Reading List: Leadership, Management, Communication & Hiring

Strategic Planning, Visioning, Measurement and Estimating
Decision making approaches
Effective Communication
Remote Work, Videoconferencing
Meeting Effectiveness
Presentation Tips
Encouraging and modeling Innovation
Intrapreneurship / Being glue
Professional Development / Motivating / Goal setting
Engineer Effectiveness
Performance Evaluation and Reviews
General Leadership and Management

Strategic Planning, Visioning, Measurement and Estimating

  • NOBL Academy: How to Write a Strategy Statement Your Team Will Actually Remember – even over statements, e.g., innovation even over predictability; “An Even Over Statement should feel like it costs you something. Because of opportunity costs, every choice you make is a sacrifice. Therefore, the hallmark of a strong Even Over Statement is how difficult the tradeoff feels between the designated choices.”
  • Jim Highsmith & Mike Mason & Neal Ford: Implications of Tech Stack Complexity for Executives – “As tech stack complexity grows, organizing your teams based on technology layers becomes less and less effective. In the early Internet era of only a few tech layers—business logic, database, middleware, presentation layer—teams organized around technology layers weren’t pretty, but they worked to some degree. Today, those degrees are shrinking to zero. The wide diversity of skills required to build today’s applications means collaborative teamwork, not dysfunctional silos”; “trend towards domain (or product) organizations rather than technical layer organizations is accelerating as companies go digital. If companies continue to organize along technical silo lines, the number of siloed functions with their necessary interactions will increase dramatically causing more severe integration problems”; five key factors: breadth of skills, depth of skills, quick learning, innovation, decision-making; “One mantra of efficiency-driven managers has been standardization, standardization, standardization. In today’s world standardization may be a direct path to calcification”
  • Guy Kawasaki: Don’t Write a Mission Statement, Write a Mantra (5min vid) – it’s about the employee slogan for the customer, vs. the mantra for the employee; examples: Wendy’s: “Healthy fast food”; Fedex: “Peace of mind”; Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”; Mary Kay – “Enriching women’s life”; Guy K: empowering entrepreneurs; note Mary Kay one is dual purpose in being both slogan and mantra
  • Beer & Eisenstat: How to Have an Honest Conversation About Your Business Strategy – conversation about strategy needs to move back and forth between advocacy and inquiry, be collective and public, allow honesty; Strategic Fitness Process; Distill to the issues that matter; Fishbowl Discussion
  • Douglas Hubbard: The IT Measurement Inversion: Are your IT investment decisions based on the right information?
  • Hubbard Decision Research: How to Measure Anything – Blog covering Calibrated estimates, Bayesian approaches etc.; example spreadsheets
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Sargut & McGrath: Learning to Live with Complexity – complicated (more predictable) vs. complex (more emergent)
  • Tom Harford: Why you shouldn’t organize your email –  excerpts from book “Messy: The power of Disorder to Transform our Lives” – “if you’re paying somebody to do a complex job with lots of different elements in a team, and you can’t necessarily say who’s contributing what and you can’t measure some of the tasks, don’t use a strong incentive. Don’t use these aggressive targets, because you are basically paying people to lie to you or to game the system or to cheat or to stab each other in the back. You only want to do that if you really feel you can measure everything that matters.”

Decision making approaches

  • Jeffery Smith: Decision Rights — Communicating How Choices Get Made – see Conscious Leadership Group: Defining Decision Rights; Decision Rights: Leader, Leader with Input, Subgroup, Subgroup with input, Majority Vote, Consensus, Alignment; agenda to communicate: what decision, timeframe, what decision right, what fallback decision right (if applicable), tools being used to generate decision options
  • Fearless Culture: Make Good Decisions Faster: Move from Consensus to Consent – “…building consensus takes a long time and usually ends up with mediocre solutions.  So, how can you drive your team to support a decision – even if they disagree? Move from consensus to consent – rather than aiming for everyone to agree, make sure no one objects to the decision.”; “Most people usually consider decision-making with a binary approach: consensus or autocratic. The first is about making sure everyone agrees; the latter is about one person having the power to impose a decision on everyone else. Consent is meant to break this black and white approach by providing participation, just like consensus does with the autocratic method’s speed.”; “Amazon uses the phrase “disagree and commit” to capture the spirit of consent – rather than looking for 100% of people to agree on a decision, make sure that no one will say no, or fight it.”; “Consensus means that everyone agrees on the decision; consent means that people agree to move forward, even if they don’t necessarily like the solution.”; “Consent considers people’s range of tolerance – will they accept and support a decision, even if it’s not their preferred choice? Simply put, people might not love the decision, but they can live with it.”; “At Netflix, Informed Captains are assigned to lead large projects and have complete authority to make decisions. However, they must get advice from others. They have an obligation to ask for advice from those affected by the decision – to digest different perspectives, not to follow their recommendations.”; “Advice is just advice. No one, regardless of title or role, can tell a decision-maker what to do. When asking for advice, clarify expectations.”; “Are you just looking for input or do people have a say in the final decision? Are you trying to understand the different perspectives, or simply realize how people will be impacted? Are you looking to validate an idea, or do you need people to help you craft one?”; “Clarifying roles and expectations will avoid confusion. Most of the time, people complain that they are consulted and then their advice is not followed. The advice process integrates people’s thoughts, but is not looking for consensus.”; “You are not looking to determine whether people love the decision or not, but if they can live with it.”; “Giving consent means that the team agrees that, if approved, the proposal will neither harm the team nor bring it backward.”; “Objections should be considered valid only if they pass a test – that’s where the facilitator plays a vital role during the process. A colleague cannot block a proposal simply because they have a better one or because they don’t love it. Objections must be based on the present (not on potential future scenarios), objective, and not based on personal tastes.”; “Consent is faster than consensus because it does not require alignment of preferences, but rather an alignment of what’s acceptable. It focuses on making progress over perfection.”; “Object with facts, not opinions. Consent forces people to think more objectively about making decisions rather than centering on what they like”; “Consent quickly becomes a verb that promotes action over analysis paralysis. ‘Do you consent?’ is a powerful question that reminds people both that their opinion matters, but also that they always need to commit (even if they disagree).”
  • Bonnie Slater: Making better, faster decisions that are good enough for now – “Consent-based decision making is about making fast decisions that are ‘good enough’ for you to move forward, rather than getting everyone to agree on a decision that’s ‘right’ before moving forward.”; “In a nutshell, it’s about getting consent rather than getting consensus — a subtle but really important difference.”; Proposal -> Clarifying Questions -> Brief Response -> Resolve Objections -> Celebrate; “; “Consent-based decision making treats decisions as experiments that are good enough for now and safe enough to try. This allows you to decide quickly, fail fast, continuously learn and improve by responding to that learning”; “It can also really speed up decision making. I don’t believe this should be the key reason that you try this process, but it certainly allows a large group to agree to try something and assess the results. Getting full consensus can be painful and demoralising to many teams, as it assumes that there is one way and you must all agree on that way.”


