It’s my favourite time of year. Coziness, the smell of pine and cooking, and of course, deep conversations and thoughts about life. I’ve never been a terribly accomplished goal setter, despite my joy in achieving goals. Since realizing that I prefer to have values or themes, and to remain opportunistic in searching for ways to follow through on those principles, I’ve come to really enjoy a Year in Review come December.

Perhaps you can describe it as knowing what I want clearly in very general terms, and being quite free on the details. It’s not ‘SMART’, but it works for…

‘Waterfall’ methods of developing product get a bad rap — and for good reason. Building software is extremely expensive, and so building the wrong thing by not integrating user feedback, the major risk of waterfall methods, is something you should avoid like the plague.

Except that’s a lie.There are cases where being wrong is the better failure mode than being late. In these situations, being able to strategically deploy a waterfall method, with its upfront planning, can be really powerful.

Being wrong is the worst

Understanding whether a software project is “worth it” by doing a cost-benefit analysis is very difficult because of the unknown…

One of the questions I hear most about our globally distributed team at Buffer is “how do you document decisions”? In a remote team, a more intentional method of making and documenting decisions is needed to help everyone stay in the loop. I believe being intentional about sharing decisions increases the quality of decision making and builds stronger alignment for all types of teams, too.

Photo by Jonathan Simcoe on Unsplash

1. Clarify the decision

If you have a nebulous problem statement, it’ll be really hard to pin point what, if anything, was decided. It’s then much harder to communicate that. To communicate decisions effectively, you need a clear statement…

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Creating and sharing a manager readme/operating manual is a great way to reflect on who you are as a leader, what your leadership philosophy is, and what folks can expect from you. I learned this from Lara Hogan’s wonderful management expectations.

If you’re a manager, you probably spend a lot of time trying to understand how your teammates work best and what they need from you. Naturally, this skews the relationship a little to one side. Opening up and sharing about myself was probably one of my scariest growth moments as a new manager. …

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I recently read Jason Fried’s Medium post on the presence prison, which challenges the reader to “break free” of the green dot and set your presence status to “away” permanently. It sounded so terrifying that I had to do it right away.

Our globally distributed team uses Slack to communicate, and slowly a norm of “coming online” had emerged to show coming to work/being at work. Some of that was fun healthy camaraderie, and I enjoy the hello’s and goodbye’s, but our global spread means almost 24/7, Slack is a hub of activity and people feel they’re missing out on…

A phrase I’ve heard quite a bit lately when discussing roles on a product engineering team, or whether a given engineer should be on a team at all, is “well, surely someone is better than nothing. We’re still getting more done than if we didn’t have them”.

The context varies, but the assumption underlying this idea is that the only clear cut case where someone should leave a team is if their impact is negative. Unless they are actively destroying things, it’s still better to have this person contributing code than to not have their contribution. …

Today my coach Dani asked a really good, hard question — what would you want from your ultimate manager? Of course I rattled off a laundry list of things where basically this person strikes the perfect balance of nurturing me and giving me lots of feedback and recognition but also lets me strike out on big ambitious things with a long leash. Then I said, Oh. And, they honestly want to hear about problems.

In a flash I realized how key making people feel safe to share challenges is, and that as a leader I need to radiate I-want-to-hear-all-your-concerns-ness. I…

Till the roof comes off, till the lights go out
Till my legs give out, can’t shut my mouth
Till the smoke clears out, am I high? Perhaps
I’ma rip this shit till my bone collapse*

I’m only working 8 hours a day. From 7am until 6pm. This is fine. 18 minus 7 is… 11. That’s eleven hour days now, that’s a mathematical fact. Stop trying to sabotage my career.

It starts off feeling like a great idea. Even once I got to the point where I recognized that I’m really tired and not that productive, those hours still felt…

Before you say context-switching is the worst, hear me out — being a manager, I’ll often have calls back to back and need to shift emotional context quickly. I sometimes carry the mindset and energy of one meeting through to the next and it leaves me less emotionally attuned.

I was getting tired from the effort of context-switching and sometimes would be visibly drained or stressed. This is a catching disease: second hand stress is a problem for a team and getting energy and focus right is core to managing yourself.

Stress gets everywhere. Like sand.

When context switching was a battle, I would feel…

This is what I googled the morning Sunil resigned. Now, I’m writing the piece that I needed to read that morning when the interweb seemed to come up blank in the face of my shock and sadness. If you’re experiencing this, I hope this post can be a reasonably useful and honest look at what it was like for me, and what I learned, because not a lot of people seem to experience this and go on to talk about it afterwards.

“I have some tough news, perhaps shocking news. I’ll be leaving Buffer”. Whatever I’d expected to hear on…

Katie Womersley

VP of Engineering @Buffer. I love it when you flourish.

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