Author, public speaker, and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.
Management & Leadership Resources
Updated! The New Manager Care Package blog post
In a year when celebrations have been very difficult to come by, I hope you’ll lend a little extra support to those you care about—with helpful management tools and some newly updated goodies. (read more)
We need to talk about your Q3 roadmap blog post
As people complete their vaccination schedule, as the world around us continues to burn, and as the product roadmap chugs along, something’s gotta give. And I think it’s going to be your feature plans—because the humans behind them need time to recuperate. (read more)
Becoming A Manager In 2021 blog post
Are you—or someone you know—moving into a manager role this year? I’ve got your back! (read more)
Handling the Emotional Weight of 1:1s blog post
As the anniversary of the first pandemic lockdowns loom, I am sharing a round-up of resources to help you lead and support your teammates as they deal with continued grief and burnout—and resources to help you navigate your own emotional workload as a manager or leader. (read more)
Your brain on progress publication
Strategies for nurturing that feel-good sense of accomplishment when doing largely invisible work.
Set future performance reviews up for success now blog post
Hopefully you’re nearing the end of the current performance review season! (read more)
Performance reviews should be unsurprising, fair, and motivating blog post
Performance review season is upon us again! (read more)
Tough love for managers who need to give feedback blog post
I’m honored to coach a lot of really terrific managers and leaders in my work. But no matter how experienced or how smart these folks are, we all still get some things wrong sometimes. When it comes to feedback, I have a lot of tough love to give. (read more)
How to say no right now blog post
We are in an absolutely bananas season. (read more)
Managers: what do you do when your teammate shares their grief? blog post
Most of us aren’t taught how to respond when someone shares with us a really heavy piece of information. (read more)
Now Live: The Complete Demystifying Management Program Digital Course blog post
I’m thrilled to announce the launch of the totally digital Demystifying Management Program! (read more)
What happens if you become a director without being a manager first? blog post
I’ve written before about managing at different levels: the skills you need to hone, what changes, what you start doing and what you stop doing. But recently I was asked: what happens if you skip the introductory level of being a line manager? (read more)
How to be a sponsor when you're a developer (Lead Dev) publication
If you’re not a manager, but you’ve wondered how you can help someone else grow in their career, this article is for you.
Recognize your management wins blog post
A question I get a lot is: what’s a big manager mistake you’ve made? (read more)
Distributed: the secret to being a successful manager interview
Are companies setting up their managers for success? What are BICEPS? How do you assemble your colleagues like a management Voltron? I talked with Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, on his podcast.
How to learn about someone's core needs blog post
The 6 core needs that humans have at work (BICEPS) are on my mind all of the time. In the past, I’ve talked about how to use the BICEPS core needs list to: (read more)
Productivity & Engineering Podcast by Veamly interview
Whether you are a seasoned engineering manager or a software engineer considering the option way down the road, there are certain aspects of management that make the job tough especially with what’s going on with the world right now. Veamly’s CEO Emna Ghariani sat down with me to discuss the essence of building resilient teams that rise in times of crisis.
Easy check-in questions for your 1:1s during times of crisis blog post
Here are the questions I’ve been asking in coaching calls with managers and individual contributors alike, to get a gut check on how folks are feeling during this awful, strange season—without making the conversation too heavy. (read more)
Scaling Software Teams Podcast interview
A resilient manager is the foundation of every successful team. How do you become a more resilient manager? In this episode, I provided Wes with some 1:1 coaching on his management style and uses the BICEPS framework to help him better understand resistance patterns he may see in his daily work.
3 steps for leaders to take in emergencies blog post
I’ll keep this intro short, because I know your energy and attention are precious resources during this season. (read more)
Creating predictability and stability in times of rapid change blog post
A few years back, spurred by the effects of the 2016 election, I published a blog post called “Managering in terrible times”. It begins: (read more)
How to manage up effectively blog post
In the last post, I walked through: (read more)
Is managing up a bad thing? blog post
One of the topics I’m asked to write about with some frequency is “managing up”. So I asked on Twitter: (read more)
Socially visible progress blog post
Our brains are trained to look for socially visible progress. (read more)
Programming Leadership: Rise of the Resilient Manager interview
Are you a resilient manager? Do you want to become one? In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and I discuss what it means to be a resilient manager. We discuss some effective management skills and thought processes, and introduced Marcus to the idea of the manager Voltron.
On direction 'versus' empowerment blog post
I first learned the phrase “balance direction and empowerment” from Dana Trader, Meetup’s former VP of HR (now she’s a VP at Teachers Pay Teachers). (read more)
Buzzfeed: The 4 Biggest Mistakes First-Time Managers Make (And How To Avoid Them) interview
“Generally, when we become a manager, we are just trying to do our best, and the shortcut to doing our best is, ‘Well, what would I want in this situation? What would I need?’ It’s very natural to leap from that to assuming that everybody else is going to want or need the same needs that you do.” But it turns out: that doesn’t work!
