The following is a user guide for me. Its intention is to give you an idea of how I think and how I work.
“Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.” — Elon Musk
My personality type is “Virtuoso” (no, I didn’t make that up and you can test yourself here.).
I copied the description below because it is uncannily accurate. I laughed out loud when I read the quote “Oh, I know how to fix this” in the graphic. I love fixing things! I was the kid who took apart all his toys to see how they worked. I always “borrowed” my father’s tools - he was so frustrated until Mom told him he could solve the problem by buying me my own tools (she’s brilliant). I built forts, tree houses, go karts, and skate ramps. In high school I learned to weld in metal shop so I added a sidecar to my bike. Good times! I proudly hang the maker manifesto in my office.
“People with this personality type are natural Makers, moving from project to project, building the useful and the superfluous for the fun of it, and learning from their environment as they go. Often mechanics and engineers, Virtuosos find no greater joy than in getting their hands dirty pulling things apart and putting them back together, just a little bit better than they were before.
Virtuosos explore ideas through creating, troubleshooting, trial and error and first-hand experience. They enjoy having other people take an interest in their projects and sometimes don’t even mind them getting into their space. Of course, that’s on the condition that those people don’t interfere with Virtuosos’ principles and freedom, and they’ll need to be open to Virtuosos returning the interest in kind.
Virtuosos enjoy lending a hand and sharing their experience, especially with the people they care about, and it’s a shame they’re so uncommon, making up only about five percent of the population.”
People first. My bias is towards nurturing happy people. I believe that happy, informed people do their best work. Ideological diversity is key to an effective team. All perspectives are relevant. A leader’s job is attract and retain remarkable talent, with diverse views, and channel it into something that “moves the needle”. We need great people if we want a great business.
Customer first. When creating a business that rewards us, and allows us to attract outstanding talent, we need to optimize for the customer first, then the product. I am used to measuring delivery and results in terms of how they benefit the customer and using this as our main benchmark. I recognize that I will need to do some self-education to understand how we view and define our customers.
Leadership comes from everywhere. As an engineer, I remain skeptical of “management” even as a manager. While I believe managers are an essential part of scaling an organization, I don’t believe they have a monopoly on intelligence or leadership, and I like to find other constructs and opportunities for non-managers to lead.
I see things as systems. I understand things visually. I think in flowcharts. I take great joy in attempting to understand how things all fit together. Basically, I love whiteboards and pictures. Words usually make me sleepy.
Fairness is essential and creates trust. I believe deeply in fairness and equality.
Honesty is essential and creates trust. I bias toward transparency and candor. You can ask me anything. I’ll always answer as best I can. Rarely, I won’t be able to give you an answer. The company, or regulatory requirements, may prevent me from sharing something, but I will never lie to you.
I bias heavily towards action. Long meetings debating potential directions or options can be valuable, but I believe starting is the best way to begin learning and make progress. This strategy sometimes fails. This strategy annoys those who like to debate. However, I find the things I learn along the way inform me better than debating, and I simply believe that not everything can be known “up front”. I’d much rather start moving and course correct as I learn along the way.
Many paths lead to the same destination. Waze reminds me of this all the time - there is not a single “right” path. The most important thing to align on is our destination. Sometimes we believe our approach is the only “right” answer so we dig in. I can get stuck here. When I find myself thinking this way I try to re-focus on the destination, or the “definition of done”.
I believe in defining “done” up front. I have found that the definition of “done” can vary widely between people. For example I sometimes cook at home. My definition of done is when the meal is served. My wife’s definition of done is when the the kitchen is clean. Who knew? Unless we agree on what “done” means there will be unnecessary friction.
I believe in the compounding of awesomeness. If something is designed well, engineered well, and tested well, then it works well. What happens when everything works well? Awesomeness happens, because it means you can add new products, new services, learn new things, take time off, etc. But the reverse is also true. If shortcuts are taken and technical debt piles up then… well let’s just say it’s the opposite of awesome. Once things start to go south it is very hard to recover.
My time is your time. I’ve got responsibilities but very few of them are more important than spending time with you. Feel entirely free to try to catch me ad-hoc via Slack, Skype, or in person, or put time on my calendar to talk whenever you want. I keep my Outlook calendar updated, so any availability you see there is real. You may not find a slot on my calendar in any given day, but if you want to meet I will make it happen. So let me know and I will move things around.
Take this with a grain of salt - some of it is aspirational. If you find me not living up to my principles please point it out to me. I need feedback to course correct as we all do.
If you have feedback for me, please share it. I do want to hear it. If you think I don’t want to hear it, or I’m not listening then please give it to someone above me.
Three dimensions are required for robust feedback:
Let me know if we do not well on any of these three dimensions and any suggestions you have to improve.
If you can give me feedback in-person, I’d prefer that. If you’re comfortable kicking off a discussion with an email or a Slack message, I would rather you do that than not bring it up at all.
If you’re not comfortable giving me feedback yourself that’s perfectly OK, please give it to someone above me so they can anonymously relay it to me and I can work on it.
This is a team sport. Generally, we will make decisions and set priorities as a management team - together we are more perceptive and intelligent than any of us individually. Occasionally I will make a hard call. In all cases your input and counsel is invaluable to me.
I am usually in the office early. I like the momentum an early start gives me each day. As for your schedule: do what works for you. I bias towards results. The way we align on results is:
I will put some time on your calendar for one-on-ones. If you want more (or less) time, let me know and I will adjust.
I see 1:1s as your opportunity to let me know how you’re doing and what you need. It’s time for us to align on goals/outcomes and direction.
The best 1:1s are focused beyond the moment: Your career development, team strategy and opportuniies, the company’s strategy, etc. Feel free to come with a topic you’d like to discuss. I’d love it if you spent a few minutes beforehand preparing so that we can get the most of our time.
I am an introvert and that means that prolonged exposure to people is exhausting for me. Weird, huh? Meetings with three of us are perfect, three to eight are ok, and more than eight you will find that I become strangely quiet. Do not confuse my quiet with lack of engagement. I also need quiet reflective time to recharge my batteries. Sometimes I close the door to my office in order to do that, so if my door is closed it’s probably for some “me” time. Mostly my door is wide open and it’s “you” time.
I’ve been called blunt. My goal is to effectively communicate, but I feel time pressure too. Sometimes I deliver “the goods” without appropriate social niceties (I am not great at small talk). I value candor and the “bottom line up front” (BLUF). Sometimes when people tell me stories I get impatient for them to make their point and “land the plane”. I’ve always been this way (I probably need therapy).
People who create drama are a trigger for me. Some people enjoy “stirring things up”. That’s not how I am wired and I find it takes away from team cohesiveness and focus. I value people who are motivated by forward progress (not fear). I respect rational problem solvers, and when things go astray look to find and communicate factual information, not hearsay. I love people who focus on root causes instead of assigning blame.
Cheers for reading this!