  • Melissa Daimler: Why Great Employees Leave “Great Cultures” – “… there are three elements to a culture: behaviors, systems, and practices, all guided by an overarching set of values. A great culture is what you get when all three of these are aligned, and line up with the organization’s espoused values. When gaps start to appear, that’s when you start to see problems — and see great employees leave”
  • Francesca Gino: When Solving Problems, Think About What You Could Do, Not What You Should Do – “Approaching problems with a “should” mindset gets us stuck on the trade-off the choice entails and narrows our thinking on one answer, the one that seems most obvious. But when we think in terms of “could,” we stay open-minded and the trade-offs involved inspire us to come up with creative solutions”; “Rebels are prone to disagreement. But some tension is a positive thing, because it can help get people to move past should to could. When we experience conflict, research finds, we generate more original solutions than when we are in a more cooperative mood. When there is tension, we also tend to scrutinize options and deeply explore alternatives, which leads to novel insights”; “… appoints a devil’s advocate during meetings who is charged with poking holes…”; “When other members of the staff see their leader do the unexpected, they embrace it as well”
  • Ron Vincent: DevOps and Leadership – Command and Control Taylorism / GANTT top-down approaches vs. devops bottom-up; principle of mission; Water-Scrum-fall
  • John Cutler: Trust Y / N flow diagram – do-it / thanks vs. a bunch of meetings, reviews, approvals
  • Thoughtworks: Barriers to organizational learning – “A firm ‘learns’ through the spread of innovative solutions discovered by individuals faced with real problems across the organization”; “The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) is a popular framework for continuous improvement”; “Organizations don’t learn – people learn and change the organization”
  • Claire Cain Miller: Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd – “…interpersonal skills like collaboration, communication, empathy and emotional intelligence are essential to the job. The myth that programming is done by loner men who think only rationally and communicate only with their computers harms the tech industry…”; “…The memo distinguished between empathizing with other people’s feelings and analyzing and constructing systems, and said coding is about the latter. But it requires both…”; “The stereotype of an eccentric genius who would rather work with machines than people was born… Yet that was never an accurate description of the job. It was social from the beginning, in university computer labs and, later, Silicon Valley garages…  The social circle just didn’t include women”; “Silicon Valley culture encourages it. Google calls engineers who aren’t managers “individual contributors.” Technical skills are valued above soft skills or business skills. “Anyone who deals with a human being is considered less intelligent…””; “One example is the distinction between front-end engineers, who build the parts of a product that users interact with, and back-end engineers, who work on behind-the-scenes systems, like data storage or scaling. There is a bias that front-end engineering, which generally pays less and has more women, is less technically difficult.”; “Empathy also affects which products are built in the first place — why, for example, Silicon Valley has spent more time building apps for expensive food delivery than for decreasing hunger”; “computer science students would benefit from more liberal arts courses. “We need future adults to be able to discern what it makes sense for machines to make decisions about, and is the code base fair and equal, and do they have a basis to even judge that…”
  • 22 Years Ago, Steve Jobs Said 1 Thing Separates People Who Achieve From Those Who Only Dream – ask for help: you show respect; you show trust; you show you’re willing to listen
  • Steve Denning: The Age Of Agile: What Every CEO Needs To Know (interview with Julian Birkinshaw) – working on a book called “Fast Forward”; bureaucracy (roles & rules); meritocracy (knowledge-based / big-data); adhocracy (action-based); agile as a manifestation of adhocracy, operationalizing adhocracy; related skunk-works, design-thinking, lean startup; adhocracy is opportunity-focused; any org has these three sides of the triangle (formal structure, knowledge / competence, action-oriented behavior); riot games, spotify are well-known adhocracies; “what are the scarce resources in a world of too much information?…the scarce resource is human attention. Our capacity to attend to the right things. A deficit of attention is much more likely to be the challenge, rather than not having enough information”; “organizations that will succeed in the future will have all of the information that everyone else has. But they will also have the capacity for decision action. They will know when to stop gathering data and when to start acting on it”; “If in our board meetings and our conversations we emphasize only our rational numerical knowledge, if everything has to be boiled down to what it says on the spreadsheet, then we are going to make very sterile decisions, decisions which risk being completely devoid of understanding”; “in addition to having all the data in a rational, logical sense, we also need more emotional conviction and belief to go with our rational side. The two parts of course come together to make a whole that is more valuable than an organization that is good at one or the other”; “we should fighting complexity with simplicity. We should be creating organizations that are deliberately moving away from trying to manage and pre-program everything”; detailed breakdown of bureacracy (assumption person at top knows more), meritocracy (person who knows most / makes best argument calls shots, bias toward discussion and debate), adhocracy (when in doubt do something rather than meritocrocracy-style discuss / debate or defer to bureaucratic boss) models; “all organizations have all three elements… It’s key that we protect the bits of the organization that are action-oriented”
  • Matt Cronin: How to Lead a Caring Company Culture – discover their why; keep your door open and welcome interruptions; be a sounding board; support mentoring
  • Joel Trammell: 4 Ways to Balance Company Rules With Values – 1. create values to guide behavior and apply consistently;  2. employees own the rules; 3. align corp-level policies with values; 4. build transparent work env.
  • Paylocity: Three Tips for Improving Your Organization’s Transparency – post important information where everyone can access  it; straight communication at goal-setting meetings; empower employees to think like an owner
  • Carly Guthrie: This is Why People Leave Your Company – you don’t respect their time, etc.; how to keep: build a community with purpose; managers trust their employees (including related to WFH); structure a mentorship program that people actually want (needs to be organic); hallmark of a healthy culture is that people feel comfortable bringing up problems with and offering feedback to their leaders and vice versa; When employees leave because of their boss, it rarely comes from personality mismatches, it stems from a lack of confidence.
  • Christopher Hannegan: Does your company have a culture problem? – emphasizes actions related to culture including what’s valued, seen, communicated, measured, and held accountable
  • Phyllis Korkki: Be Direct and Low-Key to Defuse Discord at the Office – points out ineffectiveness of “low directness” behaviors like not saying what you mean, withholding info
  • 1871: Howard Tullman: 4 Reasons Democracy Adds Up to Mediocrity – Inclusion can be a delusion…. risks of too much democracy in decision-making, meetings, design
  • LinkedIn: Fred Kofman: Culture: Key to Organizational Success (3.1) – 5 conditions: strategic, integrative, cohesive, innovative, adaptive; Supports execution: uplifts, shapes behavior, aligns efforts
  • Thoughtworks: Org Chart Debt: A A Risky, Off-Balance Sheet Liability – refers to Steve Blank article; manifestations; servicing it
  • Robert Laing: You are incurring HR debt – examples of HR debt; how to eliminate it; preventing it
  • Steve Blank: Organizational Debt is like Technical debt – but worse – org debt occurs during early stage build, just before growth; seven things: plan for hiring; evaluate salaries to keep key people; refactoring original hires and their roles; relook at company culture; disseminate information by repeating; evaluate how customer communication should change from talking to just one person; advisory board of other CEOs who have recently grown; good comments on the article
  • Brian Scudamore: 3 Tips To Create A Workplace Culture That Employees Love – tip 1: create a high-energy workplace; tip 2: give employees space to dream on and off the job; tip 3: share the wealth with your employees
  • Tim Stevens: 12 Signs your Company has an Enviable Workplace Culture – 1. people are waiting in line to join your team; 2. turnover is low; 3. top leaders are not insecure about other leaders succeeding; 4. gossip isn’t tolerated; 5. lateral leadership is outstanding; 6. team members are energized by the mission; 7. it’s not just a job; 8. the team believes they are more important than the task; 9. people are smiling; 10. fear is missing; 11. communication is strong; 12. change is welcome
  • Mary Shapiro: Help Your Team Agree on How They’ll Collaborate – rules of conduct; cultural audit
  • Steve Blank: Innovation @ 50x in Companies and Government Agencies – Success creates Organizational Debt (people / process shortcuts), Technical Debt, need to refactor each by restructuring; org that executes *and* innovates is an ambidextrous org; achieve breakthrough innovations while relentlessly improving they way they execute and serve existing customers; three horizons of innovation; intrapreneurs are (good) rebels; horizon 3 protects mavericks, horizon 1 fires mavericks; if there are no horizon 2/3 incentives in the company then there is no real commitment to innovation; transition plan: make sure that $’s, people and infra are in place to cross tech transfer “valley of death”; need Chief Innovation Officers; horizon 1 uses “innovation” to reinvent what works; communicate big idea, strategy, tactical implementation; lean innovation mgmt is about developing capabilities not about efficiency
  • Rob Lambert: Follow the work – bad news for Test Managers? – follow the work (value stream) to determine what functional-area groups are needed; good managers will always be needed, but specialist managers (like test managers) are becoming less required
  • Kim L Chandrow: What Cultivating a High-Performance Company Culture Means to 8 Business Leaders – ensuring everyone is aligned; hiring and cultivating people that believe in your mission; focusing on your employee’s needs; allowing employees to take ownership of the company’s culture; removing as many constraints as possible; creating a community that fosters your values; highlighting how you approach and conduct business; determining the right goals for your company
  • Hashicorp: Our Principles – Integrity; Kindness; Pragmatism; Humility; Vision; Execution; Communication; Beauty works better; Reflection
  • Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility – actual company values shown by who gets rewarded, promoted or let go; most valued nine behaviors and skills: judgment; communication; impact; curiosity; innovation; courage; passion; honesty; selflessness; the “rare responsible person” thrives on freedom and is worthy of it; why do most companies curtail freedom and become bureaucratic as they grow?; avoid chaos as you grow with ever more high performance people – not with rules; the key: increase talent density faster than complexity grows; minimize complexity growth via few big products vs many small ones; good process focuses on rapid recovery, helps talented people get more done, bad process tries to prevent recoverable mistakes; flexibility is more important than efficiency (process) in the long term; best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting context rather than trying to control; three models of corporate teamwork: tightly coupled monolith, independent silos, highly aligned, loosely coupled; highly aligned, loosely coupled requires high perf. people and good context, goal is to be big, fast, flexible; pay top of market is core to high perf. culture; formalized development is rarely effective (mentor assignment, rotation through roles, multi-year career paths), people should manage their own career growth
  • Scaling Company Culture: 6 Lessons from HubSpot’s Katie Burke –  #1 take culture seriously; #2 connect culture to metrics; #3 write it down (see “culture code” below); #4 obsess over employee experience; #5 think about culture early on; #6 make it aspirational
  • The HubSpot Culture Code: Creating a company we love –  1) Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing; 3) Solve For The Customer — not just their happiness, but also their success; 4) Power is now gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it; 5) “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”; 6) You shouldn’t penalize the many for the mistakes of the few (“just because someone made a mistake years ago doesn’t mean we need a policy, we only protect against big stuff”); 7) Results should matter more than when or where they are produced; 8) Influence should be independent of hierarchy; 9) Great people want direction on where they’re going — not directions on how to get there; 10) “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”; 11) We’d rather be failing frequently than never trying; “would you recommend this meeting to a colleague?”; “the interest rate on culture debt is crushingly high”; “don’t just hire to delegate, hire to elevate”; “we want to be as proud of the people we build as we are of the company we build”; “two ways to progress: 1. gain mastery and make magic, 2. provide spectacular support to those doing 1.”; “amazing people don’t like average goals”; “organizations should be frequently refactored – improve internal structure without changing external behavior – remove unnecessary rules, stop generating unused reports, automate, cancel unproductive meetings, prune extraneous process”
  • Valve: Handbook for New Employees – Why do I need to pick my own projects? But how do I decide which things to work on? How do I find out what projects are under way? Short-term vs. long-term goals; Someone told me to (or not to) work on X. And they’ve been here a long time! How does Valve decide what to work on? Cabals; Team leads; Hours; What if I screw up? Peer reviews; **Hiring**
  • Etsy: Kellan Elliott-McCrea: Five years, building a culture, and handing it off – (now former) Etsy CTO describes scaling Etsy
  • Elizabeth Doty: Why Leaders Need to Ask, “Is that a Promise?” – creating a culture of commitment
  • ERE: How To Keep Teamwork From Becoming Group Think – And Make Smart Decisions, Too – groupthink rubberstamping; group decision-making via work from a template, gather info, limit choices, limit debate time, ensure acceptance of decision, implement immediately, include error-checking & exit strategies
  • Zingtrain: Five Steps to Building an Organizational Culture – 1. Teach it (stories); 2. Define it; 3. Live it; Measure it; Reward it
  • Jez Humble: Risk Management Theatre
  • David Lee: How To Keep Your Awesome Culture Awesome As Your Company Grows – teachable moments, stories
  • Rightpoint: Ross Freedman: Engaging Millennials in the Digital Workplace – emphasizing personalization of workplace communications (think wiki home, blog), social media
  • Chad Perry: How Old-School Management Kills Work Culture – focuses on the constant feedback millennials value
  • Sam Altman: How to Start a Startup: Lecture 10: Culture
  • Alex MacCaw: What it’s like to work for Stripe
  • Jack Welch: How Those Totally “Useless” Meetings Can Make or Break your Career – even if your company has too many meetings, make the ones you attend count
  • Centro: Shawn Riegsecker: Centro at 4As: Happiness is the New ROI (30min vid) – happy and engaged employees – facilitating creating of camaraderie, friendships in the workplace – maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. good points about feedback, transparency
  • Joyent: Brian Catrill: Leadership Without Management: Scaling Organizations by Scaling Engineers (1hr vid) – Mission and purpose as motivator; list of demotivators as org scales; 50-200 size orgs face scaling inflection point; ineffectiveness of annual reviews; hierarchical titles are corrosive; perils of purple robes club; noones’s job should be to go to meetings (e.g., architectural review boards); non-tech mgmt. does not understand unknown unknowns; the most dangerous mgmt. is that which is formerly technical, mgrs.. need to stay technical, such as by helping with debugging; a bit part of focus is saying no; developing leadership in engineers minimizes need for middle mgmt., err on the side of flatness not hierarchy


