About this document.
If you start working with a new person, wouldn’t it be nice if you had some sort of user guide that gives you a basic understanding of how to work with them? This document’s purpose is exactly that. It captures my guiding principles, how I work as a human, and what I value in others.
Why am I here?
I am here to help you and support you. My job is to provide the necessary context on what you are working on. I also represent you and the team to the rest of the company.
My goal is for our team to be efficient, productive, happy, and successful.
We trust each other: I will assume good intent whatever you do. I trust that you know what you’re doing and that you will let me know when you need my help. I believe that we will not be able to succeed if we can’t trust each other. My default mode of working will always be that I trust you and that you trust me.
You’re very good at your job: You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. If you feel like I’m asking you too many questions, it is because I want to have a better understanding of the overall context.
I’m not very good at your job: You’re the expert. My job is to provide you with the necessary context, ask questions, and help you achieve better results. It’s not about overruling you.
You let me know if you can’t do your job: One of my primary responsibilities is to make sure you are successful. It may very well be that I am not 100% there for you. Please let me know if you feel that you will need more support from me.
You feel safe when you discuss with me: I find that ideas improve by being examined from all angles. If it sounds like I’m disagreeing I’m most likely just playing devil’s advocate. This does rely on us being able to have a safe debate.
We are a team; We win together, we fail together: People who like to claim credit and assign blame are a major turnoff for me. We will make mistakes sometimes and I expect each of us to own them. In turn, you should expect me to have your back 100% of the time. I will never throw anyone under the bus and I expect the same from you.
What I value
Context-awareness. Nothing that we do happens in a vacuum. In fact, making the right decisions is foremost about understanding the context we’re operating in. This can be anything from interpersonal to organization-wide, from understanding customer needs to market forces and policy constraints.
Ownership. You own Your work. And the quality of it. That also means, that if you succeed at something, it’s yours to own.
Default to action. Often it’s best to just do it. Most decisions are reversible, so it’s better to see how things work out instead of overthinking them.
Critical thinking: Nothing is sacred, and “Because we’ve always done it this way” is not a work culture.
Self-reflection. We can’t improve if we remain ignorant of our weak spots. We should all regularly take time to retrospect on why (exactly) we made a certain decision, and why (exactly) we reacted in a certain way.
Attention to detail. Spot something that could be improved? Say something, and help us fix it. Small improvements are leading to bigger ones over time.
Empathy. Not just towards those who you work with, but anybody. We’re all humans, and oftentimes, you see things more clearly when you take someone else’s perspective.
How to efficiently work and communicate with me
Please don’t hold back: Challenge my ideas and opinions. Direct, candid feedback, ideally in the moment or directly after you have seen something you did not appreciate. Even better if you provide a suggestion on how I could improve. I appreciate positive feedback – if there is a valid reason for it.
Ask me anything: I am as transparent as possible. Please understand that I might not be able to share personnel-related and confidential information.
No politics: No cc-ing of me to put pressure on the person you are writing to. Only escalate a conflict once you failed to resolve it yourself.
Work in iterations: If you want my input rather ask me several times in the process instead of coming up with the final end product. E.g., start with an outline of your idea, then bring it to 60%, then finalize it – and do problem-solving with me at these stages.
Don’t give clues: I sometimes miss clues, many people do. Don’t give clues. Tell me what you need.
Meetings done right: If you invite me to a meeting, I need to understand why it’s valuable that I’ll be there. I like meetings that are respectful of everyone’s time and contributions. That means that I expect an “Intention” and “Desired Outcome” in the meeting invite; something like the IDOARRT approach might help.
Use the power of async: An important update can be sent via email. Feedback can be gathered in a shared doc. Questions can be answered in a direct message. Decisions can be reached without everyone in the same room. Async is not always best, but it’s a good default. It gives people to choose the right moment, and the time they need, to engage.
Ask for help: I love giving input, but only if I know it can still make a difference. Tell me about an idea, show me a rough draft, and ask for my opinion on work in progress. It’s frustrating if we identify room for improvement, but there’s no time left to act on it.
Let’s have fun. We’re not here for fun, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have some and enjoy what we do.
Very few things are more important to me than having a conversation with you. If you want to talk, let’s talk. Have you heard a rumor? Do you need more clarification? Is something blocking your work? I prefer to know about these things sooner rather than later. Come by my place or write me a message. There is no reason to wait for the next One-On-One. You can also book an appointment on my calendar at any time. I have a demanding job, and my calendar tends to fill up quickly. I can only think of a few things that might be more important than being there for you if you need me. So please don’t be shy and let me know if you need my help. I promise you that I will take time for you whenever possible.
Our One-On-One is your space where you can talk about anything you want. The meetings are primarily for you. Let me know how you feel, what you need, and other essential wishes. Share your thoughts about the team or your teammates and what your goals are.
For me, One-On-Ones are not status meetings unless you want to talk about the status of a project.
I will reserve some time every two weeks for you to meet. If you need additional time, let me know, and I will adapt to your wishes. From experience, it makes sense to note down a few things you want to talk about in advance.
I always want to give you clear and timely feedback and hope that you do the same for me. If you have feedback for me, please share it with me. It could be something you liked and want to see more of. It could also be something you thought I could do better. Maybe I screwed up. In any case, I want to learn more from you. If you have the feeling that I would rather not hear something, then I would like to know why you think so. If we give each other feedback, those three points should be kept in mind:
- You are safe. Please don’t be afraid of reprisals.
- The amount of work required to provide feedback should be low.
- The benefits should be high – positive results.
I prefer a personal conversation. Should it happen that you would like to start a discussion over e-mail or any other channel, I prefer that rather than not bringing it up.
There is life beyond work
Let’s agree that work isn’t everything and that we can only be our best selves at work when we take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Our work is important to us. But there’s life beyond work, we have our obligations and the occasional unexpected challenge. And sometimes, we need to prioritize those.
I don’t advocate for strict boundaries, but the flexibility that goes both ways. I will always go the extra mile when it’s most needed, and expect it from you, too. On the other hand, that means we trust each other when someone needs to leave early or take a day off.
The most important thing is to be transparent and upfront about this. If I won’t be available, I will let those that might be affected know.
This document is largely inspired by David Bauer’s Readme and Niklaus Gerber’s Readme. Feel free to use and adapt it for your own purposes, as long as you share it under the same license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).