting time. There is a lot of new things coming at you very quickly. I don't expect you to jump in coding right away and prefer you ramp up slowly instead of drinking from the firehose. Let me know if you're feeling overwhelmed at any point and I'll try to throttle things back for you.
One on One meetings (1:1s)
Regular 1:1s are important for us to stay in touch and to ensure there is an open and available space for us to talk. My preference is weekly or bi-weekly, but I'll defer to you on the cadence.
You own the agenda for the 1:1s. I'll bring topics, but I'm expecting you to bring topics to discuss as well, and your topics will usually be prioritized above my topics. It's a good idea to spend a few minutes before our 1:1 to jot down some notes in our shared 1:1 document. This shared document is a great place to drop non-urgent questions or thoughts between meetings so you'll populate the agenda as you progress through the week.
Some things we can discuss in your 1:1:
- What are you working on? What problems are you encountering? Where are your bottlenecks?
- By feeding me information on things that aren't going well, I get a better sense of what's happening on the ground and where problems maybe forming. This is super valuable!
- Do you have an idea for a project? Let's talk about it.
- Did you encounter an issue or bug somewhere? Let's talk about it.
- Do you have any ideas on how to improve our workflow? I'd love to hear it.
- Let's talk about your career goals and your next step.
- It's totally fine if you have no idea what your goals or next step should be, I can help guide you there with this three part career conversation.
- Is your next step a promotion? Let's talk about the timeline, how the company promotes, and what you will need to do to assemble a promo packet.
- Let's talk about your performance and performance review
- How familiar are you with the company's performance review system? Let's talk about it.
- Do you have a brag doc? Let's take a look at it or update it! A brag doc will help me represent your work in the best light during performance reviews.
- Do you know and understand the company's expectations for you in your role at your current level? Is there any part of your role you don't understand?
- Curious about how parts of the company work?
- I'll do my best to answer your questions or find the answer for you.
- Do you have any questions about your benefits or compensation? I can try to answer them or point you to somebody that can.
- Curious about my take on a situation? Just ask.
- Do you want to vent about something? Go ahead, it's a safe space and between us.
- Tell me how you're feeling. Is everything going well outside work? Have you been distracted lately? Is there anything I can do to help (time off, too much work on your plate, etc.)?
- Need advice? I can do my best to help guide you through whatever it is you're going through.
- Are you happy in your role? If there is something you feel is missing, let me know so we can work on it.
For my direct reports that are also managers:
- How is your team doing? Are you encountering any issues with your direct reports?
- What is your team working on?
- Do you have any situations with your reports where I could provide guidance?
You don't need to wait until our 1:1 though. Feel free to schedule time with me or ping me on slack at any time.
Help me help you. I may or may not have a view of what you do on a day-to-day basis. When it comes time for promotions or performance reviews, you are your own best advocate. I will do what I can to advocate for you on your behalf, but you need to give me ammunition to make a strong case.
A brag doc or work log is a simple list of the things you work on so I can take that and transform that into a performance review or promotion packet.
By updating it at a regular interval, you don't need to do the "what did I work on a month ago or more" dance. Take a minute or two every week to just jot down what you've been working on and when performance review season comes around, you don't have to do anything!
Having a running work log/brag doc is also useful when it comes time to update your resume. You'll have a full accounting of your work that you can easily pull highlights from.
Going for promotion is your choice. I will happily assist you in trying for a promotion if it's your goal, but I won't force you if you're happy where you're at.
Promotions take time to plan for and to build a case for. Managers are expected to assemble a "Promo Packet" to be submitted to be reviewed. This promo packet makes the case for you and your promotion. You'll typically need to prove you exhibit the skills of a person of the next level for a minimum of six months. We'll also need to collect endorsements from people you work closely with, which I'll take care of.
Let me know you want to try for promotion as soon as possible. It may take planning to build a case, and I'll guide you along the way.
I support you taking all your Paid Time Off (PTO) when you'd like to take it. Please use your time off and let me know how I can support you, so you can use it! I will almost always approve PTO and generally believe the team should support your time off and not vice versa.
In terms of logistics:
- Please follow whatever PTO policy the company has laid out.
- Please make sure your calendar is marked without of office (OOO).
- A 2+ week notice before your PTO would be appreciated, but I understand if it's last minute, and we talk about it.
- Make sure your team and any stakeholders know you're taking PTO, and remind them as it gets closer and closer.
Working hours, location, etc.
Personally, I don't care what hours you work, or where you work, as long as you:
- Have your working hours set in your calendar.
- Attend all meetings.
- Have at least a 4-hour overlap between your hours and the general company working hours.
- Are responsive and get your work done on time and to a high standard.
However, the company might have policies in place. Please follow the company policy first, and my personal policy second.
I generally encourage people to have set working hours in which they are actively working and available, and then "offline" the rest of the day.
With remote work, it's really important to be communicative. Since we don't have your physical presence in an office, being over-communicative in our team messaging software is important!
I will never expect a response from you if I message or email you off-hours. If it's an emergency, and you're needed, you will be paged.
I generally expect your work to be mostly bug free, conform to existing standards, and is of a high-enough quality commensurate to your level. I don't expect perfection, but I do expect improvement if you receive feedback.
The most important thing is showing enthusiasm for your work, working well with your team, and treating everybody with kindness and respect. Being good at your job doesn't mean being a brilliant jerk, it means being somebody people trust and respect to get the job done.
I hope this post was able to help form a basis for our working relationship as manager / direct report. I want to make sure you have the full information to ensure you're meeting my expectations, and I want to make sure my expectations are clearly spelled out without any ambiguity.
Check back from time to time as this doc might be updated as I continue to grow as a manager.