This page contains leadership pointers. The first couple of headers indicate which group they apply to, using the groupings defined on our team structure page.
In an all-remote organization, we want each team member to be a manager of one. A manager of one is an attribute associated with our Efficiency value. To be successful at Bramble, team members need to develop their daily priorities to achieve goals. Managers of one set the tone for their work, assign items and determine what needs to get done. No matter what role you serve, self-leadership is an essential skill needed to be successful as a manager of one.
- At Bramble, leadership is requested from everyone, whether an individual contributor or member of the leadership team.
- As a leader, Bramble team members will follow your behavior, so always do the right thing.
- Everyone who joins Bramble should consider themselves ambassadors of our values and protectors of our culture.
- Behavior should be consistent inside and outside the company. We do the right thing outside the company, too.
- Bramble respects your judgment of what is best for you, since you know yourself best. If you have a better opportunity somewhere else don’t stay at Bramble out of a sense of loyalty to the company.
- In tough times people will put in their best effort when they are doing it for each other.
- We work asynchronously. Lead by example and make sure people understand that things need to be written down in issues as they happen.
- We are not a democratic or consensus driven company. People are encouraged to give their comments and opinions, but in the end one person decides the matter after they have listened to all the feedback.
- It is encouraged to disagree and have constructive debates but please argue intelligently.
- We value truth seeking over cohesion.
- We avoid meetings, when possible, because they don’t support the asynchronous work flow and are hard to conduct due to timezone differences.
- Start meetings on time, be on time yourself, don’t ask if everyone is there, and don’t punish people that have shown up on time by waiting for people or repeating things for those that come late. When a meeting unblocks a process or decision, don’t celebrate that but instead address the question: How can we unblock in the future without needing a meeting?
- We give feedback, lots of it. Don’t hold back on suggestions for improvements.
- If you meet external people, always ask what they think we should improve.
- Following from Paul Graham’s advice: Strive to make the organization simpler.
- Saying something to the effect of “as you might have heard”, “unless you’ve been living in a cage you know”, “as everyone knows”, or “as you might know” is toxic. The people that know don’t need it to be said. The people that don’t know feel like they missed something and might be afraid to ask about the context.
- Don’t use someone else’s name, remind people of your title, or otherwise “pull rank” to get things done.
- Act as a CEO of yourself and your role by taking responsibility to set goals and appropriate timelines.
- Communicate clearly with your team and people leader on the status of your goals. Act quickly to address areas that pose a challenge or to reassess goals that cannot be reached in an alloted timeframe.
- When asked to attend a synchronous brainstorming call, a team member instead opens an issue and requests for their team’s ideas asynchronously.
- A team member blocks out dedicated time for learning and development to implement a regular practice of self-serving and self-learning.
- A team member in a new role finds an inefficiency in a process they are learning. Without being asked or supervised, they open a merge request (MR) proposing a change and assign it to their manager for review.
- When a scheduled meeting agenda is complete 10 minutes before the call is set to end, an attendee ends the call early.
- A people leader hires a new team member that demonstrates our values.
- Before asking for others' time to discuss a topic, they dedicate time to process their thoughts and make a proposal.
- A manager of one prioritizes wellbeing by blocking their calendars for fitness, meals, paid time off, and personal appointments.
- A team member surfaces blockers as opposed to assuming their manager or team is already aware, and simultaneously works to unblock others by working in public and with a low level of shame.
Please see the Making Decisions Leadership page.
Most companies communicate from top to bottom through a chain of command. This communication flow often empowers managers, but it also introduces inefficiency as team members are not able to connect directly with the people they need to communicate with in order to get their work done. At Bramble, every team member is encouraged to reach out to whoever is the correct person (or people) to quickly unblock issues, solve problems or support in other ways. Do be courteous of your direct manager and copy them on the request. We don’t encourage unnecessary friction in asking team members to escalate through managers and wait for responses to come back. What matters is efficiency in getting to results. Slack the CEO, Slack a VP, or Slack a peer. Do what you need to do to make Bramble successful.
Managers should not be bottlenecks or silos for communication. Anyone should feel comfortable reaching out to anyone else with the best information they can to solve a problem. This is a more efficient, transparent, and collaborative way to work.
