#41 - 6 Nov 2020
Starting a new manager role; remote onboarding; asynchronous meetings; remote onboarding;
I’ve had to have a few different difficult discussions around our project this week, and while they were exhausting it’s been great to clear the air. And as far as I can tell they’ve strengthened rather than weakened the working relationships.
I also sat through a meeting with peer who essentially ran a denial-of-service attack on the meeting through his need to talk at length about anything even tangentially related to the topics at hand. It (almost) killed any chance that the meeting would accomplish anything. I’ve been trying to push myself to talk less and ask questions more during conversations; some days are better than others, but that experience has encouraged me to redouble my efforts.
It’s been a long seven days for a number of us, for a lot of reasons. I hope the week has been good to you and your team.
And on to the link roundup.
Hogan, taking lessons from her mothers pastoral care when she was going up, shares some humane steps you can take if someone unexpectedly shares grief with you over a significant tragedy in their lives. These steps are human for both the team member and you. The steps are:
Have a handy, simple response ready - Hogan has a few to hand such as “Oh, I’m so sorry” or “That sounds incredibly tough”
Don’t hop into problem-solving mode, and don’t make this about you. Ask open questions instead. “What would be most useful for you right now?” and the like
Mirror their energy, use affirming body language - nod, eye contact, lean in.
Create lots of silence and space - don’t fill silence, let them take their time.
Consider: what’s your role?
Following up afterwards
Starting a new manager relationship - Sally Lait
A lot of us in research computing become managers by being promoted within an organization, so we sometimes have the advantage (and disadvantage..) of an extended handover process between the previous manager and you.
Lait here describes her preferred method for taking over a team in such a situation:
Initial hello and quick backgrounds - can be done in a group setting
1:1:1 handover - previous and new manager + team member meetings, find out current state of work and working relationship
Getting to know you better 1:1
Working agreement - figure out how you’ll work together, how they prefer feedback etc
Follow ups - in future one-on-ones
Asynchronous Meetings: Everything You Need to Know - Fellow App
As we get more and more comfortable with distributed teams, there’s increasing interest in written asynchronous team communication. It has the advantage of retaining a record and allowing people to contribute on their own schedule. Some things are hard to do asynchronously - it’s hard to imagine an asynchronous one-on-one being successful - but some are quite easy like status updates.
We know (from, for instance, open source) that complex decisions can be made with exclusively asynchronous communication; it’s even possible to set up to set up asynchronous meetings after a fashion - circulating an agenda with a deadline for items, have everyone contribute notes and discussions with a deadline, and proceed with decisions however you usually handle decisions.
There are definitely going to be discussions - such as one I had today where I badly misunderstood a fundamental point and didn’t realize it - where the high-bandwidth back-and-forth of synchronous discussion unblock things much more quickly than emails or shared documents. But a lot of routine communications can be done in writing and asynchronously. Getting used to working more in that mode is going to be something of a superpower for recruiting more distant employees, and teams who master it will also have a huge advantage in international collaborations.
Remote Onboarding Changes the New Hire Experience - Shane Hastie, InfoQ
More and more of our hires are going not going to be working in the same space as us, and that makes onboarding - something a lot of research computing teams are kind of sloppy about - even more important to do well. Hastie brings together a couple recent articles on the topic which encourage:
Establish structured daily check-ins
Provide several different communication technology options
And then establish “rules of engagement”
Provide opportunities for remote social interaction
Offer encouragement and emotional support
And some specific directions:
Have virtual introductions for your new hires and their team
Set up remote communication channels, and expectations around their use (including team etiquette - and this may be the first time you’re thinking about what that etiquette is)
Set clear onboarding goals.