I was inspired to write a user guide by Michael Smith. I think it plays to a logical approach to emotional intelligence, you may think those two things contradict, but I've found they work together more than you'd initially expect.
Just as Michael gives credit to those up the chain, I thank you Michael and those above as I have once again copied elements as they are more eloquent than I am at written communication.
You can read about my personal life on my personal page.
The most important single topic that keeps me motivated at work is building high quality products. I specifically focus on technical quality, I love releasing products that I feel proud of technically and can get a team feeling that pride. It's speed, the ingenuity of it's design, or just the structure of the program. I love sharing the internal design to my peers and to others where allowed.
I absolutely care about the financial health of the company, expectations of shareholders, and I will be the first to sacrifice things that motivate me to ensure the business succeeds. In a company that I enjoy working at I will be a great team player. But eventually the technical quality motivations will catch up with me.
I've found most people can jump to bad assumptions about communication when it comes to working with software engineers or IT specialists. From my personal experience, this is most common for people who come from large corporate backgrounds, but is common amongst all. Not many people can be described as "non-technical" now-a-days, but it is a point of frustration for many, and those that do understand it are not always great teachers.
I hold myself to a high standard when it comes to explain any level of technical concept to anyone. There is rarely a need to explain something in a convoluted way and with enough time, anyone can understand anything, no matter how advanced it may seem to them. The issue is determining how much time should be dedicated to explaining something.
If you find me explaining items with unnecessary terminology, do stop me and slow me down. My love of communication is only ever overruled by my adoration of the topic being discussed.
For the hierarchy of communication forms, if you come and talk to me in-person outside of friendly banter and catching up, it will be considered as a top priority unless we decide otherwise. Calling however is #1, if you call me, I'd expect it's because everyhing is on fire 🔥 and people have died. ☠️
Acknowledgement of messages is quite important to me. When I send messages that are notices or alerts, it'd be great if you can 👍 emoji react to it, or 👎 if you disagree, just to acknowledge you've got it. I otherwise assume you've read it but that can play to implicit forms, where I prefer explicit forms.
When I am a leader of a team, I find time where we talk together very important and always make time for it. Time together where I can jump in, get a quick understanding of whats going on, provide some clarity and generally help unblock you are great. If you are unsure if it's a waste of time or not, I'd rather you come and check in, even if you see I am busy. It is not the most scalable of approaches, but it has worked pretty well so far.
If you come to me and need help, I'd expect you to find the time and arrange the form for that help to be given. The same applies to me when I reach out to you. I'll ping you most commonly via Slack and handle the arragement. I do love time where two of us can work together and break apart blockers, even when that means including more poeple and getting some traction going. I find two people always work better than one person alone.
It is difficult to offend me but not impossible. Challenging opinions, highlighting errors in my thought process, or alerting me of areas I haven't considered are always very welcome. I never think twice about the emotional side of that, I only ever absorb that information and let it help factor into decision making. Even if you're aggressive in your use of language, I won't think twice unless it's a comment on my character.
Assertive statements about me that you cannot back up with examples do upset me. Saying that I am childish, arrogant, or any type of negative description of me as a human normally results in me becoming confrontational, or disengaging with you in the conversation. That does not mean I am not receptive to feedback on those topics at all, it is just important this is framed in the right way.
What the hell dude, you're totally missing the point here. I fear you're not considering the runway of the business and how we'll secure funding. I don't think it matters if it works right now, we must launch by this date.
Assuming you're correct, and I've failed to consider something here. This type of statement allows me to be super humble and learn from something I've missed, or perhaps just a general mistake I've made. Great to learn from it and I am keen to never make repeat mistakes.
How are you not seeing this is important to the business? You're being far too short sighted about this. You've not considered anything on the business side before making a technical decision.
It is far harder to not take some offence here. I will do my very best to remain humble and accept you have more information than I do, and accept very quickly I made a mistake, however you've made a direct assertion about me that may be wrong.
