My “User Guide”

My “User Guide”

I stole this idea from the brilliant and talented Julie Zhuo.

This “user guide” is intended to help you understand how I think and what motivates me so that we can work together more effectively. It’s not exhaustive, and it may even seem contradictory at times (as Whitman wrote, “I contain multitudes”), so please ask me if you’re curious about anything.

How I view success

Success for me is two-fold:

  • We deliver products that make our customers’ lives better.
  • We create a company and team culture that we’re proud to be part of.

How I communicate

  • I want the best idea to win, not the best debater. I appreciate a spirited discussion, but I recognize that not everyone is comfortable operating that way. If you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a discussion with me, please call a time-out. I’m always willing to pause to give you space to do your best thinking. 
  • I get a lot of messages every day, so please help me by being concise and direct. If something truly requires more than three or four sentences, I appreciate it if you give me a “tl;dr” synopsis. 
  • Use the communication method that matches the urgency of the issue. From most to least urgent:  phone call > text message > Teams chat > email.
  • If I send something outside of work hours (either while you’re on PTO or after hours), I don’t expect a response until you’re back. If something is truly urgent, I will text or call you.
  • If I’m sending stuff outside of work hours often, please challenge me to examine my priorities and my work-life balance. 
  • Internally, I communicate casually and informally (I love a good GIF), but I expect anything that is shared externally to be well written and free of errors. 

Things I do that may annoy you

  • I define leadership as ensuring that the people doing the work have the  space, tools, information, resources, and guidance they need to do great work. I am not a good leader for people who want to be told exactly what to do.
  • While I have a strong bias toward action, I also value hanging out in the ambiguous mess of a situation to explore options before committing to a path or decision. This can frustrate people who don’t like ambiguity or who want to move faster than I do.
  • I come from a family that uses humor to cope with stress and fear. In some situations, that can read as flippant or lacking appropriate seriousness. 
  • I believe wholeheartedly that people should have license to be their full selves at work, and I encourage people to share what’s happening in their lives or how they are feeling emotionally. If you’re not comfortable with that, that is ok. People should be free to share what they want to share, not required to.
  • I also believe that teams need regular interaction beyond the tasks at hand to build trust and camaraderie, so I am willing to use time in team meeting and the team chat to engage socially, which can be frustrating when people feel overwhelmed or stressed. (In that case, let’s talk about balancing the workload and alleviating your stress.)

My strengths

  • I love coming up with new approaches to solve problems. Nothing makes me happier than finding a better way to do something than the way I’ve known before.
  • I am good at combing through chaotic situations to find patterns and insights. 
  • I am good at defusing tense and emotional situations and guiding people to more productive discussions.
  • I am a good communicator. 
  • I’m wired to always think about the human impact of every decision and situation.

My growth areas

  • I am a starter, not a finisher. I have a tendency to start things and get them to 80% complete, but I often need help to bring something fully across the finish line.
  • I am not detail-oriented. I see the big picture easily, but I require help and support to get into the nitty gritty details.
  • I can grow frustrated when change isn’t happening as quickly as I want it to. 
  • Because I believe that we can always be better, I can become fixated on the next challenge and fail to celebrate progress.

What gains my trust

  • Being open and honest, particularly about difficult-to-discuss issues.
  • Sticking with the discomfort of failure long enough to learn something from it… and then letting that make you better.
  • Being kind, compassionate, and inclusive with our team members and customers. 
  • Embracing a growth mindset that recognizes that success in life means being better day by day.
  • Acting thoughtfully, with intention and purpose. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, ask. 
  • Respecting people’s time. Show up to meetings on time, and don’t call a meeting unless you really need to. 

What weakens my trust

  • Territorialism and empire building. We’re in this together, and we win or lose together. There are no enemies within our company—only allies.
  • Gossiping. If something is worth talking about with others, it’s worth talking about with the person directly. That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss a situation in confidence to get guidance or perspective, but don’t stop shy of directly addressing issues.
  • Confusing effort and results. Our job is not to work hard; it’s to maximize the value we create for our customers. Effort that results in outcomes is worth celebrating, but effort without outcomes is waste.

About me outside of work

  • I live in Dunwoody, GA, just outside of Atlanta, but I grew up in Augusta, GA. (No, I don’t golf.)
  • I’ve been married to my college sweetheart since 1999 (makes remembering how long we’ve been married easy… current year plus one!). She is an elementary school librarian. 
  • We have three kids—one is college, one in high school, and one in middle school.
  • We have a dog, Blue, that we adopted at the start of the pandemic. He’s a catahoula leopard dog/American bulldog mix. Yes, I am that dad who didn’t want a dog and now lets the 90lb. beast pretend he’s a lap dog.
  • I love music. I play guitar, piano, ukulele, and drums. I’m not good at any of them, but I have fun. 
  • I am an HGTV addict, and I’ve always got a DIY project going in my 1970 fixer-upper.
  • I don’t know anything about sports. At all. Please don’t test me… I’ll fail. I attended a fine arts magnet school from 5th to 12th grade, and we didn’t have sports. (But ask me anything about Broadway shows!)
  • Video games are my escape. Find me on XBox under gamertag CheapTherapy.