Bad Managers Talk, Good Managers Write

The exemplary manager is often shown as the outgoing guy that gives his team pep talks and high fives. In truth, though, that stereotype couldn’t be farther from the truth.

To three highly effective, seasoned, and successful executives, being a good talker isn’t just overvalued, it can actually be detrimental. Rather, there’s a subtle, often-overlooked ability that’s one of the most vital skills you can have as a manager — the ability to write.

why good managers write

“Written communication to engineering is superior [to verbal communication] because it is more consistent across an entire product team, it is more lasting, it raises accountability.” 

Ben Horowitz, Andreessen Horowitz

When managers write, you create work product — white papers, product requirement documents, FAQs, presentations — that lasts and is accessible to everyone in the organization. From marketing to sales to QA to engineering, everyone has a document off which they can work and consult.

The upshot is that the manager also takes public responsibility for what happens when the rest of the team executes on the point of view taken by the documents. That ratchets up accountability through the organization.

To Horowitz, the distinction between written and verbal communication is stark and, in fact, it’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. Good managers want to be held accountable and aren’t looking for ways to weasel out of responsibility. And so, good managers write, while “[b]ad product managers voice their opinion verbally and lament … the ‘powers that be’.”

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This One Word from Managers Helps Teams Work 48% Better

social context together

In many ways, work is getting increasingly solitary.

We’re rejecting meetings with colleagues as inefficient time-wasters where nothing gets done. Technology is mediating communication, replacing face-to-face interaction. Remote work means that we’re often physically alone even when we’re working on a team.

The upshot is that even when we’re working together with colleagues on a team, it can feel like we’re working alone. Yet social contexts can be powerful motivators at work. Without them, we can get disengaged and feel like our work doesn’t matter.

It turns out that, even in the absence of working physically together with a team, it’s possible to evoke the power of social context with one single word. Stanford psychologists discovered that saying this one word inspired individuals to work an incredible 48% harder by using social context to fuel intrinsic motivation.

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Managers, Expressing Gratitude Will Make You Feel Happier

gratitude managementTypical management advice suggests expressing gratitude in order to uplift your team.

Yet one of the most powerful effects of gratitude is that it makes the person giving gratitude — not the person receiving it — happier. In a Gallup poll, 95% of people said that expressing gratitude made them feel happy and 50% of them said that expressing gratitude made them feel extremely happy.

For managers, that unexpected fact turns the importance of gratitude on its head. When you express your gratitude, that will make your own manager happiness go up — which can set the tone for all of your managerial activities.

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The Unexpected Naming Trick that Launched Amazon Out of Obscurity

naming your company like amazon

Amazon.com wasn’t the company’s originally conceived name.

The first name that Jeff Bezos chose for his new online bookseller was Cadabra, short for Abracadabra. But he found out quickly that Cadabra wouldn’t work. When he told the name to his lawyer over the phone, the lawyer replied incredulously, “Cadaver?”

He toyed with a few other names — MakeItSo, Relentless, Awake, Browse, and Bookmall — before finally settling on Amazon.com.

Bezos chose the name Amazon for two reasons. First, the Amazon River is Earth’s largest river and he intended to create Earth’s largest bookstore. “This is not only the largest river in the world, it’s many times larger than the next biggest river,” Bezos said. “It blows all other rivers away.”

The second reason Bezos chose “Amazon” seemed like an incidental thought at the time, but it turned out to be a surprisingly important driver of early growth — one that launched Amazon.com out of obscurity into becoming a billion dollar company.

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3 Radical Habits of Highly Successful Remote Teams

remote work

Working remotely requires a totally different approach from how we’ve come to define our workday. We’re so used to the commutes, having to deal with our cubicle neighbor, the water cooler chats, and shuffling in and out of meetings. That’s the way we know how to get stuff done. Removed from shared physical spaces, remote teams have none of that.

