Let’s talk about manager READMEs.
🤔 Why you should care about it
“I’ve written a Manager README for every job I’ve had since 2016. They have been, maybe, somewhat useful for me and the people in my orgs as context-setting exercises and reminders” - Roy Rapoport - Director, Corporate Engineering at Netflix
A README is usually the document users open when they want to know how to use a software. Similarly, engineering leaders from Silicon Valley tech companies started a few years ago writing their user guides.
It takes time to understand how to work with humans —> when two people start working together, there is always a period where they make mistakes because one side is not used to the other’s communication style, expectations or personality.
Self-awareness about your management style doesn’t come naturally —> it’s challenging to present ideas clearly on paper. Some concepts may be clear to you but are not fully clear until you get feedback from others.
Writing down your README allows new and prospective team members to know in advance how you work, what you will expect from them and how they can work efficiently with you. It also has the advantage of forcing you to clarify your management style, values, expectations, and communication preferences in a structured way to increase self-awareness.
💡 Key Concepts
Communication style —> how you prefer to communicate: live, verbal, or asynchronous, written.
Expectations —> what you expect from team members regarding performance and behaviour.
Values —> principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is essential in life.
Ways of working —> how you organise your time, like when you’re available for 1:1s or how quickly you can answer team members' questions.
”READMEs are self-serving documents where managers write down their most perfect, idealised vision for who they want to be.”
—> All tools and frameworks, including manager READMEs, are flawed or may misrepresent reality. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t serve a purpose. They, at least, can serve as a basis for discussion with team members.
“READMEs are manager-centric and don’t enable team members to know more about the big picture goals of the company.”
—> The manager README is not a replacement for a company’s OKRs or its onboarding documentation. It’s an additional document that allows team members to (ideally) work better with the human who happens to be their manager.
“READMEs can be used as an excuse for bad behaviour.”
—> Some READMEs do include sections on ‘flaws’. Sharing those flaws doesn’t necessarily mean that the manager is not trying to work on them (or is waiting for team members to applaud the effort). They’re simply being vulnerable.