  • Lighthouse: Nails in the Coffin: Why a Flat Organizational Structure Fails – Fail #1: You can’t manage everyone yourself; Fail #2: Unspoken lines of communication & decision making form; Fail #3: You miss or become overwhelmed by problems; Fail #4: You waste time re-inventing the wheel; Fail #5: Important decisions can become a mess; What to do instead: Build and reward your leaders
  • 16 lessons on scaling from Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, Marissa Mayer, Brian Chesky, Diane Greene, Jeff Weiner, and more – 3. top consideration of scaling is when to scale; 7. the reason to scale in the first place; Dunbar’s number (150); 9. recruiting becomes the #1 priority when scaling; don’t hire generic people; when you are trying to get to 150 people you need dedicated recruiters; what is the biggest scope and responsibility you can give someone, without any “training wheels”?; use a list of 4-5 people and use them as a hiring bar for future candidates; 11. even at scale, great products come from small teams; 12. Hiring from the outside vs. promoting from within; the art is to balance between these two; 13. Have a strong culture; strong culture – a shared mission, a way things are done, beliefs we share; one of the strongest levers of culture is hiring; culture at scale is all about repetition – repeating over and over again the things that matter; if the leaders of the company are not living the values, are not recruiting people against these values, are not evaluating performance against these values — the values are not worth the paper it’s printed on; one of our tools we used to great effect is an all-hands meeting every other week; 15. Scaling is moving away from problem solving to coaching; 16. The role of a CEO during blitzscaling; executives confuse themselves when they think they actually get to do things; CEO’s listen and help clear the path to make their team and company more effective
  • Griffin Caprio: Engineering at Scale (17min vid) – 100+ size team; entrepreneur background person who went to Enova as Dir of eng.; eng teams structured as mini-startups (including owning their own P&Ls); at this scale you become “big M” MANAGEMENT; “Quantum Management” – your presence affects things going on; “diving into details is the worst thing to do”; “always balancing macro vs micro decisions”, often choosing macro over micro, may be unpopular; rethink your personal contributions: “New contributions: decision making, people, culture, happiness, smiling faces, retention”; “you are your #1 direct report”; edgar schein: “… it can be argued that the only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture”; Culture: “Basic Underlying Assumptions: Failure is required for progress”; Andy Grove: High Output Management: “meaning scales, people don’t”; “build amplifiers to radiate your desired cultural model”; “organizational behavior follows leader behavior”; building a culture is a brownfield project (see Reinventing Orgs infographic below); “am for progress not perfection”
  • Michael Sahota: Frederic Laloux: Reinventing Organizations (infographic) – engagement / trust diagram: start with power & structure model -> achievement -> people -> shared power decentralized network

Effective Communication

  • GitLab: Communicating effectively and responsibly through text – use short sentences; avoid adverbs; be objective; avoid acronyms / jargon; “In an all-remote organization with team members spread across an array of time zones, communicating through text is ideal. Not only is it inclusive and considerate, but a bias towards communicating through text creates a company that documents everything.”; allows team to work asynchronously; “At GitLab, we communicate assuming others have low context. We provide as much context as possible to avoid confusion.”; “Assume positive intent (If a message feels like a slight, assume positive intent while asking for clarification.)”;
  • Rod Begbie: Filtering your language as an engineering leader – Linguistic filters: “Here’s what I’d be worried about…”; “This is just a half-baked idea but…”; “I’m going to give you some feedback…”; “Here’s how I like to think about it…”; “Let me try to explain it. Correct me where I’m wrong…”
  • Michael Bremer: What Type of a Leader Do You Choose to Be? – use simple tools to create pictures; understand why; make it visual
  • Josh Bernoff: Bad Writing Is Destroying Your Company’s Productivity – “vague writing dilutes leadership”; “Clear leadership, expressed in writing, creates alignment and boosts productivity. For example, in writing email, managers from the CEO on down must set an example by communicating exactly what they want, clearly, in the subject line or title and the first two sentences of everything they write”; “Fuzzy writing allows fuzzy thinking. Clear writing uses well-organized, active-voice sentences to explain what is happening, what ought to happen, and what people need to do. Conversely, inexact and passive language reflects gaps in thinking”; “Spend effort changing the culture to one that prizes brevity, clarity, and directness”; moral foundations theory; “it’s all about politics”
  • Howard Tullman: This Common Communication Mistake Is Destroying Your Productivity – “Quality of information deteriorates as it rises in the organization”; “Your system needs to turn data into information and information into knowledge. Knowledge only becomes power when it’s used…”; “only two words matter today: transparency and efficacy”; “it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that can kill your business…”
  • Steven Pinker: The Source of Bad Writing: The ‘curse of knowledge’ leads writers to assume their readers know everything they know
  • Simon Sinek: Start With Why (18min vid) – golden circle: why, how, what, in *that order*; “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”; this is where gut decisions come from (the why); “the goal is not just to hire because they need a job, it is to hire people who believe what you believe”; “if you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe”; “what you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe”; “he (Dr. King) gave the I have a Dream speech, not the I have a Plan speech”; “we follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to”
  • FiveThirtyEight: Not Even Scientists Can Easily Explain P-values – “Try to distill the p-value down to an intuitive concept and it loses all its nuances and complexity, said science journalist Regina Nuzzo, a statistics professor at Gallaudet University. “Then people get it wrong, and this is why statisticians are upset and scientists are confused.” You can get it right, or you can make it intuitive, but it’s all but impossible to do both.” (applies to other concepts as well – need to be careful in choosing when to use intuitive descriptions which sometimes are over-simplified to the point of losing important meaning as in this example)
  • Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are (21min vid) – fake it ’till you make it / become it, power poses
  • Ron Westrum: The study of information flow: A personal journey – the continuum of cultures: Pathological -> Bureaucratic -> Generative
  • Unless you’re Oprah, Be Yourself is Terrible Advice – “… Nobody wants to see your true self. We all have thoughts and feelings that we believe are fundamental to our lives, but that are better left unspoken.”; high self-monitor vs. low self-monitor; “With your romantic partner, being authentic might lead to a more genuine connection… But in the rest of our lives, we pay a price for being too authentic. High self-monitors advance faster and earn higher status… these high self-monitors spend more time finding out what others need and helping them…”; “merely believing that there’s a fixed self can interfere with growth… Children who see abilities as fixed give up after failure… managers who believe talent is fixed fail to coach their employees… . When we’re looking to change our game, a too rigid self-concept becomes an anchor that keeps us from sailing forth.”; “ … sincerity. Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, Trilling urged us to start with our outer selves. Pay attention to how we present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the people we claim to be… Rather than changing from the inside out, you bring the outside in.”; “… high self-monitors were more likely than their authentic peers to experiment with different leadership styles. They watched senior leaders in the organization, borrowed their language and action, and practiced them until these became second nature. They were not authentic, but they were sincere. It made them more effective.”; “Next time people say, “just be yourself,” stop them in their tracks. No one wants to hear everything that’s in your head. They just want you to live up to what comes out of your mouth.”
  • Our Overrated Inner Self –  “Trilling: Sincerity… requires us to act and really be the way that we present ourselves to others. Authenticity involves finding and expressing the true inner self and judging all relationships in terms of it.”; “What matters is that they behave with civility and tolerance, obey the rules of social interaction and are sincere about it. The criteria of sincerity are unambiguous: Will they keep their promises? Will they honor the meanings and understandings we tacitly negotiate? Are their gestures of cordiality offered in conscious good faith?”;
  • Blog Tyrant: How to Write the Perfect Blog Post: A Complete Guide to Copy (infographic) – generate your idea; develop headline; write intro; list out main points; write a base of 2k-2.5k words; add bonus mat’l; don’t finish topic, pose question; select main photo
  • Eric Siu: Content Marketing: Blogging for Growth (1h21min skillshare vid) – buzzsumo shares / linkers analyzer; copyblogger, quicksprout “the formula for a perfect headline”, portent content idea generator; canva, pablo for image annotation and generation
  • George Saunders: what writers really do when they write