The physical workspace — from layout to furniture configurations to break-room — create a certain working environment that affects how you communicate and collaborate. Without those traditional areas in play, remote teams face a tougher challenge of figuring out how to work together, simply because there’s no conventional wisdom to lean on, no way to bump into someone on your way to the bathroom, no coffee break to take together.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s why the most successful remote teams are reinventing how to work together with methods you might consider extreme or crazy.

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Why You Shouldn’t Let Engineers Negotiate Their Salary

illustration of handshakeIt’s been the system of getting a new job since time immemorial. You go through the application rigamarole. You’re interviewed multiple times, and every time, you pass muster. Finally, they’re ready to make you a job offer. They send it your way, and you take a look — it’s another lowball number. What do you do?

Startup founders often think of the lowball offer as a harmless invitation to negotiate, but to Steve Newcomb, founder of Famo.us and Powerset, it’s one of the dumbest things that you can do in recruiting engineers. And the worst thing that can happen is that the engineer accepts your lowball offer.

That’s why in his companies, Newcomb uses an unconventional but powerful tactic. Incoming engineers actually aren’t allowed to negotiate their salary — they get whatever is determined by the company’s salary formula.

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3 Lessons on Business Longevity from the Oldest Company in the World

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the oldest company in the world. Founded in 705 A.D., the Japanese hot spring hotel has operated continually for an astonishing 1,300 years. Think about it: this company has existed since before Charlemagne became the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Charlemagne crowned by the Pope The company’s founder, Fujiwara Mahito, was the son of a close aide to Emperor Tenji, Japan’s 38th emperor, and he built the hotel in a mountainous village in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture. It’s said that some of the most famous shoguns and samurai soaked in the hot springs there, so that when you go for a dip, you’re in good historical company.

Having survived a mind-blowing 52 generations of successive ownership within the same family, the hotel is no doubt a study on how to achieve longevity in business. Learn these three vital lessons from the hotel on building a business that lasts.

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The Psychology Behind Why Relaxing with TV after Work Leads to Feelings of Failure

Watching TV After Work

After a tough day at work, most of us just want to kick back, turn on the TV and relax. The harder you’ve worked, the more that you want to turn off your brain for a bit to de-stress. It makes total sense, right?

It turns out that watching TV after a stressful day at work doesn’t relax or rejuvenate you. It’s worse, according to a recent study. Watching TV after a stressful day leads to feelings of guilt and failure. It doesn’t give you the downtime you need to prepare for the next day, nor does it keep you in a neutral state — it actually depletes you.

The reason this happens is a bit of a paradox but the psychology will make sense to productive people — and it will arm you with the knowledge you need to do get proper rest and relaxation after work.

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A Googler’s Critique of Google Performance Reviews

google performance reviews

This post was written anonymously by a current Google and former Microsoft employee.  It details the author’s perspective on her first-hand experience with Google’s performance review system.

“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.”

–Franklin D. Roosevelt

Institutions are built on the trust and credibility of their members. This maxim holds true for employees and their employers just the same as it does for citizens and their government. Whereas the electoral process in modern democracies allows you and me to rate our government’s performance, performance rating systems make employees the subject of evaluation. In both cases, however, faith in the integrity of the process is the only thing that ensures order.

Managing a performance rating system that motivates, rewards, and retains talented employees across an organization tens of thousands large is a grueling, never-ending challenge. How does an organization balance values core to its DNA and its continued success — merit, openness, innovation, and loyalty — all while maintaining perceptions of fairness?

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How To Make Small Teams Actually Work With Terrible Communication

8981473860_427a454be6_kAmazon is a mess. In the words of one former Amazon.com engineer: “their hiring bar is incredibly inconsistent across teams,” “their operations are a mess,” “their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas,” “their pay and benefits suck,” and “their code base is a disaster, with no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place.”

It’s madness! No, it’s Amazon.com. They do a lot of things totally wrong. But they make up for it (and then some) by doing one thing really, really right.

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