A User Manual for Working With Me

In 2016/2017 there was a personal user manual writing fad. I liked the idea and wrote this for my team. My preferences for patterns of engagement haven’t changed much since then, so it’s still relevant. It is somewhat aspirational. If you actually work with me, you may find that I fall short of these patterns. If you see that happen, please call me out. I default to working with others the way that I like to work, unless they explicitly state a preference for different patterns.

Communicating with Me

I value concise, explicit, and direct communication. I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. I use diagrams and graphs before writing when possible. When I write, I prefer complete sentences to bullets. I rarely use exclamation points or emojis. This doesn’t mean I’m not excited or that I’m mad.

I prefer to communicate via email when information needs to be shared, or action needs to be taken, but no decision needs to be made. Email is the best ad hoc entry point to my to-do list. If you want me to do something, please send me an email about it. Feel free to CC me liberally on emails, but if you want me to respond, put me in the TO field.

I will respond to most internal emails within one business day. I have all push notifications disabled. I view internal requests that require an urgent response (< 1 hour) as an indication that we are reacting to something. Sometimes this is entirely appropriate, but if it becomes a pattern then it might indicate that there is a problem. Communications with clients/customers are a different story. Customer response time is a goal unto itself. I respond to clients and prospects as soon as possible.

Meeting with Me

I like to understand what my day holds and prepare for it each morning. I view meetings scheduled or cancelled during the same day as indicative of reactiveness, which is a pattern to avoid. If I set up a meeting, I view myself as accountable for making sure that the outcomes are clear to the attendees. If there is relevant information that can be shared in advance of the meeting, I’ll add it to the description the day before.

I prefer to begin meetings on time. During a meeting, I give my undivided attention to the person speaking. I do not let meetings run long, especially if another group has the room booked after me. When I am invited to a meeting, I assume that my input is necessary to make a decision or to have a discussion. If I get the sense that this isn’t the case, I may ask the organizer if they mind if I leave.

I’m skeptical of the value of standing meetings other than 1 on 1s. To the extent they are useful, its as a placeholder for ad hoc discussion. If I own a standing meeting, I’ll ask the attendees if they anything to discuss the day before and cancel the meeting if they don’t.

Making Decisions with Me

I prefer to meet in person when a decision needs to be made. I believe all decisions should have a clear, accountable owner. I’m comfortable with disagreement. I’d rather disagree and commit than work towards consensus.

I often ask critical questions. If I ask a critical question about something you’re doing, it is not an attempt to make a subversive statement about the prospects of what you’re doing. Usually, my motivation is to better understand your thought process.

I prefer a well understood negative outcome to a poorly understood positive outcome.

Sharing Feedback with Me

Critical feedback is a rare and valuable thing. I will never react to critical feedback with anything other than gratitude if the feedback is delivered in a timely manner. If you give me critical feedback about something I did more than a week ago, my first question will be why you didn’t share it sooner. Don’t wait until you observe a pattern in my behavior to give me feedback; give me the opportunity to observe or prevent the pattern myself.

Ways I Can Be Frustrating

  • If I have not eaten in more than five hours, I will be irritable, slow to understand, and make worse decisions.
  • I’m not always reliable. Sometimes I’ll say that I’ll do something, later find that I’m overcommitted, and not do it. I’m working on it. Don’t forgive this behavior just because I’ve acknowledged it. Please call me out on it if I do this, particularly if it negatively impacts you.

Ways I Can Get Frustrated

  • I don’t like being asked to deliver an outcome without understanding why that outcome should be attained. I find that if I proceed without this information, I run the risk of delivering the letter of the ask, but failing to deliver value.
  • I’m a bit of stickler for epistemic humility. I get frustrated if someone states something as fact or with a high degree of confidence without evidence.
  • Its a pet peeve of mine when people only use color to encode categorical variables in spreadsheets. I should be able to save a spreadsheet as a csv without losing dimensionality.