Remote Work, Videoconferencing

Meeting Effectiveness

  • Tim Denning: Quiet People in Meetings Are Incredible – “Leaders throw words around. Those looking for their next promotion do the same.
  • Tips for running effective meetings (infographic)
  • Liane Davey: The Right Way to Start a Meeting – clear purpose, specific about each agenda item, balanced contribution, emphasize one ground rule, raise issues during not after meeting, be careful with roundtable statusing
  • Loomio: Consent decision making – decision-making types: Autocratic and delegation, Advice or consultatative, Consent or consensus; Integrative Consent: Proposal, Questions and Comments, Amendment, Integration (Objections -> Validate -> Integrate); Objections minimum viable criteria: explicit, impersonal, evidenced, not ‘safe to fail’ (it’s not that i have a better idea)
  • Steve Jobs Knew How to Run a Meeting: Here’s How He Did it – article summary and 20min vid of 1985 Next retreat meetings; Show your passion; Focus on creating value; Challenge your team “I don’t see that startup hustle”; Keep everyone on course; Define the right priorities
  • Nancy Duarte: Big Meeting Coming Up? Close the Slideshow; Pick Up the SlideDocs – references Amazon’s 6-Pager; “When you’re having a meeting where you need to foster consensus – try doing something similar to Amazon: distribute a short document with helpful information about the subject-at-hand, which people can take the time to read before discussions begin”; “We contend that meeting memos actually benefit from being more visual than word-dense. Research shows that using visuals boosts retention”;  “If people can see what you are saying, you’ll end up with a shared understanding”; example slidedoc: freshspectrum; Slidedocs differ from slides in these ways: Word density; modular bites; interactive; device-friendly; skimmable; Benefits: They foster conversations; They are design for clarity; They are shareable, so they can spread
  • Brad Porter:  The Beauty of Amazon’s 6-Pager – “The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a powerpoint presentation, some type of slide show.  In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points.  This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience.  And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a 6 page narrative memo…. If you have a traditional ppt presentation, executives interrupt.  If you read the whole 6 page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on on page 4 that question is answered.”; “The down side to the 6-pager is that writing a good six-page evidence-based narrative is hard work.  Precision counts and it can be hard to summarize a complex business in 6 pages, so teams work for hours preparing the document for these reviews.  But that preparation does two things.  First, it requires the team writing the document to really deeply understand their own space, gather their data, understand their operating tenets and be able to communicate them clearly.  The second thing it does is a great document enables our senior executives to internalize a whole new space they may not be familiar with in 30 minutes of reading thus greatly optimizing how quickly and how many different initiatives these leaders can review.”
  • How The First 15 Minutes Of Amazon’s Leadership Meetings Spark Great Ideas And Better Conversations – “… forces them to read it, to grok it, to deeply understand it so they can have a much better discussion”; 1) Who are the customers; 2) what benefits are we bringing; 3) What problems are we solving; 4) Why would this idea delight them
  • Plan a Better Meeting with Design Thinking – who’s there and what are their needs; who won’t be there but is affected? what is broader culture / env., challenges and oppys?; set a frame / purpose; creatively design the meeting;
  • Richard Kasperowski: The Core Protocols (.doc source to book) – based on Jim & Michele McCarthy’s work

Presentation Tips

  • A 2004 email from Jeff Bezos explains why PowerPoint presentations aren’t allowed at Amazon – “Well structured, narrative text is what we’re after rather than just text. If someone builds a list of bullet points in word, that would be just as bad as powerpoint. The reason writing a 4 page memo is harder than “writing” a 20 page powerpoint is because the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what’s more important than what, and how things are related. Powerpoint-style presentations somehow give permission to gloss over ideas, flatten out any sense of relative importance, and ignore the innerconnectedness of ideas.”
  • Armed Forces Journal: Essay: Dumb-dumb bullets – “As a decision-making aid, PowerPoint is a poor tool”; “…PowerPoint is not a neutral tool — it is actively hostile to thoughtful decision-making. “; “Before PowerPoint, staffs prepared succinct two- or three-page summaries of key issues. The decision-maker would read a paper, have time to think it over and then convene a meeting with either the full staff or just the experts involved to discuss the key points of the paper. Of course, the staff involved in the discussion would also have read the paper and had time to prepare to discuss the issues. In contrast, today, a decision-maker sits through a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by five minutes of discussion and then is expected to make a decision”; “PowerPoint …can be useful in situations it was designed to support — primarily, information briefs rather than decision briefs.”; “PowerPoint … is particularly good if strong pictures or charts accompany the discussion of the material.”
  • The Gamma: Tools for open data-driven storytelling – npm-based OSS, embedded tables and charts linked to the original source, using the simplicity of spreadsheet tools
  • Jenny Burcio: Tips for Submitting Talks to Tech Conferences – starting five steps: 1) Read CFP; 2) Id your story; 3) Be focused; 4) Know your audience; 5) Define your takeaways; Write an abstract
  • Techstars Chicago Community Demo Day 2017 (1.5hr vid) – 10 great startup pitches preceded by intros by Techstars leaders
  • Raheel Retiwalla: My personal journey evolving into a confident presenter and a meeting participant – 1) tell them why you; 2) know the subject inside and out; 3) don’t be afraid to show your passion / voice your opinion; 4) stand up and talk; 5) create your own content; 6) face the audience all the time; 7) genuinely want to help
  • Storytelling That Moves People (interview with Robert McKee) – “The other way to persuade people—and ultimately a much more powerful way—is by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story”; “A good storyteller describes what it’s like to deal with these opposing forces, calling on the protagonist to dig deeper, work with scarce resources, make difficult decisions, take action despite risks, and ultimately discover the truth”; “Stories are how we remember; we tend to forget lists and bullet points”; “how do you imagine the future? As a story. You create scenarios in your head of possible future events to try to anticipate the life of your company or your own personal life”; “Great storytellers—and, I suspect, great leaders—are skeptics who understand their own masks as well as the masks of life, and this understanding makes them humble. They see the humanity in others and deal with them in a compassionate yet realistic way”
  • Andy Raskin: The Stinky Cow Principle: How to Tell Stories that Make People Trust You – strategic storytelling to structure pitch narratives for companies, products, and ideas; McKee’s “inciting incident”; “stories are a “write API” for humans — that is, a channel for inserting beliefs into other people’s brains”; “Tell inciting incidents as scenes, not summaries”
  • Andy Raskin: Why Leadership = Storytelling – “Leadership is the art of inspiring others to make a story come true”; “Very literally, leadership is storytelling and leaders are storytellers”
  • Andy Raskin: Want a Better Pitch? Watch This – example – Elon Musk’s Tesla powerwall battery pitch; five things to do right: 1) name the enemy; 2) answer “why now?”; 3) show the promised land before explaining how you’ll get there; 4) identify obstacles – then explain how you’ll overcome them; 5) present evidence that you’re not just blowing hot air
  • ECHO: Storytelling Fundamentals: Tell Better Internal Business Stories – “Story is how we make sense of data”; “Consider starting a weekly meeting with a storytelling session — kick it off yourself and then put a colleague on point”; “Authentic storytelling can be hard. However, story can be how you explain your mistakes — and what you learned from them”
  • ECHO: Storytelling Fundamentals: 5 TED talks to make you a better storyteller
  • ECHO: Storytelling Fundamentals: Core elements of a great business story – “A great business story–like any great story–is memorable, persuasive, moving, engaging, immersive and surprising”; core elements: get to the point; get over your conflict aversion (and check your 5Cs checklist); get emotional; find your hero; prize the details; don’t start at the beginning; challenge your audience
  • The End of Boring Presentations – pecha kucha method
  • Pinterest: Pecha Kucha & Presentations (examples)
  • Brian Burkhart: 10 Presentation Trends to Look for in 2016 – 1. slideless; 2. large screen touch interactivity; 3. mini-talks: 10-min or less; 4. personalization: no more, “this is wendy, she’s a busy mom”; 5. Total elimination of panel discussions; 6. audience poll-driven content; 8. interactive workbooks; 9. less “uber-ization of dry cleaning”; 10. audience revolt
  • Eric Hultgren: The process – when presenting: don’t read off notes ever; process: visualization -> writing -> editing -> practice -> audio visualization; “processes are sh*t, execution is key”
  • Brian McCarthy: Delete the “Thank you!” slide – how to end your presentation – 1) Repeat something from opening; 2) Show how main points support overall arg.; 3) Don’t show a Thank-You slide (best reason: people often take a photo at the end); 4) Finish with energy and enthusiasm;  5) Summarize after Q&A
  • Reid Hoffman: Why panels suck – compares the fake agreement and lack of depth of typical panels with 1:1 fireside chats

Encouraging and modeling Innovation


  • Tanya Reilly: Being Glue – “Every senior person in an organisation should be aware of the less glamorous – and often less-promotable – work that needs to happen to make a team successful. Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills”; “… noticing when other people in the team are blocked and helping them out. Or reviewing design documents and noticing what’s being handwaved or what’s inconsistent. Or onboarding the new people and making them productive faster. Or improving processes to make customers happy….  I call all of this glue work“; “… sometimes a team ends up someone who isn’t senior, but who happens to be good at this stuff. Someone who acts senior before they’re senior. This kind of work makes the team better — there’s plenty of it to go around. But people aren’t always rewarded for doing it.”
  • Andrew Chakhoyan: Is the era of management over? – “The ideas of incremental progress, continuous improvement, and process optimizations just don’t cut the mustard anymore; those practices are necessary, but insufficient. It is now impossible to build enduring success without “intrapreneurship” – creating new ideas from within an organisation”; “Today, we define management as the process of dealing with or controlling things or people… Controlling things no longer appears plausible, and controlling people is downright counterproductive”; “… work that requires supervision is being outsourced to robots and algorithms. Non-standard, creative, experimental work, on the other hand, doesn’t naturally lend itself to management”; “A project-based and titles-free organization — where yesterday’s team member is today’s team lead — can deliver the flexibility and agility that businesses yearn for”; ““Context Curator” is the term I’d like to introduce to the business dictionary. To lead a project is not to assign tasks and monitor performance, but to empower, to define the broader context, and to organically link the work of one team with the rest of the business”
  • Tanmay Vora: Mindset Shifts For Organizational Transformation – sketchnote based on Thoughtworks: The Unfinished Business of Organizational Transformation
  • Alexander Osterwalder: How Big Companies Can Make The Intrapreneur Sexy Again – it’s still a rarity to see really empowered entrepreneurs inside of a large company–they’re seen more as pirates or rebels; The intrapreneur doesn’t exist in most companies because people who manage new growth initiatives, especially in senior levels, have more execution based roles. The “entrepreneur” in an organization is usually responsible for or associated with R&D; R&D is generally focused on technology or product innovation that helps improve the existing business model; it rarely prepares the company for future business model environments; Intrapreneurs deserve to benefit a lot more from the potential they create for a company; Big companies need someone who has the power to act fast, to be agile and make quick decisions like an entrepreneur. Intrapreneurs have to be able to make the pivots and necessary changes when required. That power also has to be coupled with new processes and incentives that reflect the role
  • Alyson Krueger: The rise of the Intrapreneur –  “What do I want to create that is going to fill a white space? What doesn’t exist that needs to exist?”; not all companies are embracing intrapreneurialism… “There are so many reasons. One is that there are strong cultures of ‘this is the way it’s always been done.’ There are also cultures that fear failure . . . or have very real reasons to be cautious. It can be right down to the personality of the leader itself”; not all employees are cut out for intrapreneurship, either. You have to be aggressive and push a company, often set in its ways, to embrace change. You also have to work after hours and forgo full recognition or credit for your work; if companies give their talent something to focus on, projects to own, they will stay and help their company move forward; What is going to get you fired up to do what you came here to do?
  • Kelly & Medina: 5 Mistakes Employees Make When Challenging the Status Quo – 1) fail to prioritize ideas; 2) go solo; 3) flunk the pitch meeting; 4) give up too soon; 5) ignore personal danger signals
  • Linda Rising: Meeting Resistance and Moving Forward (54min vid): author of “fearless change”; behavioral economics; confirmation bias, our narrative, the backfire effect, cognitive dissonance; “skeptics are useful”; covey’s “listen with intent to understand with skeptics”; “personal touch”; innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards (first two are only 16% of population); “the people in your org will never all be in the same place at the same time”; trial run – if you try something you are much more likely to buy / agree; “silence is good, short responses are good”; to influence = move them, share the same point of view, go for a walk; ending the discussion: “the key question: is there something i can prove or demonstrate that will make you stop believing in “
  • Twitter: #intrapreneur