Giving regular feedback is extremely important for both managers and team members. Feedback can take the form of coaching sessions, separate from 1-on-1 meetings. Giving feedback is also about being prepared and, depending on the situation, you should create separate agendas and structure them as follows:
- Provide context
- Use a framework for your feedback. Examples: 1) Two Areas: Praise (What’s working well) and Tips (What could be done differently) or 2), Three Areas: Start, Stop, Continue
- Ask yourself, is this: Ask the questions listed in the 1-on-1 guide and the career development discussion at the 1-on-1 section.
Sometimes when performance dips, the best way to tackle it is to try to determine the root cause. This is easier said than done. There is a great tool that CEB (now Gartner) created to help with this called performance issue root cause diagnostic. It may not always be possible or appropriate to determine the root cause, so the underperformance process should be followed.
As a leader, the way you respond to negative feedback makes a significant impact on your team. Remember that it can be difficult for people to approach someone in authority with concerns and respond with sensitivity and appreciation. In particular, we recommend that you keep the following in mind:
- Don’t argue or get defensive. Accept the feedback for what it is: an attempt to help you improve your work or your professional relationships. If you do have to explain yourself, try to remain empathetic.
- It’s fine (even preferable) to defer action. When presented with negative feedback, we often feel like we have to either justify our actions or promise change, and since change isn’t always easy when you’re responsible for a large team, justification becomes the default. It’s OK to say you need time to evaluate the feedback and decide how to proceed.
- The Right Way to Respond to Negative Feedback
- If a team member from your department or another part of the org comes to you and says they do not feel like they or their reports' contributions are valued by your reports, the manager should try to resolve this. Research shows that this is more likely to happen to underrepresented minorities. Please note that DRIs are free to ignore feedback without acknowledging it and that valuing contributions isn’t the same as agreeing with them. This is about co-opting someone else’s idea without attribution and/or dismissing an idea with an ad-hominem remark.
Please see /handbook/leadership/1-1.
Please see /handbook/leadership/skip-levels.
Coaching is about helping others help themselves. It is not about giving advice, instruction, or telling someone what to do. Coaching is about focusing on the future and identifying where the coachee wants to be and what they want to achieve. At Bramble, we’ve defined coaching as a conversation that helps people think for themselves, find their own answers, and commit to action they design. As a coach, your role is to clarify the pathway from the current state to the future. Coaches do this by enabling the coachee to make informed choices based on deeper insight.
Please see /handbook/leadership/no-matrix-organization
We want to promote organic cross-functional collaboration by giving people stable counterparts for other functions they need to work with. For example, each Strategic Account Leader (SAL) works with one Sales Development Representative (SDR). With our categories every backend team of developers maps to a Product Manager (PM) and a frontend team.
Giving people a stable counterpart allows for more social trust and familiarity, which speeds up decision making, prevents communication problems, and reduces the risk of conflicts. This way we can work effectively cross functionally without the downsides of a matrix organization.
We want the best combination of a factory and a studio. The studio element means anyone can chime in about anything, from a user to the CEO. You can step outside your work area and contribute. The factory element means everyone has a clearly assigned task and authority.
Process has a bad reputation. It has that reputation for things that we try to avoid doing at Bramble. When you have processes that are not needed it turns into a bureaucracy. A good example are approval processes. We should keep approval processes to a minimum, by both giving people the authority to make decisions by themselves and by having a quick lightweight approval process where needed.
But process also has good aspects. Having a documented process for how to communicate within the company greatly reduces time spend on on-boarding, increases speed, and prevents mistakes. A counterintuitive effect is that it also makes it easier to change processes. It is really hard to change a process that doesn’t have a name or location and lives in different versions in the heads of people. Changing a written process and distributing the diff is much easier.
Managers have an tremendous responsibility around recruiting and retention of team members.
- Voluntary departures should be low, especially unexpected ones. The most common reasons for resignations can be tied back to the manager.
- We want few candidates to decline an offer, especially when the reason isn’t compensation.
- We need adequate candidate pipeline volume and quality, especially for crucial positions.
- Candidates that have a proposed offer should meet the bar, especially for more senior positions.
- Build a global team. Unless shown with a business case, “we can’t find the talent out of the bay” goes against our diversity, inclusion and belonging mission and the Location Factor KPI.
