Improving how we work together drives me. In the interest of kickstarting that process, I wrote a user guide for me, which I’ll often share with team members who start reporting to me. I stole this doc, sometimes word-for-word, from here, on a recommendation from Paul Maiorana.
This doc captures how I like to work, my north star principles, and some of my, uh, nuance.
North Star Principles
This is a constant WIP.
Own your experience, trust your experience: If something matters to you personally, it matters. That means your reactions, gut feelings and concerns are worth voicing. At the same time, they are yours – they may not reflect the organization, team or our customers. This means I say things like “I am worried about X” a lot – I voice the concern, and I own it as mine.
Err towards: independence, action & communication: Other people are not always available. To be effective, I try to do as much as possible by myself and get around blockers in creative ways. To avoid silos, I communicate what I’ve done and I share my work in progress. More in this post from Simon Ouderkirk.
Make clear requests and commitments – be kind and direct, but don’t optimize for ‘polite’: This is my variation of ‘I will never pass up on an opportunity to help out a colleague’. I am often working with folks who have great big ideas and think ‘wouldn’t it be great if’ often. That can lead to struggle in prioritizing and executing (imo). To get better at this, I try to make clear requests of others, ask for clarification when something is being implicitly asked of me, and give clear responses to those requests. Sometimes, the kindest thing to do is directly say no to someone’s request. This feels awkward and doesn’t always seem polite, but if it’s kind and direct, I believe it’s likely the right thing to do.
Be curious: Working with diverse, passionate people means an imbalance of context mixed with strong opinions, and when shared openly, that can lead to conflict. The general attitude I take is one of always learning and teaching – I share what I know and how I got there, and I aim to be open to a new perspective that might change that view point. One could also call this ‘participation’ – engaging actively with what’s going on around you by asking questions and trying to find out more.
Actively take responsibility for what is yours (and not what isn’t): There are a lot of things that are mine – my time, my education / knowledge, my relationships with others, my energy, my focus, my priorities – and I have a lot of agency around how these things are managed, and how well they’re serving me. There are a lot of things that aren’t mine – others’ priorities, other’s time, others’ focus – and I don’t have agency over those. I find that when I own the things that are mine, I am more effective, and happier. If something is not mine (ex: another team’s roadmap), I try to avoid depending on it. If something that isn’t mine is getting in the way of something that matters to me, I look at the things that are mine that I could adapt to accomplish my goal.
I strongly value flexibility and being people-focused, and I find that I as a person like some standards and routines. These include:
- I keep a schedule that’s roughly 9-to-5, and where I work changes to suit my needs. I enjoy my home office and local coffee shops most.
- I have a weekly cadence for meetings, including checking-in with anyone who reports to me and with the projects or teams I’m involved in.
- I am generally not available for work ‘after hours’, though anyone is welcome to message me. They will likely get a reply back the next day.
- I do not work on weekends. This is my choice. I do not expect that others are going to work on the weekend, but that is their choice. I will not respond to pings on the weekend.
- I take vacations. You should, too.
I also believe everything is an experiment and people matter the most. We may decide a different routine works better for a certain team, project or bit of work, and I welcome suggestions on how to improve.
I am an introvert and that means that prolonged exposure to humans is exhausting for me, and I will always make time for people who report to me if they need or want something.
When I ask you to do something that feels poorly defined, you should ask me for both clarification and a call on importance. These questions can save everyone a lot of time.
When I ask you for something that feels too prescriptive, that you disagree with, or where it seems like I might have a specific idea that I’m not telling you, call me on this and ask for what you need.
I am a writer by nature and I communicate with lots of words. I also enjoy speaking, and I will not be offended if you interrupt me.
Humans stating opinions as facts bothers me.
I believe human beings are emotional creatures who sometimes think, and I am no exception. I welcome feelings – my own and those of the people around me – as useful information about what’s going on with a person and what they need. I aim to share what I am feeling openly.