Why I stopped using Manager READMEs and no longer recommend them

Back in 2017, I was a year into my second management job and didn’t feel like my onboarding practices were at their best. I’d introduce myself, have a little bit of time with the new person, and then I’d start them on their journey learning about the company, their team, and specific projects. They’d have lots of questions, but they might wait to ask me until our next regularly scheduled meeting. We could go weeks before I even heard some of their low-priority but high-impact questions — the things that are often observed over time, but benefit from explicit discussion. That category of question includes:

  • How soon can I take time off?
  • When should I start or end my workday?
  • How would you like me to communicate status about my projects?

I heard about this “Manager README” thing on the Rands Leadership Slack and thought it could be THE solution to this problem, but in hindsight I don’t think it ever was.

Continue reading “Why I stopped using Manager READMEs and no longer recommend them”

You don’t need to blog to practice your writing

I started writing this blog in 2015 about a year after I began my management career. I wrote a few pieces a year, then one piece a year, and then nothing all year long. I love to write, but I find it difficult to make the time to write the words, then to edit and re-write the words, and to consider whether it will still find an audience after all that, and to actually publish. In contrast, I write constantly at work, which is similar to my approach to public speaking. I still strive for accuracy and successful communication, but the stakes for getting the words exactly right are lower: I can follow up on questions, corrections, and expanded analyses. In this post, I’ll share how I’ve used my love of writing as a light-weight method of building connection with my team and practicing my written communication.

Continue reading “You don’t need to blog to practice your writing”

Practice your public speaking with internal company events

Whether you’re trying to inform, influence, or ask questions to improve your understanding, communicating ideas succinctly is the most important skill for tech workers. In this post, I’ll share how I’ve practiced my public speaking through internal company opportunities, leveraging higher degrees of psychological safety, with the hopes of improving my public speaking for future conference talks. I’ll share my step-by-step checklist for creating your own opportunities as well, should an existing venue not yet exist. Want to skip ahead to the checklist? Click here!

Continue reading “Practice your public speaking with internal company events”

Avoiding Mistakes with your Manager README

NOTE: I no longer recommend writing a Manager README at all. Click through to read why.

It’s been over a year since I wrote about my version of Manager READMEs and it’s been great to see READMEs and discussions about them crop up all over the internet. I shared some tips about successfully sharing information through documents on Twitter and here I’ll apply them to a Manager README to help you avoid some common pitfalls that can lead the document to hurt more than it helps.

As a reminder, my intent of a Manager README had two parts:

  1. Share expectations
  2. Build trust

A year later, I think it’s better to focus on the recipient’s value of this document, hence this new and improved intent:

  1. Share expectations to reduce their anxiety
  2. Build trust as they get to know you
Continue reading “Avoiding Mistakes with your Manager README”

[Update: Don’t] Share your Manager README

NOTE: I no longer recommend writing a Manager README. Click through to read why.

As a manager, on-boarding is both tough and really important whether you’re joining a team or they’re joining yours. My very short list for on-boarding in either direction is:

  1. Share expectations
  2. Build trust
Continue reading “[Update: Don’t] Share your Manager README”

Expectations Should Not be Kept to Yourself

I’ve been watching Sex and the City with my wife. I’d gotten her to watch a lot of other shows of my choosing: Breaking Bad, The Wire, Justified, and I thought I’d try something from her corner of the television universe. We blasted through all six seasons, alternating between HBO Go and the (very large) pink album of the complete series sitting on our shelf when our internet crapped out. We watched the first movie last night. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from that show, and most of them are of the “What not to do” sort.

[Spoiler alert!]

Last night, Carrie and Big were arguing about the size and impact of their nuptials.

Big angrily shouted “200 people! Page 6! Do you know how that makes me look?”

I shouted back at the TV (I do that): “No, because you don’t communicate your feelings with Carrie!”

In fairness, Carrie isn’t good at that either, but that brings me to my point: communication is key. Continue reading “Expectations Should Not be Kept to Yourself”