Back to Calibrate

How to Rands

Michael Lopp
VP of Engineering

In this talk, we’ll walk through the process of setting expectations with your new hires on your team via a MANAGER README. Come learn how to make the first 90 days of your new hire’s life less painful.

We work in is that, can you hear me? Whoo. Can you hear me in the back row? Raise your hands if I'm worried about it. Okay. Again, because I'm a low talker. Before we get started on this strange talk how many of you are currently. Manager. Wait, how many of you current managers? Hands up. Okay. Target demographic.

Sweet. How many have you been managers for? Zero to three years. Years. Three to five, five or more? Okay. Thank you. I am now calibrated. Get it. Okay, here we go. You're sitting down. You are so about four months ago. Open direct. I need to hire someone. So I wrote the rec, well, what the job description went and begged the CFO to actually go ahead and approve the right.

I opened it. I posted it. We interviewed about 50 people. First round interviews, 50 people. It costs me about 50. You got about 30. And for first round we did another round. It was 10 folks. We got down to one person about two weeks ago, three weeks ago. And then we argued about the negotiation for the offer and they accepted and they started and you started and you're here now.

I'm so happy Pete, that you're here. Welcome to the company. It's going to take a good solid year, sorry, quarter to figure this place out this company that you're at now, this brand new company, I understand the importance of first impressions, and I know you want to get a win. In the chat. I got to check in the win column, but this place is full of humans that are complex in that complex organization.

Take your time to meet everyone. Hi Benji, meet everyone. Go to every meeting, write things down, ask all of the questions about all those confusing acronyms and emoji. Word of warning. There was this period of time that happens in every new hire cycle. And it's going to happen with you because you just got here.

I'm so glad you're here. I call it the dip of display starts right here. Cause you're here on the first day and you're like, what is this guy talking about? He's kind of high energy. He's got a lot of things to say, everything's going to be perfect for about another 30 days. It's the honeymoon. You haven't let us down.

We haven't let you down. It's the honeymoon. It's so perfect. You're like, this is great. I love working at the company. Everything's great. And my 45 days, and this is what's going to happen. You're gonna be like, Let's fall cap here, but this is not what I stood up. This is not what I signed up for. And it's despair because you were at the honeymoon and you come down to this state of realizing like, oh, they were humans, we're doing things.

And that's what everyone's doing. And this there's special parts, but it's kind of a let down. This is not a rational state. Every time that a manager comes to me and says, oh my gosh, we've got a problem with Alan here. I'm like, how long has Alan been here? And she says, he's been here 45 days. I say, don't talk to me for another 45 days or so, because what's going to happen.

And why we're talking about like today is getting to this very sweet state, this steady state. Of what the job is, and it takes about 90 days or so. And my job as your manager is to get you there as quickly as possible. One way that we can do this is by quickly defining our relationship. The following is a user guide for you on how I work.

It captures what my intent is to accelerate you through the day, the dip of despair. These are expectations that I have of myself. Not necessarily of you. We talk about three things. I want to talk your average week. My north star principals. What happens when I run into a decision? What can you expect me to do?

Based on what I value and then nuance and erotic rata. I should've looked that up. Or this should be titled. I'm kind of weird. I have quirks as we all do so our first week is going to be this one day. I will die. It'll be sad, but on the tombstone, we'll say brands, lop, Michael, whatever your name is loving father, a loving father.

Great dad. Loves one-on-ones has them every week, 30 minutes, no matter what I am deeply deeply I've loved. One-on-ones they're incredibly important to me. My job as, and one of my jobs as a manager is to build a credible cyst critical credible signal network. And the organism and our one-on-one, which happens 30 minutes every week, no matter what, it's a time to do that.

We're not going to be talking about status here. There's a million tools. There's a parade of tools like slack, where you can, I can go get status. That's why those tools exist. They generate status for me to go consume. I can look at JIRA. I can look at slack and you know, these other tools, why in the world would we spend this 30 minutes talking about anything other than matters of substance?

What matters of substance. Good idea. Good question. What we're going to do, you already have is as a channel, as a private slack channel between you and I, and in that channel, it's not frequent discussion. It's just our running list of everything that we want to talk about. And anytime you have an idea, or I have an idea we just posted in there bullet idea, which means we have things every week that we can talk about.

This thing is making some noises. It's okay. I'm gonna move over here and see what it's that's better. Okay. Similar to the one-on-one. We have a staff meeting 60 minutes every week, no matter what, we start with a delicious appetizer of metrics. It's delicious. Some version of metrics, recruiting, reliability, performance, any number set of things.