Professional Development / Motivating / Goal setting

  • Mark Murphy: Are SMART Goals Dumb? – top 8 predictors of goals resulting in great things: vividly picture great feeling of achieving; have to learn new skills; absolutely necessary to help company; active participation in creating goals; access to any formal training needed; will be pushed out of comfort zone; enrich lives of someone beyond me; aligned with org’s top priorities for year; two key ones that differ from SMART are learn new skills, leave comfort zone; HARD: Heartfelt, Animated, Required, Difficult
  • Strategic Agility Project: With Goals, FAST Beats SMART – Goals should be embedded in frequent discussions; ambitious in scope; measured by specific metrics and milestones; and transparent for everyone in the organization to see.
  • Dan Pink: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us (10min vid)
  • Use OKRs to Set Goals for Teams, Not Individuals – “…keeps planning and progress-tracking focused on the impact the work is having, rather than micromanaging the specific work that teams are doing on a daily basis… The strength of OKRs explicitly lies in de-emphasizing specific tasks, and instead emphasizing the value that those tasks deliver”; but for individuals, they’re not so effective: “They create binary goals that are easy to measure but don’t help determine whether they’ve grown or improved in a meaningful way; They choose targets they know they can hit, rather than taking a risk on more ambitious goals”; “The measure of success is not what the individual does (the output), but how those who interact with the individual’s work change their behavior (the outcome). And goals that are scaled up to this level by definition cannot be achieved individually. They must involve multiple team members”; “… in our personal lives, the OKR framework can actually work well on an individual level”; “…instead of attempting to define OKRs at an individual level, it’s far more effective to take a team-level view in which performance reviews and compensation are tied not to individual goals and metrics, but to the extent to which individual contributors support their team’s objectives and key results”
  • Buckingham / Goodall: The Feedback Fallacy – “What the research has revealed is that we’re all color-blind when it comes to abstract attributes, such as strategic thinking, potential, and political savvy. Our inability to rate others on them is predictable and explainable—it is systematic.”; “You may occasionally have team members ask you to tell them where they stand, objectively. You may feel that it’s your duty to try to answer these questions. But you can’t—none of us can. All we can do—and it’s not nothing—is share our own feelings and experiences, our own reactions. Thus we can tell someone whether his voice grates on us; whether he’s persuasive to us; whether his presentation is boring to us. We may not be able to tell him where he stands, but we can tell him where he stands with us.“; “…getting attention to our strengths from others catalyzes learning, whereas attention to our weaknesses smothers it.”; “Focusing people on their shortcomings or gaps doesn’t enable learning. It impairs it.”; The Right Way to Help Colleagues Excel: Instead Of / Try matrix; “The arguments for radical candor and unvarnished and pervasive transparency have a swagger to them…”
  • Jeff Haden: Science Says Kids Who Become Great Leaders Have Parents Who Teach Them 8 Things – title says kids but this is applicable to anyone learning to develop leadership skills – being persuasive is key; 1) teach them to start with small wins; 2) teach them not to be afraid to take strong stands; 3) Teach them to adjust their rate of speech; 4) teach them to know how their audience prefers to process information; 5) teach them to not be afraid to be (appropriately) “unprofessional”; 6) teach them to focus on describing positive outcomes; 7) teach them to share the good and the bad; 8) most of all, teach your kids not to just say they’re right. teach them to be right
  • Howard Tullman: Your Technology Might Be Good, but Your People Better Be Better – “Motivation is exactly like bathing. Whether you like it or not, if you don’t make it your business to do it daily, pretty soon your body and your business will start to stink”; “by and large, none of these folks care about the business or the company you’re building. They mainly care about themselves. And, if you think you’re gonna get them to simply sign up for your sacred crusade and walk through walls for the greater good with sweet talk and option grants, forget it. The “right now” economy works for them as well – they want to know what it is that you’re doing for them (and paying them for) right now”; PROPS: Pride, Respect, Ownership, Power, and Style; ” two specific qualities above all: highly motivated to do something important and never satisfied with what they’ve accomplished to date”
  • Howard Tullman: Trying to Motivate Your Employees? Forget It – “Real motivation comes entirely from within. People who pump themselves up stay pumped and succeed because passion and commitment and a true appreciation of why you’re doing something–and how it ultimately benefits you–don’t wear off”; “You’ve got to talk about what they want (their future) and you’ve got to show them how to get it (the path)”
  • Oren Ellenbogen: Who should own your engineering team’s skill debt? – “skill debt starts when people prefer to stick to existing solutions because they don’t have faith in the possibility of applying newly gained knowledge in a beneficial way”; “Increasing skill debt is an outcome of an organization where trust is deteriorating”; “When people do more of the same for too long, without an option to change that, it could kill any form of innovation or people growth”; “Technical Leads should spend at least 20% of their time in teaching other teammates or other teams in the organization”; “Are other teams more comfortable working with us? Do they feel more relaxed and confident in our ability to deliver or own a big transformation? You can find out a lot by doing 1:1’s with Engineering Managers from other teams and ask for their view from the outside”
  • Howard Tullman: How to Locate–and Motivate–Your Most Influential Employees – “If you can’t find the people who have the most impact, you won’t be effective in making critical organizational changes”; “… what gets measured is what supposedly gets managed. Most people do what you inspect and not (sadly) what you expect”; “Only when we have a new and clear perspective on the employees who can directly and indirectly be the most helpful in promulgating the attitudes and behaviors required for the desired changes can we identify the people who can help us get the critical messages across to the remainder of the team”; “It just so happens that a movement can be started or a systemic change effectively initiated and grown within an organization just as easily by a mere mortal with a strong set of internal connections (and a powerful message) as it is can be by some superstar orator, politician or other impassioned advocate”; “Top down communications in business today are largely a waste of time and breath. Treating your employees as a homogeneous population to which you can broadcast a single message won’t work any better for your business than it has for the TV networks of old. Peer to peer, customized communications to and from people we are directly and regularly connected with, and whose opinions we value and respect, are the only ways we want to learn today. People don’t commit much of anything to companies today – they commit to other people”
  • Carter Murray: Giving Talented People Room to Bloom – “entitlement is the kiss of death for the soul of a human being”; “When I work for someone, I have to either like or respect them, or both”; “You want to work for people you can relate to and be inspired by, and believe in”; “I think leadership is fundamentally changing… you say to someone, “Look, I think you’re amazing, incredibly talented and you can do even more than you think in your wildest dreams. And I’m not going to manage you to do that. You will determine that yourself. What I can promise you is I’ll create a culture where that happens.”; “The challenge I’ve learned with that type of leadership is you’ve got to hire triple-A talent, and you need to have even stronger checks and balances in the cultural infrastructure”; “if I look at the leaders I’ve had to change out, 50 percent of the time it was because of their inability to make decisions”
  • Enova: Career Ladders (OSS) – individual contributor, manager tracks
  • Building a technical career path at Spotify – a set of four steps; a map of career growth; a group editing process; see also second segment and third part
  • 7 Keys to Creating the Best Work Environment (infographic) – 1. be flexible; 2. communicate; 3. recognize success; 4. offer development opportunities; 5. build trust; 6. give and receive feedback; 7. provide a sense of purpose
  • Harvard Business Review: Tours of Duty: The New Employer-Employee Compact – importance of encouraging networking etc.; “As allies, employer and employee try to add value to each other. The employer says, “If you make us more valuable, we’ll make you more valuable.” The employee says, “If you help me grow and flourish, I’ll help the company grow and flourish.” Employees invest in the company’s adaptability; the company invests in employees’ employability”
  • Sarah Mei: Pairing with Junior Developers – don’t type; let them make mistakes; take breaks; be prepared to say “I don’t know”; find what they can teach you; “Another advantage is that bringing them on increases your code quality. You read that right. And I agree, it’s surprising. That’s the opposite of what I expected at first, since I was, after all, hiring less experienced people. But when you bring in your first junior developer, it forces you to make explicit a lot of knowledge that was previously implicit between more experienced developers. The experienced folks may find it tedious at first, but this process always ends up surfacing inconsistencies and design flaws that otherwise you wouldn’t have caught until much later”
  • Kevin McMahon: Management is Dead! 5 Reasons to Adopt a Leadership Culture – mgrs ask when / how vs. leaders ask what / why; you manage things, you lead people
  • David Loftesness: This 90-Day Plan Turns Engineers into Remarkable Managers – own your education -> find your rhythm -> assess yourself (do you actually want this?) – Eng. Mgr. Daily / Weekly / Monthly Event Loop checklist – People, Projects, Process, Me
  • Chad Halvorson: How to train your Employees to become Managers – Culture of Learning, Time Mgmt., Team Comm.
  • Zillow: Spencer Rascoff: 9 ways to recruit extraordinary employees – Create a company culture that rewards innovation, rather than success, set vision, value efficiency over time spent
  • Sam Altman: How to Start a Startup: Lecture 15: How to Manage (50min video, transcript)
  • Abraham Zaleznik: Managers and Leaders: Are They Different? – timeless 1977 article describing the natural tension between management and leadership, the need for both – and keys to cultivating and keeping leaders
  • Josh Bersin: HR for Humans: Welcome to Behavioral Economics – The Power of the Nudge – principles: Loss aversion; Status quo bias; Anchoring; Optimism bias; Hindsight bias; Herd behavior; Reciprocity; Choice overload; ref’d book themese: In choice architecture, everything matters; People do not make optimal decisions; People avoid hard work; Data and A/B testing do wonders
  • Swipely: How to Make OKRs Actually Work at Your Startup – (Objectives and Key Results); high level objective, a more detailed description of why that objective is important, a summary of how the objective aligns with the broader goals of both the person’s team and the company, and the three to five key results that will help them achieve that goal; When personal objectives are directly and clearly connected to the broader goals of the company, they’re suddenly more inspiring, less myopic. Make them public so everyone can see what’s on their co-workers’ plates and employees no longer feel like they’re toiling in a vacuum, or for their manager’s approval; high-perf OKR system commonalities: track results quantitatively; make it something people look at ever quarter, week, day; they have to be a stretch (70% is just about perfect)
  • Joe Apfelbaum: Do you know a Connector? – thoughtful questions; offer to introduce; deeper connection