Humans+Tech Podcast interview
In this episode of the Humans + Tech podcast, we cover how to get feedback from your team, dealing with times of crisis, a gross metaphor for growth, and so much more.
CodeNewbie: How to be a good manager and a good employee interview
You can be an amazing developer, but a terrible manager. We discuss why becoming a manager isn’t necessarily a promotion, and some of the most important skills people need to not only be good managers, but in any supporting role.
How to offer challenges to your teammates blog post
Think about when a manager’s helped skyrocket your growth—what did they do? Did they teach you a new skill? Did they give you hard feedback? (read more)
Introducing: New Manager Care Packages blog post
Wishing you could congratulate the new manager in your life while also giving them some more support in their new role? Meet my New Manager Care Package. (read more)
Interviewing at senior levels blog post
In my last newsletter, I wrote about a few skills that indicate someone is distinctly more senior in their role: (read more)
Updated: Work at different management levels blog post
“As a leader, your job should change every six months even if you stay put.” —Cate Huston (read more)
Presentable podcast interview
We discuss the qualities that help teams thrive and how you can contribute whether you’re a leader … or aspire to be.
Track Changes podcast interview
Focus on Core Needs: I joined Paul and guest host Gina Trapani to chat about my new book and about leadership in the workplace. I walked through a framework for managing different types of people and gave tips on how to adapt your management style. I also gave Paul some useful advice on where he should sit in the office and explained why moving desks can be so traumatic.
My 3 favorite types of manager meetings blog post
The first time I came across the concept of a “first team”, it was in the incredible book The Manager’s Path: (read more)
Strong Feelings podcast interview
Did your first management gig come with a small pay bump and zero training? Ours too! But being good at doing a job doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be good at managing people doing it. We cover: why there’s more to managing than just mentoring, why moving desks in your office seems like a pretty small thing but is actually often a Big Deal in the workplace, and why it’s a must to get to know people who aren’t just like you in the workplace and find ways to sponsor them in their areas of interest.
Build by Femgineer interview
Just when you thought you had a handle on your job… it’s time to lead a team! Time to be responsible for others. Their career growth, emotional well-being at work, and job satisfaction. We cover a ton of ground in this video!
Order Now: Resilient Management book blog post
This announcement was a long time in the making: (read more)
A Tiny, Powerful Question for Better Feedback blog post
This post originally appeard on the 11:11 Supply Nerd Out Blog (read more)
Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots interview
We discuss finding my ideal job coaching and mentoring, evaluating for management alignment, what makes for a strong manager, the value of role-play for difficult conversations, constructive feedback, and my upcoming book, Resilient Management.
Frontier Podcast interview
We talk about the surprising human emotions that crop up at work, how to navigate them as a manager, and how to know to create your own Manager Voltron.
Roleplaying Difficult Conversations blog post
As a manager, I had no idea how to handle my first disruptive teammate. The work environment was becoming less and less psychologically safe; the rest of the team had started to work from home more to avoid being yelled at by her. But she rarely acted out when I was around, so I found myself struggling to give this teammate feedback. (read more)
Feedback Equation worksheet
It's performance review season! blog post
Ah, performance reviews. The season that eats up most managers’ spare time as they collect and synthesize feedback from others. The season that ramps up anxiety in teammates as they wait to hear what’s been said about them, and whether or not they’re gonna get that promotion. It’s both draining and tedious, and tremendously important. (read more)
Tools for Introspection blog post
As you wrap up the year, and as you reflect on your role as a manager or leader, I encourage you to develop a one-line leadership philosophy that you can share with your mouthwords in the new year. (read more)
Coaching Reflections blog post
In my full-day workshop for managers, I lead participants through a series of exercises to become better mentors and coaches for their direct reports. (read more)
Software Engineering Radio interview
Travis Kimmel talks with Lara Hogan and Deepa Subramaniam about evidence-based tactics that leaders can use to increase clarity and build healthier, high-performing organizations. Their conversation covers: diagnosing and treating problems that are slowing product, design, and engineering teams; “organization smells”; clarifying roles and responsibilities; improving documentation; facilitating better meetings; improving inter and intra-team dynamics. Audio
Fairness and management blog post
