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My (Hypothetical) Manager README

Disclamer: I am not a manager. I am a software engineer, and I am in no hurry to be a manager. There’s still so much I want to build! I saw managerreadme.com while subscribed to softwareleadweekly and thought it was cool.

Disclaimer: This is not an expression for or against companies or managers I am working under or have worked under in the past, but rather a document solely for my self-introspection and self-improvement.

Disclaimer: The circumstances where I can execute against this README in the hypothetical future completely may not exist. This document should be treated as a North Star for my hypothetical management habits.

This is intended to be a living document and subject to change at any time without discrete corrections.


Hi, I’m Ying!

Welcome to $COMPANY! If you’re here, it means I’m happy to work alongside you. This document is to help you understand me and accelerate our budding work relationship.

Go ahead and take your time to meet everyone on the team, write things down, and ask lots of good questions. It’ll take at least 3 months for us to garner the most basic understanding of each other, so don’t stress about the little things. Just be your best self.


Tenets of My Management Philosophy

  • I pride myself on adding value to people. You should feel happy (happy happy, not corporate happy), productive, and well working here. As a manager, not much else makes me happier. Maybe fresh berries or baby floofs or that giant parachute in kindergarden.

  • Within reasonable limits, you should expect me to place you before your code, business requirements, or something more superfluous.

  • I trust people unless proven otherwise. I find trust to be the cornerstone of most if not all healthy work relationships. As your manager, you should expect me to treat you and your trust in me as one of my top priorities, period. You and I should both be at our happiest when I give you what you need to do your job and then get out of your way.

  • I like treating people fairly, politely, and positively. I much prefer reforming systems and processes over criticizing or blaming people. I won’t take your work as my credit in front of stakeholders. It will be your work, or the team’s work.

  • If I don’t know what I don’t know, I will find out what I don’t know. Then I will strive to know those things to some degree. You should expect me to understand your work enough to appreciate it and help you. At the same time, I never want to be the smartest person in the room, and I assume you are very good (much better than me) at your job.

  • I personally find my motivation fleeting and unreliable, and thus rely on habits, routines, and feedback to generate improvement.

  • I forgive many things easily, as long as our trust isn’t broken. It’s okay if you mess up, as long as you clean up. It’s okay to ask for help, as long as you learn and get better.

  • I respect people who absorb as much information as they can and process it to make it useful.

  • I find abstractions to be extremely helpful in my day-to-day work. A business is first and foremost a group of people working towards a common goal, but can be visualized as a set of processes, systems, and engines. This forms a basis for a lot of my management efforts.

  • I can’t do things where I don’t see a purpose; my morale drops like a rock. You should expect to work on things with a clear purpose, and if you aren’t or you can’t see the purpose, you should expect me to be able to explain said purpose in a persuasive manner or take action.

  • I believe we shape the world through our actions for better or for worse. You should expect me to be supportive of diversity or community engagement efforts as long as they do not compromise our team.

  • I see myself as your peer (with different responsibilities), not your superior, and I hate to pull rank unless absolutely necessary. On a day-to-day basis, I’m your cheerleader, your worker bee, and your advocate.

  • I believe that great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and shallow minds talk about people. You should not expect me to encourage or spread rumors, gossip, or innuendo. In fact, you should expect the opposite.


What to Expect

You are a stakeholder in $COMPANY’s success and I will treat you as such. I neither expect nor want to hold a monopoly of leadership over our team, and I will do my best to empower you to effectively lead whenever possible. I expect you to evaluate and seize opportunities to lead when reasonable.

  • For example, no process is perfect, and I expect you to help me and the rest of the team identify our pain points and communicate, if not address, them. This could be adding linters, updating documentation and tests, or reviewing candidates and our hiring processes.

Unless you have a significant equity stake in the company (more than $X%), I do not expect nor want you working more than 40-50 hours a week. Burnout is real, and burned out employees do not complete good work. Burned out employees may in fact contribute negative work, where the existing work must be understood and refactored by those who did not write it, while concurrently supported in production and iterated upon; this drags the whole team down. In addition, I do not want to foster a company culture where employees compete to work more hours for any reason, any more than I wish for a price war with our competitors. You should treat working at this company as a marathon, and not a sprint.

