Leading Snowflakes: Tasks summary

Here you will find all of the tasks across all of the 9 lessons.
Use this screen to track your progress as you go over the lessons and complete the tasks.

Lesson 1: Switch between "Manager" and "Maker" modes

  • Re-organize your calendar: block enough time for Maker mode – I suggest no less than 2 hours at least twice a week.
  • Create a clear color distinction in your calendar, for "Manager" and "Maker" time.
  • Make sure you've got at least 5 "small wins" in your backlog that you can start implementing tomorrow.
  • Pick a gesture you can use to switch modes during the day.
  • Discuss it with your teammates on your next team meeting: ask the team for advice and feedback along the way.
  • Read Rands' post "Technicality" (Time Investment: 12 minutes.)
  • Read Paul Graham's post "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule" (Time Investment: 10 minutes.)
  • Share these posts with other managers in your organization. Have a discussion over lunch.

Lesson 2: "Code Review" Your Management Decisions

  • Make a copy of the Captain's Log template (examples included on the 'Examples' tab).
  • Set a daily reminder in your calendar for 10 minutes of writing things down.
  • Set a monthly reminder in your calendar for 1 hour of self-retrospection.
  • Find another Engineering Manager in the company to be your partner practicing this approach.
  • Set a bi-weekly 30 minute reminder in your calendar for a peer review with your partner.
  • Share 2 dilemmas with your boss on your next 1:1 session.
  • Share at least 50% of your dilemmas in the first 3 months.

Lesson 3: Confront and challenge your teammates

  • Print the "anti-asshole" checklist or create a better version of it. Have it available, as a reminder for your responsibility for your teammates.
  • Write a list of things you should have said to people in your team but waited with it until now. Set a meeting with them (1:1), and use that time together to push them forward. Use the checklist if you need some mental support.
  • On your next 1:1 with your boss (or over lunch with your peers), ask for their opinion on your empathy versus sympathy levels. Couple of questions that can help: "Do you think I'm too protective of my teammates? If so, can you give me a few examples?" and "Is there some feedback you believe I should have given to one of my teammates?"
  • Clear 30 minutes to sit down and write your own method of challenging your teammates. Share it with people you can trust, so you'll have more ways to drive new ideas and experiment.
  • Watch Dick Costolo Warns Against Trying To Be Liked video (Time investment: 6 minutes)
  • Read Michael Lopp's Bored People Quit (Time investment: 5 minutes)
  • Read Etsy's Blameless PostMortems and a Just Culture (Time investment: 5 minutes)
  • Read Lessons from Buffer’s security breach (Time investment: 7 minutes)

Lesson 4: Teach how to get things done

  • Pick one or two features you can join to demonstrate the behaviors you expect to see, by using extreme transparency and explicit dependencies.
  • After you complete a feature using this technique, conduct a 30-60 minute retrospective with your teammate. Ask her – what did she learn during this process? What does she think is still missing to make her more effective? Which parts did she enjoy most? Which did she hate? Take this as an input for your next attempt, until you master this technique.
  • Once your teammate feel comfortable with this approach, help her find a feature she could practice it with someone else in the team. Ask her to share what she learned during this process and how the teammate she worked with experienced it. Help her to master this technique.
  • Read Ryan Tomayko's post Show How, Don't Tell What - A Management Style (Time investment: 5 minutes.)

Lesson 5: Delegate tasks without losing quality or visibility

  • Create your own copy of the responsibility list. You can use a copy I've prepared for you as Google Spreadsheet. Write down everything you can think of under the "Must" and "Delegate" columns.
  • Ask yourself which tasks you believe you should delegate. Share this process and ask for feedback on your next 1:1 with your boss or on your next lunch with another Engineering Manager in the company.
  • Go over tasks you currently own and want to delegate – who should you assign them to? What do they lack? Write down the 1-pager you'd give each teammate to help them succeed.
  • Set a goal to delegate at least 2 tasks you're doing today to someone else in the next 3 months. Talk about it with your boss, so he could be part of this journey and provide you with feedback and guidance.
  • Set an monthly recurring event in your calendar to go over your responsibility list – Can you think of more tasks you can delegate? Is there a new "Must" task you should deal with?