I’ve been thinking a ton about fairness since I came across this HBR article: “Research: When Managers Are Overworked, They Treat Employees Less Fairly” (read more)
Advice for a new executive blog post
When I was getting ready to join Kickstarter as VP of Engineering, Chad Dickerson (who was the CEO of Etsy when I worked there) offered to send me a bunch of advice. Chad had been a CTO multiple times before being CEO; he knew that this executive-level role was brand new to me, so he offered to help give me a steer and a foundation as I walked into this totally new territory. (read more)
Acknowledging When You Mess Up blog post
We all mess up sometimes. (read more)
Simple Leadership Podcast
Christian McCarrick and I discuss expectation setting as a manager, mindful communication, my new company and a surprise management challenge! Find out what it is: Audio and Transcript
Week in Review Leadership Comms blog post
As an Engineering Director at Etsy and VP of Engineering at Kickstarter, I sent a “Week in Review” document every two-ish weeks to my whole team. This doc helped me set records straight, disseminate info to lots of people at once, and open up conversation internally, while reflecting on the themes that had come up in weekly one-on-ones, backchannels, team meetings, etc. (read more)
Tips for Hiring Managers blog post
This post originally appeared on Making Meetup (read more)
Feedback Equation blog post
As I mention in my book Demystifying Public Speaking, humans are mostly bad at giving feedback. We’re also really bad at preparing ourselves to receive feedback. (read more)
Leadership Style Colors blog post
Search for “leadership styles” on Google, and you’ll find lots of different articles describing the various types and numbers of leadership styles. Here are some examples of articles that say there are five, six, seven, eight, nine, and twelve leadership styles. (read more)
Management/Leadership Philosophy worksheet
Defrag Your Calendar worksheet
Calendar color coding and defraging
Step one: Color code your calendar based on the kind of brain you use in each event. For example, in my week, I’ll have:
- one-on-ones where I’m coaching others (listening/empathy brain)
- planning meetings with senior leaders to set strategy and timelines (strategy/tactics brain)
- calls with potential consulting clients to discuss what kind of work they need (sales/logistics/planning brain)
Step two: Use those colors to analyze how much context switching you’re doing each day. Also analyze how much you’re drained at the end of the day when there’s large blocks of the same brain.
Are you finding yourself using different mental energy every other hour? Is there a way to make shared-brain meetings follow each other in your day?
Relatedly, if you have a day where you JUST do one-on-ones, maybe you’re far more or less drained on those days than the other days. Make a note to yourself at the end of each day for two weeks how tired you are, and what the calendar colors looked like that day.
Step three: Defrag or reorganize. Move some things around so you’re doing less context-switching, and see if that helps. Or scatter the super draining events throughout the week to see if that makes it a little less taxing.
Manager Voltron Bingo worksheet
Revamp a Meeting worksheet
Setting Expectations worksheet
Setting Communication Expectations worksheet
Onsite Interview Loop template
Questions for your first 1:1 worksheet
Example compensation calibration spreadsheet
Tracking compensation and promotion inequity blog post
One of my suggestions is to calculate whether you compensate and promote people fairly, which requires some level of manual analysis.
Read Jason Wong’s post Bootstrapping Inclusion: Education & Effecting Behavioral Change to read about how he structures Compensation Calibration meetings. Also check out this example template for tracking and measuring compensation changes, based on Jason’s original comp calibration template.
Holding Balanced One on Ones worksheet
It’s helpful to walk into your 1:1s with a game plan to build trust, help your direct report grow, and tackle some problems together. To do that, it’s important to find a balance between the three main hats you can wear as a manager: mentoring, coaching, and sponsoring.
Use this worksheet to plan your 1:1s, based on what your direct reports each need most.
How to Facilitate a Working Group Meeting blog post
This is where the magic happens. After you’ve laid all the ground work for organizing a working group (define ground rules, choose and invite attendees, plan your agenda arc, and communicate broadly), here’s what to do when you finally get your participants in the room together. (read more)
How to Organize a Working Group blog post
I’ve been running a lot of working groups as part of my consulting practice, leveling up product and engineering organizations. (read more)
Meetup Architecture Principles blog post
Our Goal: Empower Meetup engineers to build coherent, lasting architecture solutions. (read more)
Onsite Interview Loop Template blog post
This post originally appeared on Making Meetup (read more)
Open Questions: Lara Hogan (NYT Open) interview
Nick Rockwell (CTO of the New York Times) interviewed me about my work in technology, managing technologists and “roaming the wilds” as a consultant.
