How to Ryan

Hi, welcome to the team. I’m so glad you are here at $COMPANY.

It’s going to take a solid 90 days to figure this place out. I understand the importance of first impressions, and I know you want to get a check in the win column, but this is a complex place full of equally complex humans. Take your time, meet everyone, write things down, and ask all the questions – especially about all those baffling acronyms … healthcare is full of them

One of the working relationships we need to define is ours. The following is a user guide for me and how I work. It captures what you can expect out of the average week, how I like to work, my north star principles, and some of my, uh, idiosyncrasies. My intent is to accelerate our working relationship with this document.

Our Average Week

During your first 90 days we’ll have a 1:1 every week for about 30 minutes. I try to never cancel this meeting so it might get moved around a bit. I would like to apologize for this in advance.

After 90 days I let you decide how frequently or infrequently we meet. Some people meet with me every week even after the 90 days. Some meet once a month. However, once a month is the longest I feel conformable between 1:1s.

If you are curious about the 1:1s I have with my manager I’m more than happy to tell you about their frequency and duration. I meet with my boss at least once a week for anywhere from 30 – 90 minutes. It just depends on the week.

The purpose of our meeting is to discusses topics of substance, not updates (there are other platforms for that). Sometimes they can morph into update type meetings. I’ll do my best to keep that from happening, and I ask that you do the same. I have a running list of items that I will want to discuss with you and I encourage you do have the same.

We have scrum every day unless it’s retrospective day. I act as the scrum master to help move the meeting along, but during the meeting I’m the scrum master, not the manger (I even wear a silly hat). The purpose of the scrum is to tell the team three things:

  1. What I did yesterday
  2. What I’m doing today
  3. What, if any, roadblocks I have

The scrum master will make note of the roadblocks and work to remove them as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is fast, sometimes it’s not.

Every 2 weeks we have a Sprint Retrospective and Planning session. This lasts about 90 minutes. The purpose of this meeting is to review the previous Sprint and to plan out the issues that will be worked on in the next one.

When reviewing the previous sprint we ask ourselves four questions:

  1. What did we do well?
  2. What could we have done better?
  3. What did we learn?
  4. What still puzzles us?

This is a time to be honest and constructive. If the scrum master didn’t manage the scrum well, say so. If Bob didn’t get back to you say so. If you learned an amazing new way to query the database that is more performant give a shout out.

If I am traveling or will be out of the office on PTO (yes, I take PTO and you should too once you can), I will give you notice of said travel in advance. Depending on the type of travel I may need to cancel our meeting. If it’s a weekly meeting I won’t reschedule. If it’s not weekly then I’ll reschedule for as close to the day when I’ve returned as I can.

Sometimes I work on the weekends. Sometime I work late. Unless we have a big project that you are working on and it needs to get done I don’t ask anyone else to work late or on the weekends. I want you to have a life outside of work.

North Star Principles

Humans first. I believe that happy, informed, and productive humans build fantastic products. I try to optimize for the humans. Other leaders will maximize the business, the technology, or any other number of important facets. Ideological diversity is key to an effective team. All perspectives are relevant, and we need all these leaders, but my bias is towards building productive humans.

Leadership comes from everywhere. My wife likes to remind me that I hated meetings for the first ten years of my professional career. She’s right. I’ve wasted a lot of time in poorly run meetings by bad managers. I remain skeptical of managers even as a manager. While I believe managers are an essential part of a scaling organization, I don’t believe they have a monopoly on leadership, and I work hard to build other constructs and opportunities in our teams for non-managers to lead.

It is important to me that humans are treated fairly. I believe that most humans are trying to to do the right thing, but unconscious bias leads them astray. I work hard to understand and address my biases because I understand their ability to create inequity. I am not perfect, but I try to be better today than I was yesterday. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t.

I heavily bias towards action. Long meetings where we are endlessly debating potential directions are often valuable, but I believe starting is the best way to begin learning and make progress. This is not always the correct strategy. This strategy annoys those who like to debate.

I believe in the compounding awesomeness of continually fixing small things. I believe quality assurance is everyone’s responsibility and there are bugs to be fixed everywhere… all the time.

I start with an assumption of positive intent for all involved. This has worked out well for me over my career.

Feedback Protocol

I firmly believe that feedback is at the core of building trust and respect in a team.

At $COMPANY, there is a formal feedback cycle which occurs once a year per employee.

During that formal feedback cycle (also called the Annual Review) we will discuss the previous year. There’s a form ($COMPANY loves forms). I’ll fill it out and we’ll discuss it.

This means that at anyone time I could be finishing up 5 reviews or 1.

Notice I say finishing up. I try to make the reviews I write as living documents so I can capture everything from the year, and not just everything from the last month.

If during the Annual Review you are surprised (positively or negatively) by anything, I have not done my job. Please let me know. Feedback is the only way we know we are doing something well, or not well.

I won’t assume you know what I’m thinking, and I ask that you don’t assume I know what you’re thinking.

Disagreement is feedback and the sooner we learn how to efficiently disagree with each other, the sooner we’ll trust and respect each other more. Ideas don’t get better with agreement.

Meeting Protocol

I go to a lot of meetings. In the morning scrum many times I will indicate that today I have several meetings. I don’t enumerate all of them because I don’t think everyone wants to know specifically which meetings I’m going to. If I think it’s important for the team to know, I will say, I have meeting X today. If I don’t indicate what meeting I have and you want to know, ask. If it’s not private / confidential I will tell you.

My definition of a meeting includes an agenda and/or intended purpose, the appropriate amount of productive attendees, and a responsible party running the meeting to a schedule. If I am attending a meeting, I’d prefer starting on time. If I am running a meeting, I will start that meeting on time.

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

Nuance and Errata

I am an introvert and that means that prolonged exposure to humans is exhausting for me. Weird, huh? I tend to be most active when I’m not running the meeting and there are fewer people. If I’m not running the meeting and there are many people I am strangely quiet. Do not confuse my quiet with lack of engagement.

When I ask you to do something that feels poorly defined you should ask me for both clarification and a call on importance. I might still be brainstorming. These questions can save everyone a lot of time.

I tend to be very reserved but this is not a sign that I am uninterested, it is just who I am. Every once in a while that reserved facade is cracked and I display emotions. That’s when you can tell I’m really excited about a thing (either good or bad).

During meetings in my office I will put my phone on DND and log out of my computer if we won’t be using it. If we will be using my computer I close Outlook and only have the applications open that need to be open. During meetings I will take notes on my phone. I have a series of actions programmed on my iPhone to help keep me on top of things that I need to do. Rest assured, I’m not texting anyone, or checking the next available movie time. When I am done typing a note, I will put the phone down.

Humans stating opinions as facts are a trigger for me.

Humans who gossip are a trigger for me.

I am not writing about you. I’ve been writing a blog (off an on) for a long time and continue to write. While the topics might spring from recent events, the humans involved in the writing are always made up. I am not writing about you. I try to write all the time.

This document is a living breathing thing and likely incomplete. I will update it frequently and would appreciate your feedback.

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