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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What a Friends Episode Can Teach You About Team Communication


friends team communication

“Did you get my email?” is one of the most annoying questions of offices spaces across the land.

Artist Tom Sachs pinpoints what happens at work that gives rise to these vexing time-wasters:

‘[S]ent does not mean received’ is a profound thing. Half of your job in this studio is doing your work, the other half of your job is communicating that it’s been done. Because if you do it, and I don’t hear about it, how do I know what’s going on?

Despite the great advantage of asynchronous, turn-based communication like email, allowing people to both engage in conversations at their own pace and focus on their work — there are real drawbacks. Not feeling like your message was received or that you’re being left hanging leads to anxiety, stress, and blocks on making progress.

The challenge with team communication is that what’s efficient for the individual isn’t necessarily efficient nor effective for the group as a whole. So how do you extend information-sharing and banish unnecessary work about work for larger-scale productivity?

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How Tony Hsieh Inspired Long-Term Motivation to Grow Zappos Culture

In 2005, Zappos was on track to beat its yearly sales goal of $300 million.

But that was just the beginning. Before Zappos became the household name it is today, CEO Tony Hsieh held a long-term vision for the company that went beyond the gross merchandise numbers. His ambitious goal to hit $1 billion in sales by 2010 was part of a larger plan.

In a remarkable email update Hsieh wrote in 2005 to Zappos investors, employees, and partners, he explained:

Rather than maximizing short-term profits, we’re taking a long-term view and focusing on building the business for the long haul. We’ve grown quickly over the past 5 years, but we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

But it’s not the numbers that are the most exciting… It’s the opportunity to build a company culture and consumer brand that is centered around the service, not the shoes or the handbags.

One of the most captivating things about this email is to actually see the seeds of Zappos’s distinctive culture germinating — especially knowing that the vision that Hsieh lays out in this decade-old email has come to pass, and then some.

So how did Hsieh actually translate his vision for Zappos into reality and resist the siren song of those short-term profits? How did he corral his employees to stick with him for the long haul? The elements are all there in that email.

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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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Why Manage the Good, When You Can Coach the Best?

kawhi coach

“Thanks for pushing me.”

That’s what Kawhi Leonard — at twenty-two, the third youngest Finals MVP in NBA history — told his coach, Gregg Popovich, during the celebratory hullabaloo of this year’s Spurs championship.

To developer Kevin Lamping, Leonard’s simple utterance of gratitude is a meaningful example of the power of coaching, the difference between “managing the good” and “coaching the best.” Their multimillion-dollar salaries, Kevin observes, isn’t quite enough for players to motivate and develop themselves. It’s that critical outside perspective that helps push, challenge, and support you to improve, which is why elite performers from Olympic athletes to opera singers at the top of their fields still have coaches.

Of course the best bosses take time to develop their people. It’s even been proven by Google with its extensive analysis of over 10,000 observations about managers across over 100 variables. Their first and foremost evidence-based rule of good management? Be a good coach.

Then why isn’t coaching more often treated like part of the manager’s job rather than a nice extracurricular activity?

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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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The Extreme Productivity Philosophy that Created Facebook and PayPal

mark zuckerberg growth

Back in 2005, long before they began approaching $10 billion in annual revenue, everyone thought that Facebook was a cool app, but no one thought that it would ever make any money.  Observers laughed at the idea that Facebook could be a real business.

With that backdrop of doubters and detractors, Noah Kagan, employee #30 at Facebook, pitched Mark Zuckerberg with what he thought was a genius idea: prove the Facebook skeptics wrong and show them that the fledgling startup could make real money.

As Kagan recounts the story, Mark listened to the pitch and then wrote out one word on a whiteboard: “GROWTH.” Then he “proclaimed he would not entertain ANY idea unless it helped Facebook grow by total number of ‘users.’”

To Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley luminaries like PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel, the secret to productivity is this: focus is singular. You don’t get three or four or five. You only get one.

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How to Tell When A Manager Is Really Productive

what do managers do all day

What do managers do all day?

This is one of the great, constant mysteries of worklife. According to management expert Peter Drucker, what a manager does all day is set objectives, organize, motivate and communicate, measure, and develop people. The problem is, these tasks are so fuzzy that doing them makes it look like you’re not doing anything.

Your role is to help your team make meaningful progress, which means that your primary concern isn’t about you but the people you manage and how they’re doing. As Michael Lopp, veteran engineering manager, puts it: “Their productivity is your productivity.

A manager’s job is mystifying because it’s so hard to understand what this transitive type of productivity looks like. You have to redefine what it means to get stuff done and how to measure your manager productivity.

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The 60% Rule: The Humbling Reason Why It’s Vital that You Encourage Autonomy at Work

product visionaries

Breakthrough products are created out of thin air by a singular product visionary — your Steve Jobsian figure in a black turtleneck and a ponderous look. He yells at people and tells them what to do, until it’s perfect and done.

To Chris Savage, co-founder and CEO of Wistia, one of the biggest video hosting sites on the web for businesses, that’s a widespread misconception that can harm the way you run your business.

Chris has a rule of thumb on making product decisions that’s both incredibly humbling to all you Jobs disciples out there and imperative to grasp. The rule is this: the very best of us only get product decisions right 60% of the time. The rest of the time, we’re wrong.

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Managers Are Blind to How the Sausage Gets Made, Literally

SUCCESS

When Toy Story broke box office records and Pixar was the biggest IPO of 1995, it seemed that company co-founder and president, Ed Catmull, had finally made it. He not only met his twenty-year-long goal of making the first computer graphics movie, he also created a successful company. “As a manager, I felt a troubling lack of purpose. Now what?” he wondered. Would he “merely” run a company? What was special about that?

His outlook changed upon learning he’d been completely oblivious to something that had put Pixar at risk, throwing his beliefs about success into a new light. Managing in a successful company is in fact a demanding, evolving, and rewarding job. The special challenge is to cultivate and maintain conditions, context, and culture that you can’t always see.

Just because you think you can see how the sausage is made doesn’t mean you really know what’s going on in your team and company. In fact, success and great qualities can even obscure problems, creating a peculiar blindness for diligent managers on their toes. Even when you have what seems like a winning combination of talented leaders, rising fortunes, and good intentions, you can still miss something vital.

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