Engineer Effectiveness

  • Abi Noda: Does Experience Matter? – Programmers with higher efficacy read code in a more efficient manner “…these programmers quickly moved and focused on the most relevant parts of the code whereas programmers with lower efficacy spent more time studying the entirety of the code”; Programmers with higher efficacy experienced lower cognitive load “due to the lower cognitive-load levels, programmers with high efficacy likely can sustain longer periods of work. By contrast, programmers with lower efficacy are more likely to be overwhelmed by constant spikes of cognitive load.” ; “It is often assumed that more experience equates to greater ability, but this study disassociates the two. “Psychology describes this conscious effort to keep learning as deliberate practice”; learning doesn’t happen on its own. This aligns with the findings of another paper I recently reviewed, which found “continuous learning” to be a key attribute of great engineers.”; efficacy most highly correlated factors: Self-comparison to Peers, Weekly Code-review hrs, Number of Programming Languages, Self-comparision to 10-Year Programmer, Weekly Tests hrs, Weekly mentoring hrs, Weekly learning hrs

Performance Evaluation and Reviews

General Leadership and Management

  • Gallup: Do Your Managers Lack Courage? – “…low-courage managers fail to provide the kinds of support employees need to get their work done.”; “The manager tells them the pressure is coming from above, when in fact the manager could have negotiated a more reasonable workload if they had spoken up.”; “In an attempt to be “team players,” managers don’t communicate hard truths to other teams. As a result, they harm effective collaboration.”; “…most of the traits of successful leaders can be distilled down to two elements: 1. They bring multiple teams together. 2. They make great decisions.”; “…great leaders help managers identify with the “us” of the organization.”; “They own it. They stand behind it. They believe it. And that is ultimately the source of all courage — knowing who you are.“; “Being in management means dealing with messy problems and making tough calls. But to truly resolve issues, managers need shared conviction around your organization’s values. Hard conversations are never fun or easy, but they are more likely to result in positive outcomes when we have the motivation to do the right thing.”
  • Gregory Orosz: An Engineering Team where Everyone is a Leader – built a team where everyone can be a leader, and everyone acts as an owner; “… every member has the skills, confidence, and empowerment…”; project management expectations Google Docs guide that my team uses; “I found myself running too many projects at the same time”; “He asked people to start all their sentences with “I intend to do {this and this}, because…” over waiting for orders to be given and following those orders without thinking”; “…have one publicly announced engineering lead per project”; “As an engineering manager, I am the one accountable and responsible for my team delivering projects. I delegated the responsibility – deciding how to do things – but kept the accountability. If the project would fail, and someone would get in trouble, it would still be me, not the project lead”; “The first few project leads were experienced engineers, who either have led projects before or have observed others do so”; requires concise and good writing, keeping the target audience in mind – the stakeholders. For any engineering leadership position, good writing is a key skill; “it turned out that the first-time project lead found the expectations on leading too vague. I put together these expectations for someone who’d led projects before, and wanted to avoid telling them “how” to do things. Yet, for people with no experience, telling them “how” was important.”;
  • Charity Majors: The Engineer / Manager Pendulum – rather than the traditional binary choice of committing to tech or mgmt track long-term, advocates for switching between the two every 1-3 yrs to stay fresh in each – skills from the other realm always help in current primary role
  • Charity Majors: An Engineer’s bill of rights (and responsibilities) – engineer’s bill of rights; engineer’s responsibilities; manager’s responsibilities
  • Marcus Blankenship: A Wake-Up Call For Tech Managers – “As the leader, you are responsible for creating an environment where everyone can contribute to solving the problems at hand. Instead it appears many programmers are treated like idiot savants; brilliant children capable only of coding”; “It’s sad that actually the coding culture in my current environment is that programmers are merely interested in finishing a task instead of thinking of sharing ideas.”; “ask more often than tell”
  • Leah Fessler: The best leaders aren’t optimists – diminishers vs. multipliers; “Among the six types of accidental diminshers… These are people, often leaders, who intend to communicate that their teammates can do anything”; “… you can unintentionally eliminate the possibility that things might not work out. And that can make employees afraid to take risks or make mistakes…”
  • Lighthouse: How great leaders get out of management debt and stay that way – 1) actively seek out problems, no matter the discomfort; 5 why’s; work relentlessly, using all resources, to resolve it; you are a micro CEO
  • Simon Sinek: When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders – managing / directing vs. leading
  • Simon Sinek: About empathy (3min vid) – “empathy is being concerned about the human being, not just their output”; “create an enviroment safe enough for someone to raise their hand and say i don’t know what i’m doing”; “we’ve create a culture where everybody comes to work every day and lies, hides and fakes”; “… it’s not even generational”
  • Simon Sinek: If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business (30min vid) – “when we’re surrounded by people that believe what we believe, trust emerges”; “trust is not a checklist, simply doing everything people expect you to do means your reliable, it doesn’t build trust”; “every decision we make is a piece of communication… this is why authenticity matters”; “say and do what you actually believe”; “the only way you fullfilled at work is to help someone else”
  • The Iceberg of Ignorance (image) – 4% of probs known to top mgrs… 100% known to front line workers
  • Abby Falik: Leaders need “User Manuals” – and what I learned by writing mine – inspired by Corner Office column on user manual about leadership style (transparency about our work style); example User Manual: my style; what i value; what i don’t have patience for; how best to communicate with me; how to help me; what people misunderstand about me
  • Joseph Grenny: When to Solve Your Team’s Problems, and When to Let Them Sort It Out – “Managers are more likely to get in a situation like Charla’s, where they allow their team to abdicate responsibility for solving their own problems, when they fail to understand their true role as managers”; “Prior to taking a management role, you can measure your contribution to the organization by counting the number of important problems you solve. But the day you become a manager, the arithmetic changes. Your success is no longer measured by how many problems you solve. Instead, your role is to build a team that solves problems”; “Anytime you become the hero by solving the problem, you risk teaching your team that without you, the situation is helpless. Over time, and with repetition, you collude with your team in creating a situation that isn’t good for any of you. You surrender your bandwidth to low priority tasks and you reinforce weakness in your team”; “If you’re an effective manager, escalations should be aberrations that you accept rarely and thoughtfully”; “Before asking, “How do we solve the problem?” pause and consider, “Who should own this problem?””; “If others are struggling to solve problems they should rightfully own, always ask, “What is the least I can do?” Find the lowest level of initiative for yourself while requiring your team member to act at the highest level they are capable of”; “Think of the problems presented to you at three different levels: content, pattern, and relationship”; “mutually agreed escalation”; “primary driver of high performance in teams and organizations is a culture of peer accountability”
  • Joseph Grenny: The Best Teams Hold Themselves Accountable – “on top performing teams peers immediately and respectfully confront one another when problems arise”; “teams break down in performance roughly as follows: In the weakest teams, there is no accountability – In mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability – In high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another”; “basic principle was that anyone should be able to hold anyone accountable if it was in the best interest of the team. Team members were both motivated and able to handle the day-to-day concerns they had with one another, with him, or with anyone outside the team”; “you can approximate the health of a relationship, a team and an organization by measuring the average lag time between identifying and discussing problems. The shorter the lag time, the faster problems get solved and the more the resolution enhances relationships. The longer the lag, the more room there is for mistrust, dysfunction, and more tangible costs to mount. The role of leader is to shrink this gap”; “some ways we’ve seen managers like Paul create this kind of norm: set expectations, tell stories, model it, teach it, set an ‘”it takes two to escalate” policy”
  • Travis Bradberry: 7 things that make great bosses unforgettable – from Google’s manager training approach; passionate; sacrifice; chess not checkers; are who they are; port in a storm; are human; team effort
  • Gusto: Joshua Reeves: Directing without Dictating – lead by achieving alignment rather than dictating – and remember heroism doesn’t scale
  • Collins & Porras: Building Your Company’s Vision – Truly great companies understand the difference between what should never change and what should be open for change, between what is genuinely sacred and what is not; Vision provides guidance about what core to preserve and what future to stimulate progress toward; A well-conceived vision consists of two major components: core ideology and envisioned future; Core ideology, the yin in our scheme, defines what we stand for and why we exist. Yin is unchanging and complements yang, the envisioned future. The envisioned future is what we aspire to become, to achieve, to create—something that will require significant change and progress to attain; it is more important to know who you are than where you are going, for where you are going will change as the world around you changes; Any effective vision must embody the core ideology of the organization, which in turn consists of two distinct parts: core values, a system of guiding principles and tenets; and core purpose, the organization’s most fundamental reason for existence; Core values are the essential and enduring tenets of an organization; Companies tend to have only a few core values, usually between three and five; To identify the core values of your own organization, push with relentless honesty to define what values are truly central. If you articulate more than five or six, chances are that you are confusing core values (which do not change) with operating practices, business strategies, or cultural norms (which should be open to change); A company should not change its core values in response to market changes; rather, it should change markets, if necessary, to remain true to its core values; Core purpose, the second part of core ideology, is the organization’s reason for being. An effective purpose reflects people’s idealistic motivations for doing the company’s work. It doesn’t just describe the organization’s output or target customers; it captures the soul of the organization; Core purpose is a raison d’être, not a goal or business strategy; 3M defines its purpose not in terms of adhesives and abrasives but as the perpetual quest to solve unsolved problems innovatively—a purpose that is always leading 3M into new fields; Hewlett-Packard doesn’t exist to make electronic test and measurement equipment but to make technical contributions that improve people’s lives; One powerful method for getting at purpose is the five whys. Start with the descriptive statement We make X products or We deliver X services, and then ask, Why is that important? five times; As Peter Drucker has pointed out, the best and most dedicated people are ultimately volunteers, for they have the opportunity to do something else with their lives; You do not create or set core ideology. You discover core ideology. You do not deduce it by looking at the external environment. You understand it by looking inside. Ideology has to be authentic. You cannot fake it. Discovering core ideology is not an intellectual exercise. Do not ask, What core values should we hold? Ask instead, What core values do we truly and passionately hold? the role of core ideology is to guide and inspire, not to differentiate; The authenticity, the discipline, and the consistency with which the ideology is lived—not the content of the ideology—differentiate visionary companies from the rest of the pack; You should therefore focus on getting the content right—on capturing the essence of the core values and purpose. The point is not to create a perfect statement but to gain a deep understanding of your organization’s core values and purpose, which can then be expressed in a multitude of ways. In fact, we often suggest that once the core has been identified, managers should generate their own statements of the core values and purpose to share with their groups; Once you are clear about the core ideology, you should feel free to change absolutely anything that is not part of it; envisioned future consists of two parts: a 10-to-30-year audacious goal plus vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal; You must translate the vision from words to pictures with a vivid description of what it will be like to achieve your goal; Think of the core purpose as the star on the horizon to be chased forever; the BHAG is the mountain to be climbed. Once you have reached its summit, you move on to other mountains; dentifying core ideology is a discovery process, but setting the envisioned future is a creative process; What’s needed is such a big commitment that when people see what the goal will take, there’s an almost audible gulp; To create an effective envisioned future requires a certain level of unreasonable confidence and commitment. Keep in mind that a BHAG is not just a goal; it is a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal; The basic dynamic of visionary companies is to preserve the core and stimulate progress. It is vision that provides the context; in thinking about the envisioned future, beware of the We’ve Arrived Syndrome—a complacent lethargy that arises once an organization has achieved one BHAG and fails to replace it with another; Many executives thrash about with mission statements and vision statements. Unfortunately, most of those statements turn out to be a muddled stew of values, goals, purposes, philosophies, beliefs, aspirations, norms, strategies, practices, and descriptions. They are usually a boring, confusing, structurally unsound stream of words; Building a visionary company requires 1% vision and 99% alignment. When you have superb alignment, a visitor could drop in from outer space and infer your vision from the operations and activities of the company; Creating alignment may be your most important work. But the first step will always be to recast your vision or mission into an effective context for building a visionary company. If you do it right, you shouldn’t have to do it again for at least a decade
  • Gokul Ramaram: Square Defangs Difficult Decisions with this System — Here’s How – for important, difficult choices, consensus approach is often ineffective and impractical; consensus means no ownership; What’s important is not that everyone agrees, but that everyone is heard and then the right person makes a decision; use a covey-like quadrant to categorize decisions along importance and urgency; use this framework only for important decisions, whether urgent or non-urgent; SPADE – Setting (What, When, Why), People (consulted, approves, responsible), Alternatives (Pros & Cons), Decide and Explain (including Commitment meeting); listening matters much, much more than you think, people want the option to chime in and be listened to
  • Sydney Finkelstein: What Amazing Bosses Do Differently – manage individuals, not teams; go big on meaning; focus on (frequent) feedback; don’t just talk… listen; be consistent
  • Eric Garton: HR’s Vital Role in How Emplo9yees Spend Their Time, Talent and Energy – “Systematically eradicate the factors that steal time from employees and make it harder for them to do their jobs; Redefine ways of working, and build a working environment that thoughtfully balances the twin performance-enhancing goals of accountability and autonomy; Help employees link their roles to the broader company’s insurgent customer mission, one that is espoused and modeled by inspirational leaders. We believe that inspirational leadership is within the reach of all management and can be learned and developed”
  • Steve McConnell: Seven Unbreakable Rules of Software Leadership – 1hr webinar vid; contrasts keys to effective software leadership with generic bestseller leadership books; the seven: 1) be sure you’re going somewhere; 2) take responsibility; 3) make decisions in the face of ambiguity; 4) put the organization first; 5) be passionate about your company’s biz; 6) become a student of communication; 7) treat your staff as volunteers
  • Shivani Bhagi: Better to be LIKED or RESPECTED? – the more responsibility, the more u need to detach from need to be liked by all; if u don’t believe in yourself, respect own decisions, stand by own values, no one else will even if you are likable; honor yourself, trust your decisions and be respectful to the people around you
  • Trina Isakson: 5 Habits of Effective Introverted Leaders – treat others as individuals; provide oppys for others; be role model; big-picture; both strong-willed & humble; quality vs quantity balance; follow up like mad
  • Ralph van Roosmalen: Delegation Boards – Combining Traditional HR with Management 3.0 –  7 levels: Tell, Sell, Consult, Agree, Advise, Inquire, Delegate
  • Why Every CEO Needs an Accountability Partner – admit struggles & weaknesses; know and challenge; blind spots; ideas listener
  • Travis Bradberry: Are You an Ambivert?