I very much accept that I do not know everything, only a very small part of the picture, especially when I work in a start up. So at work, I do consider that I need to consult a lot more stakeholders before I make decisions and assuming I'm familiar with the business, I do very well at this. For personal communication, I never assume anything. Your thoughts, feelings, and concerns are complex and I will always give you the benefit of the doubt.
Even though its cliché to say, I do find it most easy to work with data when it comes to making decisions. If the data is verifiable, it makes the decision for you most of the time. However many people will immediately dismiss non-quantitative data, whereas I do not. More on that below.
Humility in communication is hugely important to me between all people invovled in a conversation. I take this very seriously and am very mindful about my exact word choice to ensure I am very clear when I do make an assertion. I hold myself to a high standard to apologise quickly, authentically, and profusely as I make many mistakes.
One item that doesn't play a role in work communication, but plays into communication in general is how people define the truth, and I wish it did become a big deal at work as much as it does in personal communication.
In the workplace, when it comes to making a decision about the programming language to use, or some http server package, or some niche SSL certificate provisioner, then data wins. Speed, security, ease of deployment, consistency with the existing stack, are all measurable data points that play to a decision and not much else matters.
When it comes to anything that involves a human it is more complicated than that. And a purely data driven approach alienates and upsets people. When it comes to leading a team, you must be aware of this nuance. When someone is upset and expresses that to you, that is truth. If all the data says they have no right to be upset, or shouldn't be as upset as they are, it doesn't matter. There is still truth in the fact they have an emotional response to something and it is important that is respected. We are all people, not machines. This applies just as much in the workplace as it does in your personal life.
If you want to say you are upset a decision is made without you, or even a technical decision is wrong but you don't have data yet, but you feel odd about it. Please share it with me, I am very keen to explore those feelings with you and find how we can both learn from them. A gut feeling rarely comes out of nowhere and it may help us make better decisions in the future as a team.
When it comes to communicating with me, ensure you express how you feel about something as well as the data driven points. I do believe these two forms of communication can work together depending on the scenario. The emotional truth plays more to your experience at work, remuneration, treatment, and respect. Data driven points may play into how we build the HTTP layer of the service stack. There can be a lot of overlap.
Direct, but not rude. Clear, but not condescending. Always humble. Don't make assumptions as I've described above, then almost any form of feedback you want to provide I'll be very pleased to receive.
I know not everyone subscribes to the idea of the 16 personality types, but a brief excerpt that does describe me very well is from the ENT-J personality type.
Commanders hold themselves to very high standards, but a lot of what sets this tone is feedback from their environment - namely, criticism from their managers [and colleagues]. Objective, rational statements about what is done right and what can be done better are helpful to Commanders, and far from resenting such criticisms, they appreciate them.
I do have a focus for excellence, and if you provide feedback that doesn't fit into my own vision of excellence, I will be very quick to dismiss it. I will do my best to explain why I do not agree, and will listen to you, but I cannot promise I'll adjust my views.
I am slow to make good decisions, but I frequently forget it. In many workplaces speed is required. I hear information and I want to make a decision very quickly, almost as soon as someone finishes talking. This is not my strength though. The best decisions I make are decisions where I absorb information, then go away, think on it for a few hours, even days. Then I'll come back later and talk more about my findings after my own research and after I've had time to process the thoughts.
This can lead to a few mistakes. Thankfully most decisions are easy to undo, and I am way more mindful about decisions that are hard/impossible to undo.
I wish I was faster, and I'm solving this by both building up my experience in general and practicing with each decision I make. Also in accepting that I don't need to make decisions immediately. I'll instead arrange time to exchange information between a group, let everyone go away, then arrange to re-meet later and come to a conclusion.
I refer to "manager" as my role as a principal/lead. I am not a line manager to anyone, so this does not reflect that work relationship.
I hate the traditional manager-employee set up. I really believe that when people are working hard, their managers serve them. Managers should help unblock you, show you paths to success within the business, and ensure you're aligned on what the company vision is. And most importantly, what excellence means so you can best achieve it. They really must do this by example, not by telling you.
