My Engineering Manager README
Manager READMEs are a good way to introduce yourself as an Engineering Manager (EM). When I transitioned into Engineering Management, I created one for me and just writing things down helped a lot to reflect on my career and learn more about myself.
EM responsibilities vary between companies, or even might be different between teams within a company, so my README is always changing. I do my best to reflect and update it at least every month. While the change is always in progress, there are few things which change very rarely, particularly my values and beliefs, and this is the part I thought to share in this post.
Disclaimer: This should not be read to in any way apply to any other group or manager at Grafana Labs, my current employer.
My Manager README serves as an introduction to what I value and believe, as well as to my operating principles. The intent however is not to replace or override the relationship and mutual understanding I build with people as we work together and you can think about it as a simple user guide for me.
Discrepancies between what is outlined in README and observed behaviour are dangerous red flags.
I am committed to continuously iterate and improve, this is why my README is always in progress.
My job and responsibilities
As an Engineering Manager, I’m accountable for:
- Setting up the team for success and autonomy, establishing and maintaining the long term vision of the team.
- Attracting and retaining a culture of learning, innovation, trust and collaboration.
- Setting and providing clear context so people could be successful, connecting the dots between the company needs and the individuals needs and maximize team member impact.
- Attracting, retaining and growing effectively performing individuals and teams.
- Mentoring individual contributors and supporting them in progressing towards their professional and personal goals and increasing our leadership capacity.
- Make sure the team delivers the highest value to our customers.
Why do I like my job?
Being an Engineering Manager helps me to become a better version of myself. It helps me to be better for my family, friends, colleagues and strangers in the street.
My personal goal
I can take a long break from work and it shouldn’t make a difference for the team, specifically, for my team member this would mean:
- They feel empowered as a human and as a leader to figure out what they need to do and they know the best way to do it and get it done.
- They have enough context to understand priorities and what they need to focus on over the long period of time.
- They have effective relationships with people in the company and know who to reach out when needed.
What do I expect from my team?
In my ideal team:
- We trust each other
- We don’t avoid conflict and learn from it
- We hold each other accountable
- We assume positive intent
- We learn together and are never afraid to ask questions
- We celebrate success together and are pragmatic about failure
- We criticize each other and help to achieve excellence in ourselves and each other
My leadership philosophy
I believe that everyone is responsible for their own destiny, personal and professional growth. I don’t have nor believe in any superior style of leadership. By default, I tend to gravitate towards:
I truly believe that collectively we achieve more than as individuals. I collaborate when I can and encourage others to collaborate with each other. I’d make a trade-off for collaboration when I see the cost of negative impact is high on our goals or on individuals.
I enjoy participating in the day-to-day activities of the team and the company. Would it be brainstorming on software development or an information sharing meeting, I try to be engaged. Not because I want to control (see what I try to avoid), but rather because participating helps me to learn and grow as a person.
Empowering and Guiding
I feel fulfilled and accomplished in my job when I am able to empower others to do their best and become their best self. I’ll tell people personal life stories, learn from my past and present and be with people when they need to. When relevant, I’d try to guide towards optimal paths and solutions.
I am intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. I tend to be impatient with the generalizations or types, because I don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about people. I will collaborate and work with people to find the optimal balance between their and companies’ needs.
Values and Ideals
I care about people. People’s happiness is my key objective. Their needs have high priority for me and while my schedule might look scary, I’ll always be available when a need arises.
I encourage my team members to make their own decision, be accountable for what they do and how they do it. I value when my team members embrace the autonomy of others.
I will tell people what I think. I am honest and compassionate about their growth, so they can expect me to tell the truth. I expect the same from others.
Now I know this is a scary word, but I do appreciate discipline. I understand that discipline is subjective, therefore people won’t hear me talking about it a lot or mentioning it somehow. I’d instead encourage and empower them to find their own discipline in work and life to maximize their effectiveness.
Trust and Safety
I believe trust is the fundamental block in the team and in personal relationships. By default I trust my team. I don’t eliminate the possibility that trust might be broken, but I truly believe we can work it out. I need to know that my team members feel safe at work and their safety is number one priority for me. I’ll do everything to make sure that their minimum needs are met for them to feel safe.
What disappoints me?
As mentioned above, I believe that everyone is responsible and accountable for their own work, professional and personal growth. While I believe that we can figure out together most of the problems, there are few things that have a high chance of disappointing me.
Hiding the truth
I expect people to tell me the truth, would it be a criticism of me or the status of a project they are working on. If this happens, I can tolerate one or two times, however I’d expect them to work on changing that and not doing it anymore.
Lack of accountability
I tend to not tolerate finger pointing or blaming others. If someone did not put their whole self on something, I’d appreciate it if they can be self-aware and understand where things went off from their own perspective.
I don’t expect everyone to be busy all the time. I am very skeptical about idle time and I’d hope that people make themselves accountable for spending time effectively (if running, walking or watching a movie makes that happen, let it be).
I am a big fan of processes. I used to not like them, but eventually came to the conclusion that processes are needed, but they can be done badly. I still avoid processes that:
- Are inconsistently applied and not repeatable
- Are not documented and clearly communicated
- Can’t be defended or that actively works against our goals or individuals needs
I expect my team members work to be visible somehow. This is to have a holistic view over the team’s progress and availability. I do capacity planning and I am responsible for delivery, not knowing what my team is working on is the ultimate danger which puts my responsibilities at danger.
I give feedback as real-time as possible and would appreciate it if others do the same. I prefer to receive feedback in private and candid/compassionate feedback is the best I could ask for.
Not in any universe would someone’s feedback impact our relationship and their work.
I believe that recreation is essential for creation. I do not expect people to perform exceptionally well all the time. However, I do expect my team members to perform exceptionally regularly. Performance for me is what they deliver, what impact it has and how you work with people (your peers), and when this does not happen in a way we agreed in advance for a long period, I tend to think about it as a red signal. By default I work to recover from performance issues and I believe people can work together to overcome that.
- I really like writing and I write a lot. I prefer writing over speaking and expect me to default to writing whenever I can.
- I bring philosophy to work. I might come up with weird connections and have meta talks. You should let me know if this distracts you, but technology and its impact on our life makes it very hard not to start philosophically.
- I am obsessed with the idea that people need to volunteer. Since I don’t control and dictate, it is essential for me to see people not being afraid to speak up and take responsibilities.I really dislike indifference.
- I can’t tolerate distractions and I truly believe that distractions are the enemy in our modern world. I’d prefer my team members to shut down Slack all day long and focus on what they are good at (writing software) compared to being distracted every minute.
- I read a lot of SciFi and Fantasy. Trying to shift away a bit and trying a lot of different content. I read in “bursts” and like to finish a book during the weekend.
- I like writing a lot. I want to become a professional writer one day. My dream is to retire and write. Typically I write in my native language (Armenian). I write about everything and that is my problem.
- I am a huge fan of coffee :) Not making, but drinking. I tend to try all new hipster coffees available and in trend.
- I dedicate the rest of my available time to my family.
And that was me!