  • Steve Jobs on Marketing – “think different” campaign (7min vid)
  • Why Is Robert McKee’s Marketing Strategy The Only One That Works? – “… with a story-based approach to advertising, a story’s not going to work unless it’s truthful.”; ” The problem with hiring creatives though is just because they’re so-called creatives doesn’t mean they understand the art of storytelling any better than you do”; “It’s two things. One, if you accept the premise that life is intrinsically meaningless, how do we find meaning? There’s theology, philosophy, science and art. The four wisdoms. To read, to think about and to embroider into your life, to enrich it, to give your life meaning, the most powerful source of meaningful experience that you can inculcate into your life is storytelling.This is why we’ve done it. We’ve done it for hundreds of thousands of years. We have told each other stories in order to make meaning out of meaningless. The second thing is that not only is life meaningless intrinsically, but it’s full of suffering, so it’s painful. Anything that a human being can do to alleviate the pain in themselves and the pain in others is a meaningful positive action. Story, because it makes sense out of senselessness and enriches us in those ways, reduces the suffering”; “You must learn the future of communication in business, and the future is to express yourself to people in story form”


  • Develop Your Hiring System Like a Product to Eliminate Bias and Boost Retention (interview with Dan Pupius) – Tenets: Strong intention; Clear and compelling vision; Development principles; Tactics you can test; Measurement that’s meaningful; Organized iteration; Designated decision-making; User-centricity; Automation potential
  • Raphael Poss: How good are you at programming? Programming skills self-assessment matrix – Writing; Understanding; Interacting
  • Wes Green: How diverse thought sparks innovative thinking – “Hire PNLUs (People Not Like U), and value all that they will bring to your organization”; “seek to hire people who think differently than you do”
  • Dan Pupius: Develop Your Hiring System Like a Product to Eliminate Bias and Boost Retention – description of ex-googler-designed interview process at Range (he also designed Medium’s process at link below); “When creating a hiring system from scratch, you’re actually building two products at the same time: 1) the process itself and 2) the resulting team”; strong intention, clear and compelling vision, development principles, tactics you can test, measurement that’s meaningful, organized iteration, designated decision-making, user-centricity, automation potential; “For example, they realized that they’re largely a band of intuitive introverts — who could really benefit from more process-driven extroverts”; “… chose offer-acceptance rate as their top-line metric, since that shows how well they’re screening people earlier on in the process”; “Within 30 seconds, the average interviewer has already formed a positive or negative impression of a candidate. They either connect immediately with someone they feel like they relate to, or they assume someone they can’t relate to is not a fit. This hurts diversity of background and thought. To prevent this, focus interviews on the list of attributes and skills you’ve developed as your vision. Then only take observable behavior that either demonstrates them or doesn’t into account”; “If, during a debrief with your hiring loop, someone shares a gut feeling they have about a candidate, they should be asked specifically to produce evidence to support it. That way, gut feelings that could influence others’ thinking, if aired, will get unpacked”; agree on the data you won’t be looking at; “If you run identical interviews for everyone, you’re going to miss out on incredibly talented people who were just not given the right opportunity to shine”; “For every given stage of growth, you want to set a guiding ratio of senior to junior hires”; “A ratio of generalists versus specialists based on your primary challenges and goals”; “A 1:1 ratio of women and men to keep gender diversity top of mind”; start with three phases: assess, validate, sell; “… chart that lists all the attributes and skills you’re looking for down the left-hand side. Going across the top, have grades: low, medium, high and did not observe (DNO), as well as a comment field to jot down notes on the specific evidence that led to that grade (actual things the candidate said or did in the past)”; “I’d rather hire someone who knows less but demonstrates a strong learning curve and a growth mindset”; “Send your rubric to candidates in advance so they know how they’ll be evaluated“; “Set up shadowing to calibrate new interviewers fast”; “Startups have a window of opportunity to perfect their hiring process before they hit the prime time of rapid growth”
  • Medium’s engineering interview process – providing transparency in what we look for (rationale; what we look for; what we don’t look for; how we grade); Rationale for refining process: Inconsistent grading etc.; Aims: Be more objective and consistent; Three things we care about: Can they build software? Can they learn and teach? Are they aligned with our values?; What we don’t look for: School, GPA; Previous Companies; Friendship; Encyclopedic Knowledge of CS algorithms and data structures; Specific Technologies; Confidence; Culture Fit; How we grade: five point scale in each of the above areas: Strong no, No, Mixed, Yes, Strong Yes; And an Overall
  • CircleCI Engineering Competency Matrix [public version]
  • Google: Guide: Structured Interviewing; External and google-internal research; Define hiring attributes; Draft your interview questions; Understand behavioral vs. hypothetical questions; Avoid brainteasers; Use a grading rubric (example for an Underwater Basket Weaver role): Poor->Mixed->Good->Excellent; Attribute / Qualities: Use of materials, Aesthetics, Workmanship
  • Google’s Eric Schmidt explains the 2 most important traits a job candidate can have – persistence and curiosity; “finding a “smart creative” who could “thrive in chaos””
  • Hiring the ‘best’ people can backfire, why good bosses ignore you, and more trending stories – “Meritocratic hiring — the notion that you should hire the “best” — can produce teams of people who think, act, and even speak alike, limiting the potential for creative thinking”; “The more managers respond immediately to questions from their direct reports, the more their staffers will come to rely on them to always have the answers. But when bosses delay their response by a few hours, staffers may learn to find answers on their own, allowing them to build their own leadership muscles”; “While it may sound like an admirable trait, perfectionism is also connected to anxiety, depression, and other serious mental health issues…managers and mentors can relieve some of its worst effects by encouraging a more positive approach to failure, emphasizing its power to teach valuable lessons and lead to future success”
  • Geoff Colvin: How to Profit From the Ultra-Tight Job Market Right Now – though oriented toward job-seekers, points about the hyper-competitive hiring market tare very germane, like valuing and looking for these non-tech traits: “grit—the fortitude, insight, and ability to adapt on the fly that often comes from overcoming adversity or disadvantage”; “most résumés don’t tell employers what they need to know—information about creativity, willingness to work hard, and love of learning” – this is where a good github portfolio helps during resume screen; “capability to adapt, to deal with constant disruption and chaos”; “individuals who can think through new business models: that is, how we’re going to use technology to create value, know who our customer is and what problem we’re solving”; “today’s best candidates want to make a difference. They’re very purpose-driven” (the theme of the legendary Daniel Pink Drive book/video)
  • Stop Hiring for Cultural Fit and Start Hiring For Cultural Fitness – “Culture is the glue that brings a team or organization together. But if the glue is too sticky it can make them stuck instead of making them stay together. Cultural fit can become a limitation rather than a strength”; “When interviewing people, I do care about cultural fit,  but I also look for culture disruption. As I like to tell candidates: “I want you to be influenced by our culture but, most importantly, I want you to challenge and influence our culture too.””; “Cultural dynamics involve an ongoing struggle between old and new elements. If you only stick to what fits your existing culture, your organization will get stuck”; Considerations: Amplify your team’s perspective; encourage teams to dissent; continuously challenge your culture; promote diversity of thinking not just demographic diversity; Checklist: Smart & talented; ability to adapt to change; genuine with a voice of their own; open to learn; generous rather than selfish; “I always like to ask candidates: “What are you bringing to the table that is unique?” Basically, I want to know not just what that person is good at but how they will help make our organization smarter. I want people who will build and strengthen our cultural fitness”
