TL;DR: Software Engineering Manager README
I wrote down a few rules for myself, which I follow when working with my teams. The process of putting it on a paper helped me organise, prioritise, and clarify a couple of things, and I’m happy I did that. Not sure if you will find it helpful, but I felt it is worth sharing my experience.
— If you are reading this and are currently a part of my team, please use it as a guide and let’s talk about it next time we have a chance! I would love to hear your feedback and see how we can make it better.
- Work for my team and help them.
- Provide the right work/life balance (more about this later).
- Stay out of the team’s way to let them do amazing things.
- Lead by example.
- Do my job the best I can.
- Bring the right amount of process vs. creative freedom.
- Ultimately render myself redundant.
What do I expect from my team?
- Don’t seek to please me. Do what is best for the company.
- Be part of the #oneteam, be one team.
- Always do the right thing.
- Take full ownership, extreme ownership.
- Aim to assist, especially when providing feedback.
- If you believe something is wrong — speak up.
- Ask for help when you need it.
A little bit more on expectations…
- The team makes decisions
We are not running an adult daycare, and I believe people and teams are capable of making hard decisions for the company’s good. Ask yourself if your choice helps the business and doesn’t screw up the team. I don’t want to be a bottleneck that has to approve decisions made by people closer to the problem. Just keep me in the loop so I know where to help.
- Good judgment is a solution for almost any ambiguous problem.
We should always aim to remove uncertainty from our lives and projects, but it is often impossible. Good judgment is the key, and it comes from our past experiences and talking to your colleagues. Use all the available options to choose the right path.
- Extreme ownership
If you don’t have enough information — ask. If something goes wrong — speak up. If you strongly disagree with the direction — provide feedback. Own the tasks and make sure you do them the best you can. Your responsibility doesn’t end when you re-assigned the ticket to someone else. Make sure things get done.
Behave as #oneteam, and you look after yourself and people within your team. That doesn’t mean you have to hand-hold them… Just be open, cooperative and offer help when you feel it will add value. Aim to assist even if you are not an expert or something is not officially part of your job.
- Lead up and down
It’s all about communication, and anybody can be a leader, no official title is needed. Communicate well with people you are responsible for, make sure they’ve got everything they need to get the job done. Lead up, filter information and adjust your communication style. Provide enough details, explain intentions and decisions, and seek help if the team needs it.
- Don’t be afraid to look stupid
Ask questions if you don’t understand the task, context, direction or decisions. If you don’t understand it, it means someone failed to communicate it well. It is likely others around you feel the same but are afraid to ask (to look stupid).
- Celebrate failure.
If you take risks, you will fail, and that’s important for innovation and growth. When it happens, it is crucial to review what went wrong and share it with a broader audience to learn from our mistakes. Be open about your failures and celebrate them.
- When you see I did something wrong — tell me!
When I’m not following my own rules, call me out! I won’t get upset, and if I do, that’s my problem and something I have to work on.
- All meetings are optional by default.
If the meeting doesn’t bring you any value — don’t attend.
If you can’t bring any value to the meeting — don’t attend.
If the meeting has no agenda— do not attend.
Just make sure the organiser knows about it :)
- 1–1 meetings?
Don’t waste it to talk about projects, you will have plenty of time to do so throughout the week. It’s your time and you decided how it is going to be used. Ask questions, raise concerns, ask for help if you need it and offer help if you feel like. This is your opportunity to talk about anything you want, especially if it can make your life at work a easier.
A bit more on work/life balance…
- We are humans first. Always.
- I don’t have Slack or emails installed on my personal devices, neither should you.
- I do take holidays and never take my company laptop with me, neither should you.
- I don’t work in the evening or at weekends, neither should you.
It can only happen in the light of an emergency, and if I ask, it means I had no other choice. You should claim back your time the week after.
- If you need time off, say it! I don’t need a lengthy explanation why.
- We are not paid by the # of slacks messages or emails sent. These are very often disruptors, and I want you to maintain your focus time.
- Block your calendar for lunch, evenings and define as a team “no meeting” zones to give you maximum time for focus.
Quirks about me worth noting…
- I will say “no” that doesn’t mean I don’t care.
“No” is an invitation to negotiation and means “I don’t have enough information”, “You need to explain it”, “WHY is missing”. I have to juggle many priorities, and in time of stress and overload, you might hear “no” instead of me asking questions to clarify the things you should explain in the first place.
- If I’m quiet, something is wrong.
It likely means that I have too much to say, and I would rather to stay quiet. Occasionally, it might also mean I’m still learning and I have nothing valuable to add. Once it’s sorted out in my head, I will come back to you and explain what’s on my mind.
- Sometimes I will talk too much.
Please, stop me! When I excited and ideas are bubbling in my head, I will talk fast, a lot, and start repeating essential things. I’m working hard on this, but please kick me if I do that and you feel overwhelmed!
- Don’t tell me how to do my job.
When you tell me how I should do my job, I will get upset. It means you don’t trust me. Instead, let me know what results you expect, and I will surely overdeliver on your expectations.
- More to be added here…