12 “Manager READMEs” from Silicon Valley’s Top Tech Companies

What does tech management at Slack, HubSpot, Netflix, Etsy, Shopify, InVision, and more have in common? A lot, apparently!

When we launched our first SoapBox hero I was surprised to discover a document used to introduce her working style to her team. I had never seen that before and it was awesome!

Did others have these? I needed to know. Eventually, I found a treasure trove of examples by Engineering Leaders from companies with some of the best culture in tech.

They called them Manager READMEs, or Manager User Manuals. And they’ve graciously let me share them with you.

Click the images to read their READMEs. At the end I’ve included my notes in case you’re planning on building your own.

But first, the inspiration! 👀 🎁 🎉

Michael Lopp (aka rands), VP Eng. at Slack ~~~~~~~~~

http://randsinrepose.com/archives/how-to-rands/

My favourite parts:

  • “Our average week” covers what a typical working week with Michael is like, and how to engage him in it.
  • He might chat you on weekends. Feel free to read it Monday.
  • He’s an introvert (“Do not confuse my quiet with lack of engagement.”)
  • Gossip is a trigger for him.

Ben Morris, Sr. Developer Lead at Shopify ~~~~~~~~~

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1LGL7fh5zWx8XqHRBra51LcMIHCUluqrdXZ_-XBTXqlg/edit#slide=id.g23dc7fe4e1_2_85

My favourite parts:

  • Super clear description of his role and goals.
  • Explicitly stating how he can help you (and how you can help him do his job).
  • Specifically how he incorporates Shopify values into his role.

Roy, Director at Slack (frmly Netflix.com) ~~~~~~~

http://bit.ly/roy-slack-readme

My favourite parts:

  • It’s a mix of work and life. He has three goats. That’s neat. Something to chat about.
  • “I don’t believe in personality conflicts” At least not as a manager at work.
  • One of the best descriptions of what a manager’s job is I’ve read in a long time.
https://bit.ly/welcometonetflixandme

Roy’s first README was built at Netflix. I think it’s great to see how Roy’s document has changed between two companies. It’s a great reminder that a manager adapts to the environment they are in.

This is one of the first READMEs you can find online. Many have taken inspiration from Roy.

Oren, VP Eng. at Forter (+SoftwareLeadWeekly.com)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sx5ssYb_xMrmwPpyjD5xP7RvQ7cHweDYlRGn2SXztKw/edit#heading=h.g1q7u9cc1uha

My favourite parts:

  • Links, images, video — Further material is available to get a deeper understanding if you’re curious!
  • Personal quirks (specifically the ones he doesn’t like about himself!)
  • Expected response times by communication channel (helpful especially for remote teams).

Aaron, Eng. Manager at InVision ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1F2PWxQ-sKJ1uAlrhU9ULXOVmH-CW6dw_ufMzbFLAWHA/edit#slide=id.p

My favourite parts:

  • His personal goal as a manager at InVision.
  • What does an ideal team player look like on his team?
  • A transparent edit, commenting on his ability to be responsive.

Molly, Tech Lead at HubSpot ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://github.com/molly/manager-README

My favourite parts:

  • It’s on github! Super cool.
  • “I am accountable for the decisions the team make, even if I’m not the one making them most of the time.”
  • Specific call out for diversity and mental health.

Matt, Dir of Sr. Eng. Manager at Etsy ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://matthewnewkirk.com/2017/09/20/share-your-manager-readme/

My favourite parts:

  • Guests can edit his calendar events by defaults!
  • People > Process (no matter the methodology). If agile/scrum isn’t working for the team, let’s figure out what will.
  • He’s big on work-life balance… meaning you’ll likely never hear from him on weekends unless it’s a big deal!

Scott, Vp Eng. at Stratasan ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1PE2OmkVykdZYF2QzmJ-ZUHqBAxnnsbnMsd19z3qLWNI/edit#slide=id.gcb9a0b074_1_0

My favourite parts:

  • “I believe managers work for their direct reports.”
  • On Deep Work: “The maintenance of inboxes (email, Slack, social media, etc) is not what you’re paid to do. Attention is a valuable resource” Not true for all roles, but true for Scott’s team.

Elliott, Manager at RentTheRunway ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mxUR69VBVBGPy-rq13jsgsgr67HosZOx/view

My favourite parts:

  • He treats the document as a “promise on how I will conduct myself as a manager” and asks to be held accountable.
  • He’s an internal thinker who is sometimes quieter in large groups.
  • He may have people pleaser tendencies that he’s working on.

Alan, Director at Unity ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My favourite parts:

  • Love that its on github — check the commits for edits!
  • How his ICs can become leaders within their organization.
  • References to further reading on his management influences!

Mike, Manager of Eng. at BiblioCommons ~~~~~~~~~

My favourite parts:

  • Mike included a TLDR; ahh what a refreshing summary.
  • “You should expect me to have your back 100% of the time.” Love it!
  • It’s on medium! Now, that’s transparent!

Ready to write your own?

💡👉 We (SoapBox) just wrote an article on how!

However, almost everyone above included the following:

  • What is this? —Let’s face it, this is a weird document. Give context on what this is and how to interpret it: to supplement getting to know each other.
  • About Me / My Job — What are some common things people might like to know about you. Some people’s are more personal than others. If you want to get to know your team’s personal lives then start off by sharing yours.
  • Personal Principles / Values — What are your default assumptions about people and their intentions? What mindsets do you have and which do you hope other people adopt when working together on the team? What things trigger you?
  • One-on-Ones — What style of 1:1s do you want out of your team? Most above follow the weekly/bi-weekly, 30 min cadence, and the employee controls the agenda.
  • Feedback (how to give & how you give) — What type of feedback do you want? Are you comfortable with people being blunt with you? How do you prefer to give feedback? How do you expect your team to react to feedback?
  • How to interpret my calendar — Sometimes a manager’s calendar can be packed. Almost every manager above wants their team to know that they are the most important part of their job, so they’re explicit in saying so. Message them on slack if you need to talk. They’ll make time.

Many also include the following:

  • Personal performance scales — If an employee asks, “Where do I stand?” How will you respond? Most seem to do Red/Orange/Green. While Green and Red are clear indicators, orange can open to interpretation. What does that mean and how do you intend for people to react?
  • D.R.I. Principle — Not everyone is a believer in Directly Responsible Individual principle, but if you are it can be very powerful. First, though, you need to set the expectation that they take that responsibly.

Done? Ship it!

How? Consensus from the authors I’ve talked to seems to be:

  1. The most effective way to deliver the document is to take employees through it in a 1:1.
  2. Easiest time to start is during an employee’s on-boarding. Their on-boarding or your own (if you’re inheriting a team)

You made it to the end!

Here’s my question for you: Anything that I missed in my notes? Anything that they missed in their documents? What are a must-haves in your doc?

Thanks for reading,
Brennan

p.s. You should be having these conversations with your team at least bi-weekly. If your conversations are stale, inconsistent, or unorganized, you should try out SoapBox now.

Brennan is the CEO & Co-founder of SoapBox, the #1 place to work in Canada. SoapBox, is an app and assistant for managers to have better one-on-ones, team meetings, town-halls and more, with their team.

If you liked this article, you should give it 12👏’s (one for each readme) to help others find it!👇


12 “Manager READMEs” from Silicon Valley’s Top Tech Companies was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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