We're going to spend 15 minutes as with you and your peers. And I going over some piece of metrics every single week, rotating through it, looking at the metrics, having a discussion, seeing how it compared to the last time we saw it digging in. So assigning action on it, like one-on-one we are going to have conversations of substance again.

What are the things that are affecting all of engineering, big, huge topics. There's a shared document for this, which is a Google doc could be a slack channel. If you want to do it for all of us, we can go and do exactly the same thing we do in the one-on-ones. If you have a question, do you want to talk with something that's not when a one-on-one, but in the team, you're going to put it in here.

My definition of a meeting. Because there's an agenda and, or a published agenda and or intended purpose, and the appropriate amount of productive attendees also are responsible party running the meeting too. Schedule. That sounds delicious. If you send me a deck beforehand and give me enough time, I will always read the deck.

It is absurd to me when I'm sitting in a meeting and they sent out the deck the night before and they read me at the deck. I will read the deck. And if I don't do it, I will tell you, we should be able to jump into that meeting. Whether there's a deck that you sent me into page seven, when I started having questions, meetings, start on time for a reason.

I work at this other company many years ago, it rhymes with Snapple and it Snapple. Every meeting started 10 minutes late. And we all thought that was kind of cute and I'm sure what happened many, many years ago with someone important, didn't kept on showing up to a meeting 10 minutes late and it became Snapple standard time.

And it was just cool. It was fine. It was okay to waste. Everyone's time who arrived there on time with meetings with me, if I'm there, I would like them to start on time, even if everyone's not there yet. If I'm running that meeting. I will start that meeting on time sometimes by myself. Yeah. Rockwood. You walk in and I'm talking to go, buddy, but you won't do it again.

The meaning completes its intended purpose. Before we're done. Let's stop. Let's give the time back to everyone and move on to the next thing. If it's clear 25 minutes into a 30 minute meeting, we are nowhere close to done. Let's stop. Let's say we're not going to get this done right now. Let's schedule the meeting to follow on.

Don't run over respect. Everyone's time, give people time to get to the next meeting.

My calendar is public for a reason. It's a small little thing, but everything on my account, I'd share my putt calendar. There are some meetings which are private. They have to be private. If you would like to ask me at them about them, I will tell you to the best of my ability. If there's some times I can't tell you when I see a private calendar of a manager or an executive, I, I know why they're doing it, but it's a power play and it creates distress because 80% of what I'm doing should be visible to the rest of the world.

And that's why I run with a public calendar. And again, if you have a question about it, if there's something which is like, what is that going on, meeting? What's the title of that? I will tell you. Feedback and our company, the company, there's a formal feedback cycle. Every six months. We'll have a formal feedback session.

You'll get a document from me about a month before, a couple of weeks before which we'll say. Hey, this is what I've observed. We don't have OTRs yet. Cause you just started welcome aboard is that, but we will have go through OKR is objectives and key results and we'll have a conversation. It's a draft when I send it to you.

The idea is that we have a meaty conversation it's not done yet. We should have a conversation about that at the company, we use OKR, OKR, central objectives, and key results, a goal, and how we're going to measure it. And it gets really wound up about. The religion around  people. There were a tool they're not a religion.

It's just a means of having a structured conversation. Different parts of our company may be using them in different ways that may frustrate you, but everyone is going to apply the tool as they see fit to their culture and what they need to get done.

Feedback is a practice that we'll practice at the end of this, our first one-on-one, I'm going to say something I'm going to say, do you have any feedback for me? And in the history of ever, no one has ever said anything. They're like, Nope, that was great. You talk a lot.

next one on one week later, 30 minutes at the end, I'll say, do you have any feedback for me? You're like, Nope. Still going to one next one. It's next one. Next one you are going to realize after weeks of me saying the same thing that I'm willing to keep doing this. And at some point you're going to say, okay that, that all hands you were just not on, you were off.

I don't know why I'm like, thank you in that moment. We've done something amazing. We built just a smidge of trust. Trust is not one thing that I'm can do. It's 6,000 things I do over the course of the next six weeks. Months to build trust with you. Feedback is one of the best ways actually go and do this.

We're going to practice this a lot. Our goal is to disagree. Disagreement is feedback, and the sooner we learn to efficiently disagree, the sooner we're going to trust each other and respect each other more ideas do not get better with agreement. They get better when you disagree with me. That'd be Q and a.

