My leadership readme/operating manual

Agile Teams - Karen Smiley

My leadership README (‘operating manual’)

This file was inspired by Lara Hogan’s blog and a manager job posting I saw which requested a link to a manager-README, if available, in lieu of a cover letter. My search found a lot of people who have created them, and showed that:

What do you think?

My Leadership Philosophy

Success to me lies in helping my team and colleagues succeed. I love helping people to grow and achieve their goals - and am always happy to talk through values and goals if you’re not sure about yours.

For my teams, treating everyone with respect is mandatory. Inclusion - fostering a sense of belonging for everyone - is expected. I believe that:

I assume everyone knows something I don’t or is better than me at something, and that I also have something to offer everyone. I do my best to be caring, honest but kind, and empathetic with others.

My answers to “first 1:1 questions”

What makes you grumpy?

Finding out that someone I trusted has broken that trust, or not been honest with me.

Running a long streak of sleep deficits, which I strive to avoid (big believer in the agile principle of Sustainable Pace, so I try to model it).

I can get antsy if it’s been too long since I’ve been challenged by learning or doing something new, whether hard skill or soft skill.

How will I know when you’re grumpy?

I’ll usually say something like “I’ve had better days” when you ask me how I am. (If the broken trust is between us, I’ll bring up the concern in a private 1-1 as quickly as possible.)

How can I help you when you’re grumpy?

Share something positive or make me laugh :)

How do you like feedback - slack, email, in person, etc?

I like getting feedback ‘in person’ (interactively) so that we can clarify mutual understanding more quickly, especially if it’s negative. Having either in writing is good too because it gives me an accurate record to revisit later and reflect upon; I’ll probably write my own notes if it’s just verbal.

How do you like feedback - routine like in 1:1s, or as-it-happens?

As-it-happens is definitely better. I understand though that sometimes ‘calling me in’ in the moment won’t be comfortable or appropriate, so any time or at a routine 1-1 is fine too; sooner is better.

How do you prefer to receive recognition? (public or private)

Either is fine. Public is great if it won’t make someone else uncomfortable. 🎉

What makes 1:1s the most valuable for you?

In 1:1 with a member of my team, hearing what’s on their mind - what’s going well, what isn’t, and why - and exploring together what options we have for making things better. Making sure my team knows that holding time and space for them is a high priority for me.

In 1:1 with my manager, or a skip level, getting a better understanding of how the environment around us is affecting my role, my team, and my colleagues. Knowing that they care enough about me and my role on their team to hold time for me (especially when we need to talk about impediments that are impacting my team) in their busy schedule.

What are your goals - for this year, and for the next 3 months?

My current goal is to transition successfully into a new management role with a culture I can build and thrive in, and a mission I believe in that helps me make more of a difference in the world. I will set new 3-month goals once I’m in that role.

What do you need from your manager?

Big-picture guidance on objectives and priorities; trust and autonomy to meet challenges and solve problems and lead; and occasionally, support on escalation for a big impediment that’s impacting my team. Mentorship and advice on my own growth is always appreciated, from my manager or from others.

What do you need from your team?

Honest, respectful communications. Acting with integrity. Openness and desire to keep learning and growing. Uplifting your teammates.

What do you need from your peers? (outside the team)

Openness and collaboration in the spirit of us all being ‘on the same team’ and working towards shared goals, regardless of whether we report to the same higher-up.

For folks who report to me

My expectations

In general, I’d rather you over-communicate with me than under-communicate. Please reach out and tell me if anything ever feels off or is adversely affecting you. If you’re under pressure, or juggling too many things, or facing an unsustainable pace to meet a deadline, or feeling like you don’t belong, let’s talk.

There’s a balance between always handling even big issues yourself, and always asking for help for the smallest things. Please don’t struggle alone with a challenge and then surprise me with the bad news at the last minute that a commitment won’t be met. We can only solve or mitigate problems together, or escalate issues to get timely help from others, if you clue me in - earlier is always better. If it’s something I think you should handle on your own, I’ll coach you on doing that, to help you grow :)

Keep your calendar up to date and let people know ahead of time if you need to change a commitment or your availability. Changes are fine; we all need to extend grace to each other, especially now with COVID-19 disruptions to our lives - just don’t leave people hanging. (Of course, emergencies are another matter - and if someone misses a commitment with you, please assume positive intent in addressing it.)

What you can expect of me as your manager

A weekly 1:1 (unless we decide on a different cadence) where we’ll work on challenges, goals, and priorities to support you and play to your strengths, and any feedback you may have for me will be discussed then as well (if not in-the-moment). As part of our 1-1s, I hope we’ll connect as humans to whatever degree feels best for you.

In weekly team meetings (unless we decide on a different cadence), I will share wider context and ask you to share with the team.

In whatever team communications portal or tool(s) we use, I’ll share (and expect you all to share) information relevant to the team, between meetings.

You should always feel free to initiate a chat or call or message with me. I’ll answer or respond as quickly as possible (it might not be right away if I’m in a meeting, on another call, or in a hard-blocked ‘focus time’ slot). If it’s urgent, text me instead of using email. I expect us to talk more than once or twice a week!

I’ll do my best to always listen and hear your feedback. I want you to feel comfortable and safe doing so, because it is the biggest gift you can give me to help me improve and grow, and to help the team succeed as a whole. When I make mistakes or wrong decisions, or you see a blind spot, please come to me and explain why it’s a mistake or wrong, or make me aware of it. I will listen, and I will do my best to fix it.

I will try to ‘walk the talk’ - to do myself what I encourage you to do: be open to feedback and continual improvement, be respectful and inclusive of everyone, model healthy work-life balance, and avoid burnout. I’ll probably slip up from time to time.

My goal will always be clear, kind, honest communication. If you ever feel unsure of what I “really” think, let me know so we can get on the same page.

Learning and Growth

Human learning and growth requires the right amount of four things: new challenges, low ego, space to reflect and brainstorm, and timely and clear feedback. How are these four going for you? Is there one you need more or less of?

I need to give these some thought and come back to them after my new role is settled.

What’s your favorite way to treat yourself?

You’ve read this far … was this helpful, or no? What else would you like to know?