Lesson 6: Build trust with other teams in the organization

  • Take an hour and write your answer for this question: "How can I help in building an organization where the parts in it trust each other and enjoy working together?". Share it with people you trust, may it be your boss or one of your peers.
  • Even without a sync meeting between managers, you can still trigger a conversation over email every 2-3 weeks (or every Sprint, if you're using Scrum):
    • Write down your 3 top priorities. Ask for your boss and colleagues' feedback on it.
    • Specify your known holdbacks: vacations, production issues, personal issues etc.
    • Specify the tasks you know people are dependent on and when you believe they'll be ready.
    • Specify tasks you're waiting for and when do you need them for. Mention that if someone believes she couldn't make it on time, she should reach out to you so you could sit together and figure out what to do next.
  • Find at least one way to start working on building trust between your teammates and other teams in the organization. Internal technical talk or "Pizzability" works well even if trust is not there yet. It takes a lot of time to make that connection, so the faster we can start the better.
  • Try to add a few more ideas/tactics to involve your teammates in building trust with other teams. It's a powerful tool to have and it can be a great discussion with your peers on your next lunch together.
  • On your 1:1 with your teammates, try to figure out if they trust other teams they're working with to keep their deadlines. If not, try to figure out why they have that feeling: is it based on previous deliveries? If so, which? Write it down and talk about it with the other managers to figure out the next step. Many times, it's only a matter of having a good external communication – imagine that someone from Team A drops a feature that Team B needs, due to an urgent support issue. Without communicating this priority change to Team B, trust will be decreased even if it's a justified priority change.
  • Read "The Two Sides of Trust" to learn more about the difference between transactional trust and relational/emotional trust (Time investment: 4 minutes.)

Lesson 7: Optimize for business learning

  • Figure out your product's current phase. Talk about it with your Product/Business team to make sure you get the picture from their side as well.
  • Try to come up with 3-4 ideas to optimize the value of your team based on your current product's phase. Have a conversation with some of your peers and teammates, so you could brainstorm and prioritize. Some people will resist, usually using the current process as an anchor – "we cannot do it because we're using Scrum with bi-weekly releases". Hang in there.
  • Read Kris Gale's post – Efficiency is not our Goal (improving company's throughput). Kris's post addresses a lot of the issues we covered earlier, from a big company's point of view (Time investment: 5 minutes.)
  • Watch Henrik Kniberg's Agile session (video) to learn how resource utilization can dramatically affect the end result (Time investment: 35 minutes.)
  • Talk about it with your teammates – share your thoughts (and Dave McClure's talk) about what you want to optimize for and why. Set your expectations about their responsibilities of business learning.

Lesson 8: Use Inbound Recruiting to attract better talent

  • Consult with your teammates – what would they feel comfortable starting with? Make commitment and track weekly time investments of 1 hour per week to start with. Use your whiteboard to say who's responsible this week for Inbound Recruiting, for example: "Oren to answer 3 questions at StackOverflow about MongoDB or Java". Every time I answer, I need to update it to 32, then 21 and finally 1DONE!
  • Open a wiki page or use the whiteboard to brainstorm ideas the team can invest in, to create better branding. Create some rough estimation for each and ask the team to vote on which they believe will be the smallest to take yet with the highest value for someone outside of the company.
  • Pick one or two suggestions every month and plan time for it as part of your schedule. The idea here is to consistently invest in it, so the team could get used to it.
  • Talk with your boss and with HR (if you have one) – can you invest some of the budget into an interesting Hackathon?
  • If you want to give a talk or help one of your teammates to come up with one, check out http://speaking.io/ to practice your skills.

  • P.S. Here are some references you can use if you need to convince your boss of the importance of Inbound Recruiting:
    http://www.instigatorblog.com/future-recruiting-inbound/
    http://mashable.com/2013/09/26/smart-moves-recruit-engineers/
    http://moz.com/blog/inbound-tactics-make-hiring-easier-and-more-fun
    http://blog.hubspot.com/insiders/using-inbound-recruiting-attract-hire-retain-top-talent

Lesson 9: Build a scalable team

  • Write down your team's vision. Go over it with your boss, both to get more ideas and to make sure you're aligned. Then, use your 1:1 with your teammates to share your thoughts and get their feedback.
  • Write down your core values. If you need more references or ideas, you can look at Buffer's values (slide 5) or HubSpot's values (slides 7-14). At the end of the day, it's going to be values you and your teammates truly believe in.
  • Write down your expectations, both what the team can expect of you and what you expect of them. For your convenience, you can download (zip file) Luc Levesque's format to write your expectations of your teammates.
  • Share your core values and expectations with your boss, colleagues and (if exists) Human Resources. Get as many inputs as possible, but at the end of the day make sure you honestly believe in what's written there.
  • Create a short presentation and share it with the team. It may feel awkward, but don't sell yourself short. People should feel your honesty and willingness to commit to it.
  • Who's currently all over the place? Sit with them and figure out how you can help out by distributing responsibilities to other teammates.
  • Where do you have an expertise bottleneck? Create a plan to transfer some of the knowledge and assign a task to that expert to teach at least one more person in the team.
  • Who's currently not able to reach your expectations? If not you, who in the team can serve as a mentor and help them get there? Assign them both to work on some of the team's tasks together, at least once a week.
  • Watch Dan Pink's TED talk on motivation at work (Time investment: 19 minutes)