You can do it all over there. Okay. Speed round. You can slack me 24 7. I like responding quickly. It's my great joy. It's a problem. I am not expecting this of you. I am not expecting this of you, but I like to do this. It's one of the things I love to do. I travel a bunch. If I'm traveling, I will give you notice of said travel in advance.

I will tell you when I'll be in the office, when I won't be in the office. Same thing as the calendar, all of our meetings will occur. I'll be it with time zone considerations and jet lag nightmares. I love my job, but I don't love my job. I usually quit, which means I like working on weekends. I like it.

Cause I like what I do. This is my choice. Do not read anything into me, working on weekends about what you are choosing to do with your time on weekends. I do not expect you to work on weekends unless you want to. It's your choice. I might slack you things and unless it says urgent and it's Blinken with dance and penguins and alarms on it.

So almost never does that. I do not expect an answer until you are back in the office.

I take vacations. You should too disconnected from work. Paradoxically is when I do my best work. No that time when you get in the shower and you're like, whoa, this is kind of strange new job. I kind of love it. I'm in day 45 and it's not going really well, blah, blah, blah. It's that time when you let it all go and you let your mind wander that you truly find insight and you can see obviously broken things in a new light.

You need to disconnect from it world. Okay. That's the week, my north star principles or values. I'm not sure what the right word is. I believe the following. I'm going to say, I believe a lot. I believe that happy, informed humans, I believe that happy, informed, and productive humans build fantastic product.

I've seen it many times over and over again. I optimize for the humans. Other leaders are going to optimize for different things. That's cool. I'll give an example at the company and eternal transfer. Is your choice, the Endep sorry, the individual's choice, not all the managers. Why do I do this? I do this because I want the individual contributor to feel that she or he has agency over their career.

So the rule is when, after you've been here a while, like not on day two, you can talk to any other manager in the company. You get one free chat, go talk, talk with Tia, Tia what's going on in that team. Then my ask of you is that you actually go talk to your manager and if there's something there to work out a conversation, have a conversation, meet your commitments, but ultimately two things will happen.

Your manager will, can try to convince you to stay almost every time because they've got things in OKR. Isn't lops kind of crazy and all this sort of stuff, but they'll try to convince you to stay. But the other thing is, it's your choice. Yes. This is a small protocol that we have at this company, which we try to reiterate.

One thing I value is that the humans have agency. They get to choose their path. Other leaders were maximized the business, the technology, and any other important, important facets of the company. But ideological diversity, all diversity is a key to an effective team. All perspectives are relevant. And we need all of those, but my bias is towards building productive humans.

If there are no humans here, I have exactly no job. My life, my wife, my life. That's funny. My wife likes to remind me that I hated meeting. So the first 10 years of my professional career, she's right, I've wasted a lot of time in bad meanings and poorly run meetings. Run by bad managers. As an engineer, I remained skeptical of managers, even as a manager.

Well, I believe managers, we are essential for the scaling organization. I do not believe that we have a monopoly on leadership and I work hard to build other constructs at the company and opportunities for in our teams, from non-managers to effectively lead. At this company at the company, we have two tracks.

We have the IC track and we have the manager track. They're both public, both visible, and they just tell you how you can track through up them. We also have roles specifically on the IC track, which are designed to give leaders, give, gave ICS opportunities to lead. One of them is a technical lead. A technical lead is an obvious thing right now.

Say person who doesn't have any direct reports, but they are responsible part of the technology. It's there to give folks the first step towards learning leadership skills. Number two, TLM technical lead manager. This is sort of a hybrid role, but what the reason we do this is it's, you're still there and you're an engineer.

Yeah. You're still coding 50% of the time, but you can have a maximum of three direct reports. The idea is to give you the situation. We can still do what you're great at being an IC, but you can also try out the management thing. And most employers, certainly when you realize this job is hard and you don't want to do it anymore, there is zero stigma, right?

When you raise your hand and you say a lot, I don't want to do this. I'm doing it for seven months. This is not my jam. We go great. Okay. As another engineer, who's learned that the management thing is hard and they're going to be a better engineer and an understanding more of the nuance of leadership. I believe in systems.

I also believe I need some water.

Thank you, Shivani. This is a little abstract thing that I believe I reduce all complex things, including all of you into knowable systems. I love naming things. That's like my jam is naming things. I think in flow charts, I reduced. Thank you so much. I reduce everything down to boxes and arrows. I take great joy in attempting to understand how these usually mostly infinitely complex systems work and how the flow charts all fit together.

I like telling you about these discoveries. You will know when I'm doing this because I will run to the whiteboard and I will start drawing boxes and arrows. It's the best. It's so much fun. Organizational design is something I love to think about anyone on most one-on-ones my team can tell you. We're usually talking about the structure of the team.

