My User Guide

Hello! I borrowed this from Julie Zhuo. The idea is simple. If I can write down how I function, I can be transparent about my strengths and weakness. Also, if you are working with me, you will know how to better work with me, and lastly, with your help, this doc can act as a constant reminder as to how I can improve. I’ve received an incredible response from my team on this. I would encourage you to do this for your team as well. Julie has created a template as well in case, you would like to use one for yourself.

How do I view success as a manager?

  • Success for me is happiness that comes out of a sense of achievement or a successful launch.

  • Success for me is being known by my team's performance as opposed to by my name or brand. The sense of satisfaction that you have where when you sleep, you know, you are making a positive dent in the universe.

  • Success for me is iterative. I operate with the following philosophy — Be bold, experiment, learn from failures, and talk about it proudly. Keep checking yourself and your approach to grow in whatever role you carry. The intent is to minimize the number of days we don't grow as a person. It demands a shift in personal perspective with time, stepping back from time to time, to get a bird's eye view of everything.

  • Success also means taking complete ownership when assigned and fixing problems when no one is stepping up even if it means going into an uncomfortable zone — taking the path less traveled. Treating the issue at hand like a baby and nurturing it. The outcomes may not always be excellent, but the effort counts and shapes us in more ways than we can imagine.

  • Striving for the best output together in streaks that we can maintain and thereby leveraging 'Group Economics' — the term refers to groups of people who pool their resources to accomplish something they otherwise might not be able to as individuals.

  • Ultimately, success for me is achieving everything above by being on the right side and doing all of this without pressing levers that I should not have. Inspiring others to be a better version of themselves and setting the bar higher every single time.

How do I communicate?

  • I love communication. But I find long meetings a bit tedious.

  • I have fixed working slots, and usually, when I am in the middle of my deep-work sessions, you will not find me available for immediate response. I appreciate pre-scheduled meetings. It just makes me feel more in control of whatever is on my plate. That said, when circumstances demand me to be available, please ping me. I usually respond to direct messages fast.

  • I work on one chapter at a given instance. So, if we are starting a project, I'll lay down every understanding of mine for you sequentially and expect the same from you so that we can all be on the same page before we start. I believe in not doing a lot of rework. So, I usually try to add all context in the beginning. I know it can, at times, get overwhelming, so if you are feeling lost, just let me know, and we can split these discussions into multiple ones.

  • Once I have an understanding that we have substantial clarity, I believe in giving my team a personal space to figure out a solution for themselves. The only thing that matters hereafter is that we honor the time commitment and quality. Also, I strive to evaluate my solution multiple times and have taken people's opinions before taking them 'public'. At times, when we are on a short timeline or when the project demands more frequent inputs from me, I tend to get involved a little extra.

  • I expect everyone to remember the context we set at the start. As a result, I always suggest taking notes or recording the call. Otherwise, there is a lot of time that goes to waste.

  • Often, I understand the value a thoroughly thought-out project brings. I am a big advocate for following user research and data analysis. Despite that, if I ever tend to rush through things, it's majorly because of something that I see, or am aware of as an impending crisis. Whenever you feel that you are not able to see this eye to eye, ask.

  • A message updating me on the progress goes a long way in helping me plan, specifically if you are working directly with me. If at any point in time, something urgent comes up that keeps you away from continuing as planned, again communication goes a long way. Such interruptions are natural and obvious but being aware helps me respond to stakeholders to which we as a team are answerable to and also helps me plan if we need to change our strategy and commitments for the project.

  • I do not feel the need to go into recurring meetings if a team member is already present. In case the situation demands, drop a ping in advance and I'll try and make room.

  • I am old school. So, most likely, I have read that email before you have. It also means emails are a fabulous way to reach out to me.

  • I appreciate calendar invites and RSVPs. I find it professional and a matter of basic courtesy.

