Guiding Principles & Quirks

Person holding a compass

We often spend more time with our colleagues than with our friends and family. Yet more often than not, we don’t really understand our co-workers — because being honest with one another can be scary.

I originally wrote this article to serve as a written reference for myself to a conversation I have with co-workers when we first begin working together. The document is company agnostic; I hope that it helps form more effective working relationships. Below is a collection of my guiding principles and a couple of quirks about me.


Leadership comes from everywhere. No one should have a monopoly on leadership. I strive to build constructs and opportunities in our teams for anyone interested in leading effectively. No one person should hold all the keys; redundant systems are far superior.

People first. Happy, informed, and productive people build fantastic products. Treat everyone fairly. Start with the assumption of positive intent for all involved.

A heavy bias towards action. Long meetings where we endlessly debate possible directions can sometimes be valuable — however — starting is the best way to begin learning and make progress.

There’s immense value in the compounding awesomeness of continually fixing little things. The caveat is that fixing little things is not always particularly rewarding. Quality is everyone’s responsibility, and there are issues and processes to be fixed everywhere. If you encounter something that seems broken or a system that doesn’t seem quite right, consider spending time — if available — investigating the problem.

An optimized calendar for the time to think and plenty of space for ad hoc 1-on-1 conversations. Busy is the kryptonite to deep thinking, and spending time in deep thought leads to better decisions. For this, I may ask whether I am needed in a group meeting.

Feedback

Straight-talk is my favorite means of communication. Feel free to bring up any mistakes I’ve made. Feedback is at the core of building trust and respect. The most opportune time to provide and receive feedback is during 1-on-1. However, I am always available to talk.

We’ll have 1-on-1s on a regular cadence. During 1-on-1s, we’ll talk a lot about feedback, worries, and your personal and professional goals. This is a time to discuss topics of substance, not updates. For my colleagues, my calendar is publicly visible. Therefore feel free to schedule a 1-on-1 whenever you’d like.

Communication

Minimizing the number of group meetings necessary is a passion of mine. The goal is to allow for plenty of time for thinking as well as spontaneous conversations.

The definition of a good meeting includes an agenda and intended purpose, the appropriate amount of productive attendees, and a responsible party running the meeting to a schedule. Starting a meeting on time is the respectful thing to do. If you send a presentation, proposal, or story a reasonable amount of time ahead, I will read it before the meeting and have my questions ready.

If a meeting completes its intended purpose before it’s scheduled to end, best to give the time back to everyone. If it’s clear we won’t achieve the intended goal in the allotted time, let’s end the conversation before time is up and determine how to finish the meeting later.

Please default to always adding me to emails (cc, or forward) and documents. This will me understand your needs and the team’s needs, which will increase the chances I can be helpful.

When you see someone doing a stellar job, please don’t hesitate to share with that person’s manager and me.

Quirks

I take lots of notes, mostly due to faulty memory. Writing everything down helps me recall it at a later date. This helps me ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

I am not the best ‘on the fly,’ and prefer to carefully digest thoughts, ideas, and proposals by giving them the time and attention they deserve. If you want to meet to get on the same page of something I haven’t thought of before, I probably will have very little useful to say.

I am not shy to say ‘I don’t know’ when that is indeed the case. I expect the people I interact with to do the same; it is much better to ask for clarification than make wrong assumptions.

I ask a lot of questions. This is the most effective way I can think about a problem without jumping to conclusions.

If you think something is off, or heard rumors, please ask me immediately. I will share everything I can.

Opinions stated as facts tend to perk my attention. At which point, I may begin asking for supporting evidence.

Honesty and follow-through are vital for an effective environment.

Thank you, Michael Lopp, for heavily inspiring me to write the above

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