15 “Manager READMEs” from global leaders in tech

What do managers at Slack, Netflix, HubSpot, Etsy, Shopify, InVision and more have in common?

The answer: a lot. We started a SoapBox hero series a while back interviewing great leaders and learning how they manage their teams. It was during these interviews that I came across the concept of Manager READMEs (other aliases include “Manager User Manuals” and “How I like to Work” docs).

Here’s what it is: A Manager README is a document stored in a central place that people managers share with their teams on how they like to work, their management style, what they expect of employees and more.

A Manager README is a document stored in a central place that people managers share with their teams on how they like to work, their management style, what they expect of employees and more. Click To Tweet

So, I went on a quest and interviewed some of the top tech managers at companies like Slack, Etsy and more to get their READMEs…and they gave them to me to share with you. Enjoy!

1. Michael Lopp (aka rands), VP Engineering at Slack

Manager README of Michael Lopp (aka rands), VP Engineering at Slack

2. Ben Morris, Sr. Developer Lead at Shopify

Manager README of Ben Morris, Sr. Developer Lead at Shopify

3. Roy Rapoport, Director at Slack (And formerly Netflix)

Manager README of Roy Rapoport, Director at Slack

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<h2><strong>4. <a href=Oren Ellenbogen, VP Engineering at Forter

Manager README of Oren Ellenbogen, VP Engineering at Forter

5. Aaron Lerch, Engineering Manager at InVision

Manager README of Aaron Lerch, Engineering Manager at InVision

6. Molly White, Tech Lead at HubSpot

Manager README of Molly White, Tech Lead at HubSpot

7. Matt Newkirk, Sr. Engineering Manager at Etsy

Manager README of Matt Newkirk, Sr. Engineering Manager at Etsy

8. Scott Burns, VP Engineering at Stratasan

Manager README of Scott Burns, VP Engineering at Stratasan

9. Elliott Carlson, Manager at RentTheRunway

Manager README of Elliott Carlson, Manager at RentTheRunway

10. Alan Page, Director at Unity

Manager README of Alan Page, Director at Unity

11. Mike Kleinman, Manager of Engineering at BiblioCommons

Manager README of Mike Kleinman, Manager of Engineering at BiblioCommons

12. Katie Womersley, Director of Engineering at Buffer

Manager README of Katie Womersley, Director of Engineering at Buffer

13. John Cline, Sr. Engineering Manager at Blue Apron

Manager README of John Cline, Sr. Engineering Manager at Blue Apron

14. Derek Lakin, Sr. Engineering Manager at Skyscanner

Manager README of Derek Lakin, Sr. Engineering Manager at Skyscanner

15.  Mike Douglas, Engineering Manager at InVision

 

Manager README of Mike Douglas, Engineering Manager at InVision

 


What to include when creating your own README

Based on the READMEs above, here are some elements almost everyone included (a great starting point when creating your own!):

  • 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 “about me” section 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 minute cadence, and the employee controls the agenda.
  • Feedback (how to give and 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.
  • 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 the 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.

How to share your README

Now, how to introduce this odd document to your team. The 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 one-on-one meeting.
  2. Easiest time to start is during onboarding (either theirs or yours, if you’re inheriting a team).

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