Things I do that may annoy you or be misunderstood

  • A lot of times, I tend to think fast and way ahead of the pace of the meeting. So, most likely by the time someone has finished explaining, I am already thinking about the next steps or other possible interdependencies that might even not be in our immediate scope. At times, It has even led me to situations where my actions or interruptions have come out as unprofessional and rude. I am trying to work on it. Be patient but do flag this through a personal message when you see this happening.

  • When I am absorbing something, I tend to type in between. That does not mean, you have my divided attention. It means I am listening to you. If you are ever in doubt that I am paying attention or not, ask.

  • Because my schedule rarely allows me enough free time, I tend to type things out, switch between tabs, etc. when I feel my partial attention can work. As a practice, I never do this when I am in a two-person meeting.

  • We are expected to respond to specific messages immediately. If you are in a meeting and you suddenly hear me typing, ask if we needed to pause. I try my level best to communicate, but I still tend to miss it at times. I am working on that.

  • I tend to be very particular about timings. Usually, I am the first person to show up at a meeting. I expect people to be available from the first minute as well. It tends to get annoying otherwise, and when that starts happening frequently, I am the last person to join the meeting. So, if you hear me complain about not being punctual, that's just me trying to save as many minutes in the day as I can.

  • I have learned to thrive in ambiguity. Ruthless prioritization is often the price we pay to turn ambiguity into clarity. There are certain times when I tend to move ahead with my intuition. You may find it unthoughtful or over-optimistic. However, there is most likely a reason why I am doing so, so ask. There will always be a 100 things we can improve even when it comes to handling the origin of ambiguous situations, but some battles are worth fighting for at the right time and in the proper manner.

  • The designer in me is very particular about solving all the points we decided to solve. So, if you are bringing an unfinished solution, start with what we are discussing. Otherwise, I tend to get a little annoyed when people say they forgot to cover that point. The best way to work through this is again taking notes when we set the direction for a project and visiting them frequently.

  • I tend to read a lot. With time, my pace allows me to cover more than what may seem feasible without giving it a lot many hours. I share articles with a short description and the hope that they may benefit someone. If you find that distracting, please let me know. I have never heard it so far, but I have reasons to believe it may bother people.

What gains my trust?

  • Work with a North Star. A person without an aim is like a ship without radar. I appreciate it when we all know the direction in which we are moving.

  • Treat me as a person. If you work with me as a friend, I can help you and work towards collective growth. If you hold back things from me or fail to give me feedback, we will end up where we started. I do not evaluate people over short durations so, there is absolutely no reason to hold yourself back.

  • Communication is key.

  • Thoroughly thought-out professional plans work like a charm on me. There is something about the thought process of the planner that builds immediate trust inside of me. So, if you have any plans buried somewhere, share them and we can bring them to life.

  • Most likely, when you have encountered a problem, think of possible solutions, if you can. I appreciate solutions because the chances are high that your answer might already work and then I can focus on getting it implemented. Also, since you are closer to the problem, you are the best person to come up with a solution.

  • I admire a Growth Mindset. I love it when you go beyond what was asked of you. Any indication that you treated the project with all sincerity and are ready to own the outcomes makes me proud, and that often leads to me trusting you with bigger and better opportunities as we grow.

  • In case you are leading a project, I appreciate an utmost focus on pixel perfection, the last mile, and implementation. If you encounter problems in this space, let me know, and I am more than happy to intervene and help.

  • I love aspirations. I love hope. If you have dreams, work on them and dream big. The more you grow, the more everyone around does. Nothing motivates me more than people who are intrinsically driven to do their best.

  • Do less work if need be but do it nicely and with utmost perfection. Innovate like a founder, breaking the rules when there is a need. Figuring out an alternate pathway when all doors seem shut.

What loses my trust?

  • If I give you repeated feedback about your work or your behavior, and I don't see an effort to improve or a valid justification not to, it will diminish my trust in you. I will still evaluate why this might be happening, as perhaps my feedback was not clear, or my expectations were mis-calibrated, but please help me to understand if there is something I am not able to see.