I believe understanding these systems, defining these systems will give us a common framework for understanding. When I see large or small inefficiencies in these systems, I would like your help fixing them.

My wife hates this one. I heavily biased towards action. When you come to me with a situation, my first thing is, how are we going? I'm going to say, I am moving into a state where, how can we fix this long meetings where we are endlessly debating, potential directions are valuable. They are valuable. I don't like them.

I believe that starting is that on the problem is the best way to start learning about what we need to do. This is not always the correct strategy, this strategy, a noise, the people who love to debate it really, really annoys them. And it really annoys my wife because sometimes all that you want me to do is to listen.

That's all that you actually want. If that's what you need out of me. And I'm happy to do that. You better tell me early because I will try to solve every problem that you bring me as quickly as possible. It's how I work.

I deeply believe in treating humans fairly and it's my responsibility to do this and all of the systems that I am building, I believe that humans in general are trying to do the right thing, but unconscious bias leads us astray because it's unconscious. That's what it does. You don't know that it's happening.

I work hard. I work very hard with support of a lot of people to understand and address my biases because I'm very clear about their ability to create inequity at scale. That's my favorite slide in the whole deck right here. I like fixing things. I believe in the compounding awesomeness of continually fixing small things.

The folks that like to have those big debates and big, big, huge strategy things. We need them doing that. I want to go fix 30 small things quickly. Pick the thing up off the floor, tell someone the door's broken, make sure you get that thing that I told you. I was going to give you all of those things quickly.

The compounding you're underestimating, the compounding awesomeness of this continually fixing small broken things. I believe quality assurance. Because everyone's responsibilities and there are bugs to be fixed everywhere. All of the time,

I believe busy is a bug and it's not a feature. If you're looking at me walking down the hallway and I appear busy, I am failing you as a leader. I am failing you as a leader. There's a lot of managers out there that are quite busy with self-importance. I'm going to walk fast and look like I have so much to do because, oh my gosh, I have so much to do.

That's not leadership. That's drama. That's a show. My job when I walked by in the hallway is that, you know, that you can approach me and say, Hey, lop, I have this thing. This thing is going on. I go, great. Let's let's talk about that right now. This is very, very hard state for me to get to because there is a lot of things going on.

A lot of managers believe they're supposed to be busy, but when I find myself or you tell me that I look busy, I begin an intensive debugging process of myself and then the team to figure out why we're busy. Someone should ask me about that in Q and a, I will fix it. I'm going to fix this situation because busy, is it productive?

It's literally called busy work. That's what it is. It does sound incredibly boring. All right. There's an exception to many of the things in the process I was just talking about, which is high alert. Too many of the things, and I'm thinking I'm talking about and things that you can expect out of me sometimes are just completely thrown on the floor.

When I'm in a high alert situation, a high alert conditions usually involve existential threats to our business. During this time, my usual people process and product things are out the door. They're secondary to putting the fire out. I will do my, unless it's obvious. And it usually is that it's more on high alert.

I will tell you that I'm in this state and I will also tell you when I expect me to be out of this state, if I'm constantly in this state, something is fundamentally wrong. You should tell me this. I probably know it. Maybe I haven't actually been there to myself yet. This is the I'm weird section. We're all kind of strange.

That you didn't guess this I'm an introvert. This is terrifying for me. This is exhausting for me. Prolonged exposure to humans is exhausting for me, but it's not a doctor's note. I understand that I'm this way. It's weird, but here's the thing three meeting with like three of us. I am in the zone. I'm going to be this dynamic and doing all this sort of thing.

Three to eight of us are okay. More than eight. I shut up. It's super strange. I am super quiet when it's more than eight. I tell the exec team at slack, this, and they're like, whoa, that's why do not confuse my quiet with a lack of engagement? I'm just scared. So one of my favorite things to do when I walk in any situation.

I read the room. This is what I do because I'm an introvert and you're all scary human beings. So the quicker that I understand who you all are, and there's a lot of you here, but here's the trick. You're all just sort of this anonymous blob right now. So it's not actually there. If I look at someone, I start to get nervous.

So I'm over here now, and then we'll go over here anyway. Too much information. What I do is I get a read of a situation. What do you want? What's your motivation? What's your current Neil mood. What's your current mood. Where did you sit? What did you sit the last time? All of this is something that I do instinctively to protect myself because I'm an introvert.