As such, micromanagement isn't really effective in the dictionary definition of the word. However I do thoroughly enjoy pair-programming with you, or pairing on tasks such as system design. I'm very happy to be as active as you need, but getting people to produce great work means they have to feel ownership of that work, and that doesn't happen when I come in, design a system, then leave you to build it.
This does mean that if continual mistakes are made, I do have to make corrections, but I highlight problems that arise with your design to adjust, rather than just give you something to correct in the design.
When you are in a bad mindset, working through a problem together slowly isn't fun, and people are not always receptive to it when they know their lead already knows the answer. In these cases, share how you feel, and we will cut the hand-holding and pairing, get you the answer you need now, and come back to the reasoning later.
There are plenty of cases where you're frustrated with work. Maybe you're working on a project you're not interested in, maybe something is going on in your personal life, or maybe lots of little things are building up and you're feeling stressed. In these cases, just let me know. I can't always alleviate it, and work isn't always going to be fun. But I will work better to your style to get you back to having a good time.
I am currently right on the cusp between these two schedule types. But my priority right now comes to unblocking others rather than programming myself. So I do lean towards a manager schedule through most of the week.
Book some time, use it as you wish. Don't worry about wasting my time, if it helps you, it's not a waste of my time. If I found a meeting to be wasteful of my time, I'll let you know the moment I realise. It's not happened yet. 😛
Some rules for arranging meetings though.
Book meetings 24 hours ahead of time. I check my calendar the night before to prepare myself for the next day. If you book extra meetings for the same day, I will come unprepared and likely be absent minded.
Ping me on Slack before or immediately after booking a meeting. I may suggest that a meeting isn't the best form for the conversation, or suggest adjustments to the schedule.
If a meeting is longer than 90 minutes, always let me know first. I would expect there to be some practical side to the meeting if it needs to be that long.
Don't worry about cancelling a meeting last minute. I am always happy to reclaim time, even if it's just a 30 minute block.
This is very dependant on the circumstances of the meeting. This focuses on internal meetings within a team.
I will always keep meetings to the minimum amount of people required, and am very careful to ensure that if decisions are made in meetings, those decisions are spread to others. It is a point of annoyance in a business when a decision is made without you and you're not even aware until much later, no one likes this.
Almost all meetings I attend are technical in nature so the less chefs in the kitchen the better. I like making use of of the "optional attendee" feature where I'll invite a set of people who I think have a strong opinion or expertise in a certain area, and those will be required attendees. Most of the time, I just ask who is most keen to discuss the topic, who is opinionated on it. I want them to be the loud voices of the room. Then I will invite a larger number of optional attendees so they know the meeting is occuring and they're welcome, but if they join, they will be mostly listening.
I work best with an informal agenda being given in advanced of any meeting, but the flexibility to bring up further points after the meeting has begun. I am always quick to keep people on topic but that's not an exact science. Meetings that spawn more meetings can be annoying so I prefer letting people absorb information, arrange a time separately to come to a decision, then report back later.
I think the take-away point is that meetings should be focused and minimal with attendees. Too many people in the room never ends well.
Do let me know about personal boundaries, I am loud and energetic in person, a little whacky. 🤪 Do tell me to calm down if I'm being disruptive. I like to bring a lot of energy to the room when we are together in person. When meeting over video chat remotely, I am far less energetic.
I don't enjoy going to dinner, so invites to eat together are a bad idea. I never drink any caffeine so coffee and tea breaks aren't a thing for me either. If we talk, we can go to a coffee place, but I'll only drink water.
I do work long outside of normal hours, if I message you at weird times, please don't feel the need to respond until you're happy and in your designated work time. If you message me though, I may respond at weird times in return, but don't make assumptions, I may be deep into a movie or a game.
Holidays are great, take as many as you want, just let me know so I don't disturb you and make sure there is cover for what you're doing (although I do hope you arrange that yourself). Self care is important!