  • Trust your teammates. Always. Never point fingers at them, never disrespect them, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Celebrate every small win. When one person wins, we all win. When one person loses, we all lose. Just because someone has won doesn't mean you have lost, and a diminisher mentality is not at all healthy and tends to go down negatively in my observation.

  • Unprofessional conduct or scrutiny is a big no-no. Examples are unthoughtful flows, poor storytelling, not curating the presentation for your target audience, spelling errors, etc. That said, I find it my responsibility to help you come up with a better story given that you have asked for help.

  • Missing deadlines is sad. What's worse is realizing that at the last minute. If you are genuinely working towards a deadline with sincerity, you will know that you will miss it and you should communicate when you see that happening. That said, you should never over-stress yourself as long as you are being honest with the 8-9 hours we spend working. I am big on mental health. I have made mistakes; I would not want you ever to make.

  • When you go into a weak spot and don't ask for help, it's a conscious choice. An example is staying back late to finish the project. Once in a blue moon, it is fine but doing so frequently sets wrong expectations. So, if for whatever reason, things seem to stretch, communicate. If you see too many meetings, speak up, and I can try my best to help. Please don't compromise your personal life. It makes me sad.

  • When you or your teammates bring a project to me without internally agreeing or disagreeing, it tends to annoy me. I like to follow the structure because often, things that come out through a proper route are well-polished.

  • When someone is talking directly to you, and you are busy with your phone or watch or something else, it tends to annoy me, and I often start maintaining a distance. If you find the meeting is not fruitful, speak up. It is this very reason that I have clarified above as to why I might be typing when I am talking to you.

My Relative Strengths

  • Storytelling: I feel, I am relatively better at constructing a narrative.

  • Research: If you give me a problem, I will find references from the depths of the world.

  • Long-Term Vision: I tend to operate with a North Star, and I make sure that as a team, we are continually calibrating.

  • Planning & Execution: It comes naturally to me. I can most likely recommend steps to improve your plan. When someone else is stepping up to take the lead, I love to step back too and get involved occasionally. Either way, it's a strength.

  • Grit and Hard Work: Once I am sold on the idea, I will go out of my way to deliver.

  • Foresight: I tend to evaluate various possibilities, and it has almost always helped me. There is a downside to it as well mentioned below.

  • Decoding Abstract Briefs: More than strength, with time, I tend to have developed a knack for understanding what that vague brief means. No guarantees though we can always try.

My Growth Areas

  • Over-planning: When I am focusing on future outcomes, I can, at times, go into mental traps that can become tough for others to comprehend. That leads to maybe a little work that was not needed. It's not wrong to walk into a room over-prepared, but I am actively trying to minimize the negative effects.

  • Independent Execution: When I feel that the project is not moving the way it should despite multiple attempts, I tend to occasionally get in the driver's seat, specifically in high-stake projects. That can often intimidate people or make them feel they didn't get heard. I am working on minimizing this influence and being comfortable with stepping back. Please let me know when you notice this.

  • Small Talk and Follow-through: For a long time, I have operated with occasional catchup and giving people as much space as I can. As a result, you will not see me speaking regularly, which, as I have realized, gives people the impression that I am ignorant. If you are one of these people who like chit-chat, please include me actively and I am happy to participate.

  • Cutting to the point: I cut directly to the chase. So, I tend to avoid often individual discussions which are draggy, but I have realized that at times, it's just my blinded perspective on that particular point of discussion. I am trying to come up with a plan as to how to solve that. Please flag this when you notice the same.

  • Misdirected Communication: At times, in the past, when I am speaking my mind, I have ended up sounding personal in my feedback. It may be because of any reason that you saw somewhere above about how I communicate. I've realized different people cope with feedback differently. I am trying to be more conscious about all that, but if you notice something again, please help me grow. Also, always remember, if my feedback is directed at you, I will go the extra mile to make it private and to ensure that you understand it's a behavior that's bothering me.

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©2023 Dheeraj C

©2023 Dheeraj C

©2023 Dheeraj C