What am I building? I'm gathering one of my favorite two words, which is situational awareness. What's going on here? What I'm building is a model or a system for handling this particular meeting interaction or presentation one-on-ones are very important to me. I think I've already hit this pretty hard.

I always have a couple meetings, discussion topics to have, or you have, cause we've put them in the channel often when we're out of topics, I will start, I will pick something off a list and I'll start brainstorming with you. And the issues are usually friend of mine, things, current disasters, emerging, high alert, alert situations, and it's gonna feel like we're just shooting the shit.

But we're actually doing really work real work. We're doing system analysis. You're helping me walk through a hard part. Sometimes I may ask you to do something during this state that feels poorly find your, like, was that a hassle for me? You should ask me for clarification and a call and importance right then and there, I might be still brainstorming.

I might be this freewheeling Yolo and it it's like, Hey, you should totally do that. No, no, no, you shouldn't do that. And it's a really bad idea. These questions, these clarification's when I'm kind of being a little hyper will save everyone a lot. A lot of time. This should be obvious. I can be hyperbolic.

It's almost always being some very excited about what I'm doing. I sometimes swear. I apologize. In advanced, I love to start new things. The most exciting part for any project for me is the first 10%. When we're defining the system, you should be sensing a theme. Now, when we were trying to understand what we need to do, but here is the problem, and this is a big problem for me.

I often lose interest when I not, you can mentally see the end of how we're going to do this weeks or months. Before we're actually done. I'm like, okay, this is how it's going to play out. And I lose interest. This is horrible. This is why I drop things after two weeks. It's not interesting because I know how it's going to play out.

And that last 60, 70% is actually the most important part. I am working. I'm working on this a lot. I'm getting better at it, but I apologize in advance. If I'm on my phone for more than 30 seconds, say something really. I have a tremendously short attention span and I will reach my phone without even knowing it and get into something.

Focus, man. Thank you. I will.

Humans. Staying opinions of facts are a big trigger for me. I value your opinion, but if we're using your appeal opinion, As a input for a ginormous business decision, you should be prepared to effectively defend it. Your opinions should be defensible. We have feelings, we have opinions, but you need to be able to defend it and explain it to me or my team or your peers.

Yeah. This is a major trigger for me. I've seen multiple companies I've worked at get very political and. Looking at the system and figuring how it works. Gossip is almost always a leading indicator of toxic, horrible politics. I understand that gossip exists amongst the humans. I know that culture can affect the influence of gossip.

And I know that's my responsibility as a leader to create a culture, a healthy culture where gossip doesn't like tweak us. However, I believe most underestimate the cultural toxicity. That gossip creates most underestimate that gossip is a one-way door. You open to corrosive organizational politics.

Gossip is a leading indicator of larger problems. So when I hear it, when I read it, I am triggered and I jump on it sometimes disproportionately hard.

Hi, my name is Michael opp. I need to use myself. I've done some things. You might be wondering why this is called, how to rans for those of you who don't know. I play this guy named brands on the internet together with a couple of other thousand liters. Some of you who are in here, we created this thing called the rands leadership slack.

Find us on the internet. It's going to be one of the best thing that you're gonna learn today is that a set of folks who are here to help you and learn to be better leaders we're on the internet and you'll find it. The only operating requirement is can you use email that's about it. If you can do that and find us you'll get in one of the things I've learned from all those wonderful leaders there is what you've been hearing today is we, as the leaders of humans have a responsibility to clearly see state who we are, how we work.

And what we value our teams are spending way too much time speculating, reverse engineering, and second guessing these topics. So take the time to write down and broadcast your practice practices, your value and your strange neces. I put mine in get hub. I'm like great. Anyone who wants to use it? It's mine.

It's a sitting in get hub. You can take a look at it. It's going to sound really familiar because you just heard it. Use your judgment, use your judgment, whether these things, these strains, these things that I'm saying are good, I'll right for you and your team. And one more thing, I believe we are never, ever, ever done learning how to become.

Better leaders every time that I think I figured it out and I find a pattern or a workflow or a system, I find an exception. I find another beautiful, chaotic snowflake that just blows my mind. So my advice to you is ask for help from your peers. Stay curious and keep learning. Thank you.

About Calibrate—

Founded in 2015, Calibrate is a yearly conference for new engineering managers hosted by seasoned engineering managers. The experience level of the speakers ranges from newcomers all the way through senior engineering leaders with over twenty years of experience in the field. Each speaker is greatly concerned about the craft of engineering management. Organized and hosted by Sharethrough, it was conducted yearly in September, from 2015-2019 in San Francisco, California.