Building a team to deliver results is a very important aspect of improving efficiency and iteration. A high-performing team will always deliver results. As a leader at Bramble, your role is to develop a high-performing team to reach the desired level of performance and productivity. There are certain traits that high-performing teams display at Bramble:
- Have a clear vision of their objectives and goals
- Stay committed to achieving their goals
- Manage conflicts
- Maintain effective communication and a healthy relationship with each other
- Make unanimous decisions as a team
Skills and behavior of building high performing teams competency for Managers:
- Models and encourages teamwork by fostering collaboration, communication, trust, shared goals, mutual accountability and support
- Fosters an environment where results are balanced with time management of multiple assignments and DRI’s on important topics
- Empowers team members to be a Manager of One and gives them the tools to grow professionally in their careers
- Attracts and retains top talent by creating an inclusive environment built on trust, delegation, accountability, and teachability
The Drexler-Sibbet Team Performance Model is an excellent tool to help build high performing teams at Bramble. The model provides a roadmap for a team and a common language. It is a simplified description of how a team works together that highlights the most important things the team needs to focus on to reach high performance. At Bramble, we can use it as a frame of reference to developing high performing teams. It can help Managers ensure new and existing team members know the mission and direction of the team by the following:
- To form your team
- To guide what your team does
- To monitor how well your team is doing
- to diagnose where your team may be struggling or identify the keys to your team’s success
7 Stages to developing high performing teams:
- Orientation - Why are we here? Team members need to see a sense of team identity and how individual team members fit in.
- Trust Building - Who are you? Team members share mutual regard for each other and are open and supportive of trust-based relationships.
- Goal Clarification - What are we doing? Assumptions are made clear; individual assumptions are made known with a clear vision of the end state.
- Commitment - How will we do it? Team members understand how it will make decisions and do the work.
- Implementation - Who does what, when, where? Team members have a sense of clarity and can operate effectively due to the alignment of shared goals.
- High Performance - Wow! The team is accomplishing more than it expected. The team has taken off, creativity is fostered and goals are surpassed.
- Renewal - Why continue? The team is given recognition and celebrates achievements of individuals that produce valuable work. Reflect on lessons learned and reassess for the future.
- Carta’s Manager’s FAQ
- Carta’s How to hire
- How Facebook Tries to Prevent Office Politics
- The Management Myth
- Later Stage Advice for Startups
- Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful
- This Is The Most Difficult Skill For CEOs To Learn
- Great article about how to think about PIPs, although our time scales are shorter.
- Impraise Blog: 1-on-1s for Engaged Employees
- Mind Tools: Giving Feedback: Keeping Team Member Performance High, and Well Integrated
- Remote.Co: 5 Tips for Providing Feedback to Remote Workers
- Really interesting blog post from Hanno on remote team feedback
- 51 questions to ask in one-on-ones with a manager
- HBR: The rise of data driven decision making is real but uneven
- Forbes: 6 Tips for Making Better Decisions
Books in this section can be expensed.
Notable books from the E-Group Offsite Book Selections may be added to the list below.
We sometimes self-organize book clubs to read through these books as a group.
- High Output Management - Andrew Grove
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers - Ben Horowitz
- The score takes care of itself - Bill Walsh - PDF
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High - Kerry Patterson
- Notes from the E-group reading:
- Virtual teams are much more likely to fail on crucial conversations than colocated teams
- We need to develop the skill of sensing the tone of a-sync conversations to uncover potential issues
- We need to find a way to create psychological safety for people in official channels
- Starting with empathy is a great way to gather the context needed in a tense situation - this is hard a-sync, but more important
- Consider getting context 1-on-1 (through Slack) before posting a comment in an issue that you might regret later
- As leaders, we need to give context as well. A good question is: “What would have to change for us to get X prioritized…”
- Documenting something is not a replacement for having the hard conversation
- Book club
- Crucial Conversations Handbook Page
- The Advantage: Why Organization Health Trumps Everything Else In Business - Patrick Lencioni
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable - Patrick Lencioni
- Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers - Geoffrey A. Moore
- The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter - Michael D. Watkins
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You - John C. Maxwell
- Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
- The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
- Your Brain at Work - David Rock
- Start with Why - Simon Sinek
- Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek
- How to Win Friends & Influence People - Dale Carnegie
- How Google Works - Eric Schmidt
- Good to Great - James C. Collins
- The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
- Mastery - Robert Greene
- Radical Candor - Kim Malone Scott
- Creativity, Inc - Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace
- Turn the Ship Around! - L. David Marquet
When you give leadership training please screenshare the handbook instead of creating a presentation.