I’ve been enjoying resources for managing people lately. Like reading 📘 The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier! I’ve got absolutely zero zilch nada desire to be a manager of any kind at the moment, but I want to get better at um… managing myself. This post is my notes after watching:

📺 Meri Williams aka @geek_manager:
Creating Space to be Awesome

Meri Williams takes a closer look at the science behind great people management, to figure out how to bring these together and craft space for everyone to be awesome.

There was a huge study in the 90’s attempting to answer what makes a high performing team. The book about this research, “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently”, shows that there are 12 predictors of high performance. The researchers didn’t set out to learn about happiness in the work place, but they ended up finding that anyway.

When I can answer the 12 questions positively — I am probably happy about my job.


There’s a great RSA Animate The surprising truth about what motivates us with Dan Pink, where he describes these three factors:

  • autonomy — the desire to be self directed
  • mastery — the urge to get better at stuff
  • purpose — the need to make a contribution

Meri has added a fourth, inclusion, and then remixed the 12 questions: slide #31.

3 questions make me think

For most of those questions, I find it easy to unequivocally say yes. And that is pretty cool about my current gig. Then there are three where it gets interesting.

Do I know what is expected of me at work?

Yes! But… there’s a discrepancy between what different people expect from me. I know what my managers expect, and I understand quite well what a lot of other people expect of me. But some of the expectations are incompatible! It becomes a chronic clash that is hard to manouver.

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

Yes! But… still sort of not quite, because I know I can do better. There are obstacles that prevent me from doing what I do best. Maybe scaling or working around some of those are part of my job, because no one else can do that for me. But there’s also stuff like the UI squeeze.

Have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

Yes! But… I want a whole lot more of those opportunities. I get such a kick out of pairing with someone very experienced, that I’m not happy with how often I get the chance for that to happen. I want more time with the most senior developers on the team to write and talk about code.

Sidenote 🇺🇸🇬🇧🇪🇺

I’m very amused by “Do you have a best friend at work?” and Meri talks about the cultural difference. In the US this question is fine — but in the UK people will not accept their job to define their pool of friends. Translation for Europeans: Is there someone you work with, who you would willingly go and spend time with outside work, even though the company isn’t paying for it. 👍

What is a space for me to be awesome?

  • purpose — do I believe in why?
  • autonomy — do I get a say in what?
  • mastery — am I proud of how?
  • inclusion — do I belong here?
  • (minus any negative factors that detract)

I can use this as a framework to think about how to do a better job of managing myself and influence the space that I am in. Practical example: seek out more information to increase my understanding of purpose. (And hey, I can share what I learn with the rest of the team, too!)

Halp. Need a cheerleader now, plz.

I love the idea of asking people to act as a coach, mentor, teacher, or bulldozer for me. If I can figure out where I am on the clue/skills matrix slide #36 for a problem, I can specifically request more or less direction and/or knowledge. And haha, cheerleader. <3 I always need that.

Make sure you are proud of how!

Go practice deliberately: sports model (conditioning, preparing for the real activity later), chess model (learning from what the masters do) or the music model (rehearsing). Is work itself designed to be challenging, give feedback and provide learning opportunities?

Clarity around expectations?

It makes me feel better to understand that knowing what is expected of me is a big deal. There’s science to prove this stuff is important. When I’ve been frustrated at a lack of job descriptions, that is not just me having an inability to roll with it. But ✨ta-da✨ we recently made a giant leap towards that clarity, and now I have high hopes for this improving my space to be awesome.