  • In the event a crunch occurs or an urgent issue arises, we work the weekend or overtime, and you are a salaried employee without paid overtime, I will credit that time towards your paid time off (PTO) and expect you take however much time you worked over off afterwards. If you worked 8 hours on Saturday, take Monday off. If you worked 16 hours Saturday and Sunday, take Monday and Tuesday off.

  • If I do find you working overtime or on weekends regularly and without good reason, I will ask you to stop and reiterate my reasoning stated above. If you do not stop with repeated warnings, I may ask for your resignation.

  • If you know you can only work X < 40 number of hours, but you are able to complete 40 hours worth of work (as estimated by the team), I may be able to give you 40 hours of pay and let you take the rest of the time off depending on the circumstances. I strongly believe that you should have a choice between career improvement and work-life balance. I would only encourage this if you are not looking to advance in the foreseeable future, as this may impact your promotions and raises down the line.

  • If you do have a significant equity stake and a stake in company-level decisions, I ask that you remain mindful of and responsible for your physical, emotional, and mental health and calibrate your work schedule as needed.

You should treat your performance as a holistic evaluation. There is no single reasonable thing that will make or break you in my eyes. I’ll give you plenty of heads-up if I am worried about your performance.


Your Week

  • The entire team will meet every week on a consistent time and date and at a consistent place (physical and/or virtual). This meeting will summarize and communicate current blocking issues and other high-level team-wide concerns, will budget a specific length of time depending on the number of team members, and will continue until actionables for all said concerns have been set, and no longer.

  • We will meet 1:1 every week, without fail. I expect the vast majority of the time to meet at a consistent time and date, and at a consistent date. Failing that, I will reschedule a time that works for both of us and increase its priority. The meeting will continue until both you and I have addressed our concerns, and no longer.


Meeting Protocol: 1:1s

These meetings are primarily held for your benefit. You should find sharing your comments, questions, and concerns to have a low barrier, and that the chance you’ll be punished for what you will say during our 1:1 is very low.

It doesn’t have to be about something work-related. We can talk about your career aspirations, the opportunities here to satisfy them, the company as a whole, etc. It’s up to you. This is your space and your time.

I’m very flexible about the nature of our 1:1s. If you want to get coffee or tea, meet in a conference room, or head out for a walk, just let me know what works best.


Feedback

Feedback is how we all grow. It’s also a two-way channel between two parties. I expect you to receive constructive criticism gracefully, to think through whether to act on it, and be able to communicate your internal justifications clearly. I also expect you to ask for clarification if and when needed.

I expect to receive feedback on my own actions and behavior, and you should expect me to treat it as above. I will ask for feedback on how I can do better during my 1:1s, and will continue to ask even if you don’t have any feedback for me.


Meeting Protocol: Groups

I schedule meetings only during core hours (core being the time when most people on the team are working). That way, none of us have to get up early or stay late.

I will try my best to keep meetings concentrated on a few days each week. That way, you can maximize unbroken “heads-down” time available.

I prefer every meeting to start on time. If I am running a meeting, I will start that meeting on time.

All meetings in our team should have:

  • An agenda, created well in advance, where attendees communicate as much as possible beforehand. Meeting time is reserved for resolving issues face-to-face.

  • The fewest number of attendees required for the matter at hand, and no less.

  • A responsible party running the meeting.

You should only be invited to meetings where you have a clear purpose. If you are not clear as to why you are attending a meeting, I expect you to ask for clarification. If I am not clear why I am attending a meeting, I will ask for clarification.

If a meeting concludes with actionables before its allotted time, we’ll close the meeting and hand that time back to everyone.

If it’s clear a meeting will not meet its objectives, let’s stop the meeting and determine how to finish the meeting later.


Forms and Priorities of Contact

My contact preferences are, in order of increasing priority:

Slack –> Email –> Cell –> In-Person

I welcome asynchronous communication (slack, email) 24 / 7. I welcome sychronous communication (cell, in-person) for urgent requests.

If I am traveling, I will give notice of said travel in advance. All of our meetings still occur albeit with time zone considerations.


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