The Manager's Path: the guts of chapters 4 and 5

May 16, 2017

This is part 2 of X of my summary of Camille Fournier’s “The Manager’s Path”. Part one is here.

Ch04 - Managing people

  • Build trust and rapport - ask questions to get to know the aspects of a person that will affect your ability to manage her well
  • Create a 30/60/90-day plan, so that there are clear goals to show if she’s learning the right things as she gets up to speed
  • Encourage participation through updating the new hire documentation
  • Be clear about your style and expectations
  • Get feedback from your new hire
  • Have regular 1:1s
  • Start with weekly 1:1s, and schedule them so they can actually happen!
  • Choose your 1:1 style: to-do list meeting, catch-up, feedback meeting?
  • Keep a shared doc with a running list of topics
  • If there are performance issues, feedback meetings should be happening regularly.
  • Don’t wait for the 1:1 to give feedback - and the same goes for praise
  • If you’re working closely with people, getting progress reports from them wastes time
  • Show that you care about your people as individuals
  • Mix it up
  • Delgating effectively: use the team goals to understand which details you need to dig into
  • If the progress is good, systems are stable and the product manager’s happy, you probably don’t need to dig into detail
  • Get the information from the systems before going to the people
  • Be prepared to adjust your focus as the project progresses through stages
  • Establish standards for code and systems to help the team communicate
  • Treat information sharing in a neutral to positive way, regardless of good or bad
  • Continuous feedback means regularly sharing positive AND corrective feedback
  • Improving continuous feedback: know your people, observe them, provide regular lightweight feedback, provide coaching
  • Performance reviews - they go wrong because they’re not prioritised, and people find them hard to write
  • Give yourself enough time to prepare - and that takes longer than you think
  • Try to account for the whole year, not just the last few months - use the running summary of your 1:1s
  • Use concrete examples, and excerpts from peer reviews (anonymize if needed)
  • If there isn’t a concrete example, is it something you should be communicating in a review?
  • Celebrate achievements and strengths
  • Keep improvement areas focussed: saying no to distractions? hard for others to work with? can’t balance planning with doing? don’t work well with other teams? don’t follow best practices?
  • If there’s little meaningful feedback to give, the person’s ready for promotion
  • Set expectations before the reviews are delivered
  • Make enough time to discuss the review
  • People are uncomfortable being told that they just meet expectations
  • Underperformance: coaching someone out starts long before HR gets involved in performance improvement plans
  • Don’t put someone on a performance improvement plan that you wouldn’t be happy to lose

Ch05 - Managing a team

  • Your job will require you to guide technical decision making
  • You must be seen as technically credible if you want to command respect
  • Stay in the code enough to see where the bottlenecks and performance problems are
  • You’ll need to guide what’s possible and impossible
  • Dysfunctions: not shipping - balance pushing the team and holding back
  • Dysfunctions: people drama. Be brave and stop it fast. Negative people are easier to handle than brilliant jerks. Don’t tolerate vocally negative behaviour for long
  • Dysfunctions: when people are unhappy because of overwork, you should be playing cheerleader. Learn from the crunch, and don’t to it next time
  • Dysfunctions: if the team isn’t working well, make space for social hangouts
  • Humans need context about why their goals have been set
  • Don’t pretend there isn’t any drama in the outside world
  • You’re a shield, but not a parent
  • Your teams are adults, and should be treated with respect
  • Create a data-driven culture
  • Take the time to develop customer empathy
  • Think two steps ahead, from product and technology perspective
  • Ask the product team what the future might look like
  • Review the outcome of your decisions, and run retrospectives for processes and day-to-day
  • Managing conflict: don’t rely on consensus, and take responsibility for delivering bad news
  • Use clear processes to depersonalize decisions, and ensure shared understanding of goals and risks
  • Don’t ignore simmering issues
  • Address issues without courting drama - is this an ongoing problem? Are there power dynamics at play? Are lots of people struggling?
  • Remember to be kind - not nice
  • Don’t be afraid
  • Stay curious, and be thoughtful about your behaviour
  • Team cohesion: don’t rely on the “will they stay for pizza” test
  • Your goal is psychological safety, and that starts with friendliness
  • “culture fit” often means “people I can be friendly with”
  • The brilliant jerk: creates outsized results, but is ego-driven
  • Don’t hire them in the first place, and expect it to be hard if you’ve already got one
  • Don’t tolerate bad behaviour
  • Control your own reactions - be neutral in public, and prepared to challenge in private
  • First priority is protect the team, last priority is protect yourself
  • The non-communicator: stop this behaviour as soon as possible, and address the root cause of the hiding
  • The employee who lacks respect: you can’t have them on your team if they don’t respect you
  • Project management: you’ve got 10 productive weeks per engineer per quarter
  • Allow 20% of time for generic engineering work
  • It’s your job to say “no” as deadlines approach
  • Double your quick estimates, but estimate longer tasks properly
  • Be selective about what you bring to the team to estimate