  • Tanda: 5 Rules for Hiring “Perfect Fit” Employees – latent talent trumps expertise; explain job requirements up front; personal involvement; compatibility with workmates / work environment; go deeper with references
  • Bridgespan Group: Making the Right Hire: Assessing a Candidate’s Fit with Your Organization – focuses on filling sr. mgmt. positions: co. work style; co. co. professional oppys and advancement; co. work hrs. and commitment; define what you are looking for beyond job descript.; maximize interactions during the interview process; ask a lot of good questions; seek out informal interaction; do the airport test; pay attention to your gut instinct
  • Eric Elliot: Why Hiring is So Hard in Tech – get direct referrals via public company tech blog, encourage employees to network / speak at meetups, budget time for open source contributions; things that don’t work: puzzles, whiteboard coding, quizzes on obscure tech facts; things that work great: pair program on actual issue, code-samples / OSS-contributions, past work / portfolio, blog, publications; ask for input on a real current problem; great candidates: show, don’t tell; stress accomplishments & products over buzzwords; link to github or portfolio site for sample code; listening leads to stronger relationships; “using stilted company jargon or being opaque in communications is a sure-fire way to lose the respect of your most valuable employees”; “ability to understand the world through different lenses and turn competing or disparate viewpoints into a compelling narrative is an art, not a science. It requires an intuitive understanding of the world that comes from a deep immersion in the liberal arts”;
  • Matthew Prince of Cloudflare on the Dangers of Fast Growth – ” If you’re growing faster than doubling the number of employees in any 12-month period, then inherently you’re going to have more new people than old people. And in the short term, maybe that’s fine. But the culture can start to suffer because there’s nothing foundational to keep you stable”; “For start-ups like us, there’s constant pressure to grow faster, but if you do that, then there are no culture-keepers of the organization”; “I look for an incredibly high degree of curiosity — people who just relentlessly want to learn new things and put themselves in new situations — and a high degree of empathy. If people are curious and empathetic, they can learn just about anything. One of the best ways to tell whether someone’s curious and empathetic is to ask them for the questions they have. You can see how their mind works and how thoughtful they are”
  • Simon Sinek: Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action excerpt – “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”
  • Rally Health: Tom Perrault: Digital Companies Need More Liberal Arts Majors – as tech skills become commoditized / automated, liberal arts skills including creativity, empathy, listening and vision become more crucial; culture needs to allow creatives to thrive, culture creation is a prized competency in future leaders;
  • Claire Cain Miller: Why what you Learned in Preschool is Crucial at Work – those having the intersection of tech and social skills are most effective
  • Nexmo: Michael Doran: Using Self Awareness as a critical competency in hiring
  • Sheila Margolis: Hiring for Culture Fit – core culture: 5 P’s: Purpose (Why); Philosophy (distinctive & enduring How) (; Priorities (Strategic How); Universal Priorities (Universal How); interview practices for culture fit
  • CultureFit: Take Guessing Out of Hiring the Right Candidate – 3 Behavioral Interview Questions: 1. Describe a difficult situation you faced and how you handled it; 2. Describe a situation where you worked under a tight deadline; 3. Describe a time where you had to work with a difficult manager/client
  • Hiring For Cultural Fit: Why it’s Important and How to Go About It – describe the values in behavioral terms, use behavioral-based questions; ensure that hiring mgrs. are trained in recruitment practies and assessing core values compat.; use realistic job previews and / or “day in the life” profiles to help applications have a better understanding
  • Young Entrepreneurs Council: 13 Questions to Screen Potential Hires for Culture Fit – what’s the greatest work day of your life? what was the best way you delegated a task? what was a time you didn’t know something? what is teamwork to you? how would you fly a helicopter full of peanuts? what can your hobbies tell me that your resume can’t? what are your 3 ideal job qualities? if you won the lottery what would you do with the money? if you could open your own biz what would it be and why? what is one thing you believe that most people do not? how well do you adapt to change? what personality traits do you butt heads with? what are you passionate about?
  • Susan Price: How A Small Company Builds A Great Culture One Hire At A Time – cover letter required; Strengths Finder, psychologist tests; quantified cost of $3-5k per hire
  • Lauren A. Rivera: Guess Who Doesn’t Fit In at Work – interesting take on the perils of hiring more on personal fit than cultural fit. value of diversity when building teams
  • Lily Zhang: 5 Keys to Hiring the Best Candidate—Not the One Your Brain Wants to Trick You Into Picking – 1) standardize the process; 2) take good notes; 3) use a rubric; 4) justify your decision; 5) get input from others
  • Joe Colantonio: SDET vs. Tester: What’s the Difference? (The answer may surprise you!) – SDET vs QA Tester; SDET Job Description vs. Testers; SDET Training Roadmap
  • Rob Lambert: What problem is hiring a tester solving?  – when hiring testers it’s important to know what problem you are trying to solve; don’t be surprised if a candidate doesn’t accept your job offer if you cannot even clearly explain what their job role would be and in a sense, what problem they are going to solve for you; some are better at exploring, some are better at designing, some are better at building bridges between teams and some are very good at automating anything that move; simply hiring testers because you “feel” like you need resource leads to bloated test teams
  • Rob Lambert: The Blazingly Simple Guide to Growing a Test Team – appreciate it will take time; understand the purpose of the testing team; find people with a passion for testing; the recruitment process is key to your success; interviewing is about selling yourself and solving your problem; quality is not just the responsibility of testing


  • Grokker: Lorna Borenstein: Invest in People for the Long Term – “When I interview people, I always want to know what their ultimate ambitions are”; “I always start with sharing life stories. I want you to know where I’m from, and how I got to be where I am, and then I want to hear that from you… I also want to understand why you really want to work here – what is it that we’re going to do for you, and what are you going to do for us? And I also what to understand your long-term aspirations.”; “I want the candidate to show their best self. And I think if you’re generous, and you put them at ease by being somewhat vulnerable in opening up first, and modeling the behavior you’re expecting, it really does put people at ease to let them show you who they are, and all that they can do. I think it’s a really poor interview style to try to catch people or trip them up”; “It really is about enjoying it every step of the way. So you better like what you’re doing, and don’t view everything as a steppingstone.”
  • Do Difficult Job Interviews Lead to More Satisfied Workers? Evidence from Glassdoor Reviews – optimum seems to be 4/5 on difficulty scale; analysis: level-1 too-easy interview results in too many hiring mistakes / poor job matches; level-5 interviews may indicate company dysfunction such as aggressive work culture
  • Cass Sunstein: Job Interviews Are Useless – advocates for more data-based approach, including intelligence & aptitude tests
  • 6Q: How to hire employees for cultural fit – 7 proven steps; ensure you have a set of values and how they translate to role; include website page about company values; reference values in any advertising for the role; discuss values and culture during initial interview; ask questions that relate directly to values; ensure solid induction process that involves cultural induction;  sched meeting within first month in role
  • Quora: How do you interview for culture fit – use behavioral-based questions; managers need to understand what they are looking for in a candidate; include at least one interviewer more junior than the candidate; include at least one interviewer who would be a peer; include a member of a non-engineering team who’s a customer of the team; invite them to lunch and ask your team to hang out with them a bit to see if they think it’s a good match
  • TrialPay: Interviewing at TrialPay 101:  Nice brief outline of what this highly selective employer (extends offer to 1 in 50 interviewed, 1 in 500 who apply), focuses on in the interview process for engineers. They generally do a phone screen -> live coding round -> onsite FTF.
  • Patricia Carlson: Screening for Personality: Finding the Right Fit for Your Culture – don’t expect change; learn some corporate culture clues; define your culture

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