Personal README: Manager Edition

In the beginning of my career I learned that the most important relationship to build at any job is between my manager and I. A good manager can make up for a bad company, but a good company cannot make up for a bad manager.

Nowadays I select or reject places to work based on who I report to. Even after I find a good manager, though, some calibration is often necessary. Managers don’t magically know the optimal way to work with every one of their reports. On top of that, managers change over time as they gain responsibilities and headcount. Other times I’ve had a change of manager because of a promotion, a new hire, a company reorg, etc.

It isn’t perfect, but I’ve started sending a personal README to my new manager anytime I have one (new job or otherwise).

Here’s my most recent revision…


Hello! I’m excited to be part of the team and I’m looking forward to making an impact at ${COMPANY}. Thanks for bringing me on board!

Of all the exciting things that come with starting at a new job, I care most about my working relationship with my manager (yes, that’s you!).

I’m excited to have you as a thought partner and as a coach to assist with the projects to come. You should know that I respect and admire you, and that you are a major factor in my decision to work here. Thank you!

To help you help me, I’ve put together a guide that goes through some of my principles, how I work, and the way that I think.

Communication 💬

Our top priority is to ensure that we understand each other. I recommend that we practice:

Miscommunication is a huge pet peeve of mine, I want to avoid it as much as possible.

Candor 🙊

I always try to be polite but if I feel the need to speak plainly then I often do. I expect and trust you to be candid with me.

Explicitness 🎯

Try not to assume that we always have the same context. This is true while I’m ramping up and onboarding, but it extends beyond as well.

I try to seek out the information I need to be able to do my job, but don’t hesitate to share even seemingly obvious information with me.

Over-Communication 📢

Contrary to how the software adage goes, please do repeat yourself. This is the easiest way to make sure that we are in sync. Repetition is not a sin!

Work 💼

Here are a some things to know about how I work on a day-to-day basis:

Written Preference 🖊

I prefer communication through email or chat as opposed to talking in-person or on a call. I’m more effective when I have a paper trail and when I have latency available to process information.

If you need to tell me something important then please send it to me in writing.

Pragmatism 🏭

In another life I would have pursued a career in plumbing, but not because I know more about pipes than the average person. Instead, I can find inspiration in working on boring things.

I’m better at improving things that already exist than I am at building from a blank canvas.

Compartmentalization 👔

I must set hard boundaries around when/where I start/stop work. I have an addictive personality and I tend to need time to think, which often leads me to work longer.

It’s critical that I limit how much I work so that I can stay off the path to burnout.

Thinking 💭

You don’t need to know everything about how I think but here are some tips anyway:

(END)

Thanks for reading! Let me know if this was helpful to you and how you would improve it. I’m looking forward to doing great work with you.

Charlie


I’ve kept this as a private document for a while, but I decided to make it public for others to draw inspiration from and to review.

If you’re reading this as an engineering manager then let me know if you think is kind of practice is helpful. Similarly, if you report to an engineering manager then let me know if you have tried something like this and if/how it helped you.