Book: The Manager’s Path, Managing People

The Goal of This Post

This post is a synthesis from the book The Manager’s Path, by Camille Fournier. Camille packs a ton of insights along the journey from individual contribution to leadership. This post focuses on the path of building the fundamental skills to Manage People (People Manager). I hope you enjoy it!

The Manager's Path, by Camille Fournier
The Manager’s Path, by Camille Fournier

If You Only Takeway One Thing

Your team is only as healthy as its individuals, and as the individual manager, you’ll have a huge impact on each person.

Some of the key ideas we’ll explore in this post:

  1. Building relationships.
  2. Communication and 1-1s.
  3. Delegating effectively.
  4. Continuous feedback.
  5. Cultivating careers.

1. Starting a New Reporting Relationship Off Right

1- Build Trust and Rapport
Ask questions to help you get to know the aspects of the person that impact your ability to manage him/her well:

  • How do you like to be praised, in public or in private?
  • What is your preferred method of communication for serious feedback?
  • Why did you decide to work here? What are you excited about?
  • Do you have any clear career goals that I should know about so I can help you achieve them?

2- Create a 30 / 60 / 90 – Day Plan
Help your direct create a 30 / 60 / 90 day plan.

  • Clear goals will show whether he’s learning the right things as he gets up to speed.
  • A clear set of expectations will help make it clear when a situation needs to be corrected.
  • Create a realistic set of goals based on your prior hires, the current state of your technology and project, and the level of the person coming in.

3- Encourage Participation By Updating the New Hire Documentation
Create a set of onboarding docs that are edited by every new hire as he gets up to speed.

  • Ask the new hire to edit the documentation to reflect processes and tools that have changed.
  • Edit the documentation to clarity points that are or have become confusing.
  • As a manager, get this process in place and reinforce it for everyone who joins the team.

4- Communicate Your Style and Expectations
Your new hire needs to understand your expectations and your style just as much as you need to understand his.

  • Include specifics like how often you want to meet and how you will share information.
  • Clarify when and how often you’ll want to review his work.
  • Set expectations on how long he should work alone to solve a problem, and when he should ask for help.

5- Get Feedback From Your New Hire
A new person comes in with fresh eyes and often sees things that are hard for the established team members to see.

  • Get as much feedback about the new hire’s perspective on the team in the first 90 days.
  • Remember that people in their first 90 days lack the context that the overall team possesses.
  • Don’t encourage people to criticize the established processes or systems in a way that makes the team feel attacked.

2. Communicating with Your Team

Scheduling 1-1s

  • Start with weekly 1-1s and adjust the frequency only if both of you agree that this is more than you need.
  • Try to schedule in times when and your report are both likely to be in the office.
  • Try to schedule in times that aren’t likely to be right in the middle of productive workflow hours.

Adjusting 1-1s

  • Frequency. How often do you interact with this person offhand during the week?
  • Coaching. How much coaching does this person need?
  • Visibility. How much does this person push information up to you?
  • Quality. How good is your relationship with this person?
  • Stability. How stable or unstable are things in the team or the company?

3. Styles for 1-1s

The type of 1-1 that’s most effective depends on the needs of both the report and the manager:

1- The To-Do List Meeting

  • One of both parties comes in with a list of objectives to cover, in order of importance.
  • Updates are given, decisions are made or discussed, planning happens.
  • In this style, make sure that the list and agenda items are meaningful for 1-1 discussions.

2- The Catch-Up Meeting

  • Create the space for your direct report to bring up whatever they feel is important.
  • As a manager, listen to anything the direct report wants to discuss.
  • Ensure that complaining or workplace issues are dealt with or put aside by mutual agreement.

3- The Feedback Meeting

  • Try to document feedback meetings, including issues discussed and expectations you set.
  • When something needs immediate correction, don’t wait for the 1-1 to provide that feedback.
  • When something goes well, don’t save up your praise – give it freely in the moment.

4- The Progress Report Meeting

  • Only 1-1 progress report if your report is on a side project that you’re not personally overseeing.
  • Frequent progress reports are a waste of time because all you’re hearing about is the delta of work between now and the last standup or project review.
  • Try to break out of the habit by asking your reports to prepare answers to questions that are unrelated to the current project status.

Best Practices for 1-1s
Show that you care about them as individuals.

  • Let them talk about their family, friends, hobbies, pets.
  • Get to know their career so far, and ask them about their long-term career goals.
  • Meet in private so that you can feel free to discuss sensitive topics without worrying.
  • Try to keep a running shared document of notes, takeaways, and to-dos from your 1-1s.

3. Practical Advice for Delegating Effectively

Being a good leader means being good at delegating…

  • Use the team’s goals to understand which details you should dig into.
  • Gather information from the system before going to the people.
  • Adjust your focus depending on the stage of projects.
  • Establish standards for code and systems.
  • Teach your direct report what he needs to communicate, when, and how.

4. Creating a Culture of Continuous Feedback.

Continuous feedback is a commitment to regularly sharing both positive and corrective feedback…

  • Start by providing lightweight, regular feedback. Emphasize things they’ve done well.
  • Practice looking for talents and achievements on your team, first and foremost.
  • Encourage the team to note when things are going well and raise issues as they happen.
  • As situations arise, use coaching to ask people what they might have done differently.

5. Cultivating Careers.

As a manager, you are going to play a key role in getting people on your team promoted…

  • Identify promotion-worthy projects and try to give those projects to people who are close to promotion.
  • Keep an eye out for opportunities for your team members to stretch themselves and grow.
  • If necessary, rethink the way work is done in order to let individuals take on bigger responsibilities.

Assessing Your Own Experience.

A couple key questions ideas to reflect and assess when Managing People:

  • Have you set up regular 1-1s with your direct reports?
  • When was the last time you talked to your reports about their career development?
  • Have you given feedback or kudos to your reports in the last week?
  • When was the last time someone behaved in a way that needed correction?
  • What was the most useful piece of performance feedback you ever got?

One Final Thought

It’s hard to accept that “new manager” is an entry-level job with no seniority on any front, but that’s the best mindset with which to start leading.

Marc Hedlundd

The book does a great job at explaining how the key skills and attitudes along your direct report’s lifecycle. From building new relationships, to delegating work, communicating effectively, and cultivating career growth. It’s a lot to think about, but a necessary step in your path to growing as a manager and as a leader.

I greatly enjoyed this part of the book. All content credit goes to the author. I’ve simply shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most useful.

Cheers ’till next time!



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