Engineering Manager introduction
Have you ever sat down and told someone "this is how I work"?
The following is based on something that I first experienced when I started reporting to a seasoned manager at FreeAgent. During our first encounter he sat me down and laid exactly what I can expect from him and what he expects of me. I'd never experienced such transparency but afterwards I knew exactly what our time working together would be like. It was great!
I've given this introduction enough times that it now feels more like a professional courteously than anything else but I don't want to understate it's importance to my workflow. The aim is to build trust, be transparent and set the expectations as to what it's like to work with me.
Whenever I have a new direct report, meet another manager, or start reporting to someone new/different I give them "the speech". It not only encompasses who I am, how I operate and what I'm like to work with, it also keeps me right, accountable and grounded, it doesn't let me forget the type of manager I want to be.
I keep my introduction notes on a document or email so it's easy to access and edit as I'm constantly fine tuning and tweaking it depending on the audience. I also find using a bulleted list keeps things conversational.
I always start with a brief introduction about myself and work history, followed by what it's like to work with me. I then set out expectations for the individual and then ask them to do a similar exercise. I tell my counterpart how long it's going to take and then ask them to "settle in for the speech".
About me & work history
Generally I'll start with my name, how I like to be called, where I'm based, what my family life is like and a couple of my interests. Nobody needs to know when my birthday is but I want people to know I'm more than a talking head on a computer screen.
From there I'll give a brief overview of my work history and technical expertise. I don't just load up my CV and read it out, but instead give a whirlwind tour of my journey to management, the areas I've worked in and a couple of key changes in career direction. I'm looking to show how I arrived here and that I've spent my time trying to stay technically relevant.
Working with me
Here's where I lay down my management style - which is everything from what drives me day to day to how to my take on work life balance. This is the main body of the introduction which run through quickly:
Here's an overview of what I normally cover:
- what drives me
- my values as a manager and what I pride myself on
- my approach product work, delegation and ownership
- the environment I like to work in
- the support I can offer/give
- my demeanour, what I'm like day-to-day and also when I'm grumpy or upset
- how to tell me if I'm wrong or heading in the wrong direction
- how I like to receive feedback
- how I handle conflict inside and outside the team
- how I will respond if I don't know
- my expectations around communication
- work/life balance
- my daily/weekly working schedule (assuming I have it figured out already)
- how to reach me during the day, if I'm in a meeting, or out of hours
- my take on meetings and team ceremonies
There is a lot to unpack there and each of these things can be spoken about at length. I don't want to dwell or overload as it can be a lot to cover. What I'm trying to do is lay a transparent foundation about what to expect from me. I tend to say 1/2 lines about each and move on.
E.G "I like know what's going on so when I ask I expect an answer. I get it, "async comms" so I probably don't need an answer now, but I do need an answer."
Expectations of you
The final part of the introduction changes depending on who I'm speaking to. I won't ask for end of week updates from an executive and so I adjust this section accordingly but I find it easier to have a complied list of things here and omit those which aren't relative.
- Treat others with respect
- If you're frustrated come to me before you act or lash out
- I expect ownership of the work we do
- If it breaks we should care and fix it
- Meet the expectations for your role (a link to a document here helps)
- Highlight any risks, or ways of doing things better
- Status update on what you're working on
- Write it down or it didn't happen
- Be direct with me
- Speak up
- Tell me how you like your feedback
- ...and finally, tell me what you expect of me/your manager
At this point I generally receive a "wow, thank you", as most seem surprised about how this opens up the relationship between us. In particular the last question creates an opportunity for us to connect: "what do you expect from me". I've laid myself out, and now you can tell me how I can help.
It's equally important to follow up on this introduction as it really lays the ground for mutual understanding and trust. I've had some open up more than others which is fine, what matters is I tried and they know what to expect from me. Relationships aren't created in an instant but instead forged over many interactions.
It's a fact of managerial life is that people in your team come and go, but and when newbies join your team it's important to make the right impression and set clear expectations about working together. I feel this introduction helps set a common starting place for working with me at least.