I yanked this template with tremendous appreciation from Amy Nguyen. I know “Manager READMEs” have become popular in recent years, but I think it’s important and valid for individual contributors to make it easy for others to engage, especially in fairly flat organizations where there are lots of temporary psuedo-reporting kind of relationships.
Having been a report, a manager, and a manager of managers, I know it can be difficult to figure out what your direct reports need. I hope this helps.
- I don’t care if you call me “Wes” or “Wesley” as long as you don’t start adding extra letters to it (“Westley”)
- Mutual respect is built on working agreements. It’s important to me to be direct with each other upfront about our work styles and our needs. I’ll go a long, long way to make sure your needs are met if you can tell me what they are.
- I talk too much. I’m eternally working on that, but as I continue, know that I’ll never take offense if you politely ask me directly to dial it back for a bit.
- Tech moves fast, and there will always be things I don’t know. Expect me to be forthcoming about that if someone asks. I hope you’ll be direct too if you don’t know something. Consultants are supposed to be experts, not expert liars.
- Consulting turns to bullshit really, really fast without some ethical backbone. If we’re trying to sell something someone doesn’t need, expect me to pitch a fit. There’s too much good work out there for anyone to sell bad work.
- I am a firm believer in “assuming positive intent,” but also a firm believer that we all have a responsibility to learn about people enough to communicate with them in a way that feels respectful to them. People can only assume anything for so long when you keep treating them the same way over and over.
- I am outgoing and energetic, and I love to socialize, but I’m still an introvert. I can happily go a lot longer without socializing than I can without some solitude.
1:1s with my manager
My relationship with my manager is most ideally a sounding board, mentor, and confidante:
- To sort through a lot of thoughts about how to improve myself, my peers, and the workplace. It helps to have someone to help reflect, fill in gaps, and prioritize.
- To discuss strategies for navigating new, challenging, or important interpersonal situations
- Not to discuss project status updates
1:1s with peers
My coworkers are brilliant! I try to be the dumbest person in the room (in something) and so I’m often surrounded by people who, just through nice conversations about anything, make me smarter by the minute. Understanding what other people see from their vantage point in the workplace, what they need to be more effective, what frustrates them, and what brings them joy inside and outside of work makes me a more effective and empathetic person across the board, and that will always be worth my time. These can be structured, but they don’t have to be. I’m happy to have 1:1 meetings with people on my engagement, but I think it’s often even more valuable to build these connections with people elsewhere in the organization too, so I can absorb some outside perspective.
I feel encouraged when people verbalize the impact I have had. The thing that brings me the most joy is making other people’s lives easier; this has has the impact of seeing me often end up on “platform” type teams, but it also lands me often in coaching roles and other helper-type situations. Knowing that I’ve made someone’s job or life easier or more enjoyable makes me feel great. I’d always rather improve a life than a piece of code (but sometimes it’s both, and that’s great too!)
I feel discouraged when work seems perfunctory or meaningless — in consulting, sometimes that means delivering work someone doesn’t actually need. An organization that cares about that enough to pivot gracefully from that situation is a non-negotiable item for me.
- I tend to stay up later than some people, so if the client allows it, I usually start my day around 10am EST and work a little later instead. This doesn’t mean I’m not always happy to be online when I’m needed, per the norms of the team I’m on.
- If circumstances are really extenuating, I’m okay to work at very late hours in an emergency. I have definitely been online until 4am working through production incidents before, and I’m much happier doing it than most people. On the other hand, unless I’m on-call, if you need me at 6am you had better tell me the day before, because my phone will not ring.
- I prefer back-to-back meetings over having small gaps between meetings.
- Asynchronous standups are (nearly) always better for me than in-person ones. Meaningful face-time is usually better had in dedicated social gatherings, afternoon groomings and other ceremonies, and pairing. Standups (when done well) are very quick, so having them written down makes it easy to go back and remember what someone is doing later on in the day.
- Let’s be honest — most people hate being on video right at the start of their day. I think video is a really great way to connect with nuance and tone, but unless it’s a client-facing meeting or something, let’s save the cameras for later in the day.
- Good meetings have agendas. Good client-facing meetings have targeted audiences and content that those audiences will find engaging. All-hands client meetings should be as short and high-level as possible, because most executives don’t like being dragged through technical demos and most engineers don’t like being dragged through business strategy meetings. Those topics are both valuable to everyone, but framing the content for the audience is really important and not optional, so split the meeting into separate audiences if you want everyone to care.
- Please feel free to drop positive feedback in my DMs, in casual conversation with the team, or in public slack any time! It makes my day when someone takes the time to tell me that I’ve done something they appreciate, and it also helps me to know what I can do more of.
- With suggestions for improvement, please bring them to me directly. I promise I’m pretty receptive to being told when I’ve missed the mark — everyone does it sometimes — but it’s difficult to build trust or to learn the needs and preferences of my colleagues when they’re communicated through a game of telephone. If the first time I hear that you have an issue with me is through someone else, I’m going to be really disappointed.
If you’ve gotten this far, that means you bothered to read this thing. If you did, I hope it feels like it’s been helpful. If you know me and think I missed something vital (or have suggestions on how I can slim this down), feel free to let me know!