Team Leader Venn Diagram blog post
A tool for gaining a shared understanding of responsibilities (read more)
Manager Energy Drain blog post
One of the most frequent questions I hear as I coach managers is, “How do I handle how tired I am as a manager?” (read more)
When your manager isn't supporting you, build a Voltron blog post
In my years of coaching managers and individual contributors, I’ve routinely heard the following complaints about their bosses: (read more)
Dealing with surprising human emotions: desk moves blog post
Dealing with surprising human emotions is one of the most challenging aspects of being a manager. Generally, when someone appears triggered, or angry, or some other strong emotion that’s surprising, it’s likely that their amygdala has been hijacked, which I’ve written about before. Our amygdalas are in charge of our emotional reactions, and they’re critical to our “fight or flight” decisionmaking process. When our core needs feel threatened, our amygdala kicks into high gear. (read more)
Etsy's Charter of Mindful Communication blog post
While I worked at Etsy, the company’s Culture & Engagement team rolled out the following “Charter of Mindful Communication”. I’m not sure if it’s been updated since, but I’ve found this language incredibly useful throughout my work ever since, and even brought it over to Kickstarter. I hope it’s valuable to you! (read more)
Tracking compensation and promotion inequity blog post
Plenty of tech companies are attempting to make their pipeline of candidates more diverse. But an organization won’t find much success recruiting a more diverse group of employees unless its leaders are aware of their existing internal inclusion and equity issues. Unless leadership has already started to tackle these issues, it’s likely that these new hires will enter into an environment that they won’t want to stick around in for long. (read more)
Manager handoffs blog post
Y’all know how crucial I think one-on-one’s are for managers to get to know their direct reports: what they need from their manager, how they like feedback, what makes them grumpy, and so much more! But what happens when a person switches managers? (read more)
Etsy Lessons blog post
During my four and a half years at Etsy, I learned a ton, from a ton of people. Honestly, the lessons are innumerable, and I’m forever indebted to this crew not just for letting me learn and grow there, but for all that they taught me. Here are just a handful: (read more)
What does sponsorship look like? blog post
Why can't they just...? blog post
Stealing a page out of other leaders’ books, I began writing a “Week in Review” post every two weeks or so at Etsy, with a link open to anyone internally, and a distribution list of the people in my organization. I used it as a reflection on themes that were coming up in weekly one-on-ones, backchannels, team meetings, etc. (read more)
Managering in Terrible Times blog post
These are terrible times. You may be facing these events head-on as a member of a marginalized group or as an ally, and if you’re a manager, you likely have direct reports who are doing the same. (read more)
Setting Expectations as a Manager blog post
This past week, an engineer who I hired a few years ago transitioned into management. It’s been years since he reported to me directly, so we had a first-one-on-one-redux in which we talked through my first 1:1 questions. I realized it might also be helpful to reset expectations about: (read more)
On Better Meetings blog post
As an engineering director, my week is filled with meetings: one-on-ones with my direct reports, skip-level one-on-ones with theirs. Meetings to make decisions, meetings to share information, meetings to teambuild. I have meetings to provide mentorship, or feedback on a presentation, or to get coaching. (read more)
Work at different management levels blog post
I remember working as a developer at a company and complaining that I had no idea what the bosses did all day. It felt like while we engineers were working hard and shipping stuff, managers just talked to a lot of people all the time, or sat in their offices behind closed doors, and I had no idea what their work looked like.1 (read more)
Questions for our first 1:1 blog post
In the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of kicking off lots of new reporting relationships with both engineers and engineering managers. Over time, I’ve learned that getting some particular data during an initial 1:1 can be really helpful, as I can refer back to the answers as I need to give a person feedback, recognize them, and find creative ways to support them. Most of these I’ve stolen from some really amazing Etsy coworkers. (read more)
ShopTalkShow podcast interview
I had a blast talking with Monika Piotrowicz, Chris Coyier, and Dave Rupert about career paths - where we started from doesn’t always equal where we’ve landed. Freelancer? Go to university or college? Find a mentor? It’s a common ShopTalk Show question and we did our best to answer from our experiences.
Transitioning to meta-management blog post
Cate Huston’s post The Hardest, Shortest, Lesson Becoming a Manager recently resonated with me. She writes about the shift from day-to-day engineering to day-to-day management of engineers, and focuses on the reasons why it’s probably a smart idea to step away from coding as a manager. (read more)
Finding support as a new senior (woman) leader blog post
As a female Senior Engineering Manager at a tech company, I’m in a weird spot. There are lots of women role models ahead of me who I look up to, and who I’m fortunate enough to call mentors. There are a bunch of women who I mentor, too, and many more women just entering the industry. (read more)
The High Road blog post
"Taking the high road has never once come back to bite me in the ass." —Kelly Sue DeConnick
Think of the last time someone's behavior triggered you. What did they do that hurt you? What did they do that disappointed you? How did you handle the surge of emotions that followed? (read more)
Popforms Leader Of The Week is a feature on their blog where they highlight an outstanding leader and share their insights on leadership, career, and being awesome at your job. I wrote about taking the high road, having an awkward career trajectory, and what I look for in a great hire.
Calendar Hacks (Code as Craft) publication
As an engineering manager, there’s one major realization you have: managers go to lots of meetings. After chatting with a bunch of fellow engineering managers at Etsy, I realized that people have awesome hacks for managing their calendars and time. I wrote up the best ones from a recent poll of Etsy engineering managers.