Book: The Manager’s Path, Camille Fournier


Without a doubt one of the best books on management. A must-read if you’re in technology, even if you don’t come from a technical background (like I don’t). The tl;dr doesn’t do it justice, it’s a guidebook that should be regularly revisited. Highly recommended.


Have 1-on-1 meetings. Trust your team. Mentor new hires. Create a safe environment for disagreement. Managers need to make your life easier. Don’t compromise on culture fit, especially with managers. Senior leaders are dedicated first and foremost to the business and its success, and secondly to the success of their departments as a whole. Disagreements that happen in the context of the leadership team don’t exist to the wider team.


Chapter 1. Management 101

One-on-One Meetings

  • First, they create human connection between you and your manager.
  • The bedrock of strong teams is human connection, which leads to trust.
  • The second purpose of a 1-1 is a regular opportunity for you to speak privately with your manager about whatever needs discussing.

Feedback and Workplace Guidance

  • The second thing to expect from your manager is feedback.
  • The sooner you know about your bad habits, the easier they are to correct.
  • This also goes for getting praise.
  • The feedback you get from your manager will be somewhat public if it’s praise, and private if it’s criticism.
  • When it comes to your role at the company, your manager needs to be your number one ally.
  • Your manager should be the person who shows you the larger picture of how your work fits into the team’s goals, and helps you feel a sense of purpose in the day-to-day work.

Training and Career Growth

  • Your manager holds some responsibility for helping you find training and other resources for career growth.
  • When you are interested in being promoted, it’s very important to ask your manager for specific areas to focus on in order to get that promotion.
  • As you become more senior, remember that your manager expects you to bring solutions, not problems.

Chapter 2. Mentoring

Many organizations use mentors as part of their onboarding process for all new hires.

Listening is the first and most basic skill of managing people.

Be prepared to say anything complex a few times, in different ways.

Mentoring new hires is critical.

Effective teams have good onboarding documents they provide to new hires.

Use this opportunity to reward and train future leaders on your team.

Chapter 3. Tech Lead

Tech lead is not the job for the person who wants the freedom to focus deeply on the details of her own code.

Managing a Project

  • Break down the work.
  • Start with the biggest pieces, then break the big pieces down into smaller pieces, then break those down into even smaller pieces.
  • Push through the details and the unknowns.
  • Run the project and adjust the plan as you go.
  • The value of a good planning process is that it helps you know approximately how far the project has come, and approximately how far it is from completion.
  • Use the insights gained in the planning process to manage requirements changes.
  • If requirements start to change midflight, take those insights and apply them to the changes.
  • Revisit the details as you get close to completion.

Your productivity is now less important than the productivity of the whole team.

Chapter 4. Managing People

Starting a New Reporting Relationship Off Right

  • Build Trust and Rapport
  • How do you like to be praised, in public or in private?
  • What is your preferred method of communication for serious feedback?
  • Why did you decide to work here? What are you excited about?
  • How do I know when you’re in a bad mood or annoyed?
  • Are there any manager behaviors that you know you hate?
  • Do you have any clear career goals that I should know about so I can help you achieve them?
  • Any surprises since you’ve joined, good or bad, that I should know about?
  • Create a 30/60/90-Day Plan

Encourage Participation by Updating the New Hire Documentation

Communicate Your Style and Expectations

Get Feedback from Your New Hire

Communicating with Your Team

Have Regular 1-1s

Just because you think things are going smoothly with this person doesn’t mean that she agrees.

How stable or unstable are things in the team or the company?

If you see or hear about a direct report doing something you want to correct, try to approach that person soon after.

Performance Reviews

  • The 360 model is a performance review that includes feedback from, in addition to a person’s manager, his teammates, anyone who reports to him, and coworkers he regularly interacts with, as well as a self-review.
  • Writing the summary review gives you the chance to focus for longer than a few minutes on the individuals and look at the big picture over a longer period of time.
  • Writing and Delivering a Performance Review
    • Give yourself enough time, and start early
    • Try to account for the whole year, not just the past couple of months
    • One tactic is to keep a running summary of your 1-1s, including any feedback that was delivered.
    • The goal for viewing the whole year is to recognize not just early accomplishments but also the growth and change you’ve seen since then.
    • If you can’t use a concrete example to support a point, ask yourself if the point is something you should be communicating in the review.
    • You want to celebrate achievements, talk about what’s going well, and give plenty of praise for good work.
    • Many companies expect you to be acting at the next level before you get promoted to it.
    • Performance improvement plan. This is a set of clearly defined objectives that the person must achieve within a fixed period of time.
    • Avoid big surprises. One of the basic rules of management is the rule of no surprises, particularly negative ones.
  • You need to understand what a person is supposed to be giving you, and if that isn’t happening, make it clear to her early and often that she is not meeting expectations.
  • This situation is why you start giving feedback early and often, and keep records of the feedback you’ve been delivering.

Chapter 5. Managing a Team

You are not their parent. Your team is made up of adults who need to be treated with appropriate respect.

Creating a safe environment for disagreement to work itself out is far better than pretending that all disagreement does not exist.

Psychological safety – that is, a team whose members are willing to take risks and make mistakes in front of one another. This is the underpinning of a successful team.

Teams that are friendly are happier, gel faster, and tend to produce better results.

Your first goal is to protect your team as a whole, the second is to protect each individual on the team, and your last priority is protecting yourself.

Chapter 6. Managing Multiple Teams

Managing your time comes down to one important thing: understanding the difference between importance and urgency.

One example of an important but not urgent task is actually preparing for meetings so that you can guide them in a healthy way.

Use Complex and Infrequent Tasks as Training Opportunities for Rising Leaders

Delegate Complex and Frequent Tasks to Develop Your Team

The popular management book First, Break All the Rules discusses several questions you can answer to help predict team productivity and satisfaction.

Do I know what is expected of me at work? Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right? Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

While the clique is fragile, especially to the loss of the leader, the purpose-driven team tends to be very resilient to the loss of individuals and leadership.

Impatience and laziness, applied to process, are the key elements to focus.

Chapter 7. Managing Managers

Skip-level meetings are one of the critical keys to successful management at levels of remove.

One form of skip-level meeting is a short 1-1 meeting, held perhaps once a quarter, between the head of an organization and each person in that organization.

These meetings are most successful when you provide prompts about potential topics, and remind the person that the meeting is largely for his or her benefit.

Suggested prompts to provide the person you are holding the skip-level 1-1 with include:

  • What do you like best/worst about the project you are working on? Who on your team has been doing really well recently? Do you have any feedback about your manager — what’s going well, what isn’t? What changes do you think we could make to the product? Are there any opportunities you think we might be missing? How do you think the organization is doing overall? Anything we could be doing better/more/less? Are there any areas of the business strategy you don’t understand? What’s keeping you from doing your best work right now? How happy (or not) are you working at the company? What could we do to make working at the company more fun?

The 1-1 doesn’t scale forever. I used to hold skip-level lunches with whole teams.

In the group setting, these questions can be used to draw out information:

  • What can I, your manager’s manager, provide for you or your team? Anything I should be helping with? Is this team working poorly with any other teams, from your perspective? Are there any questions about the larger organization that I can answer?

Managers commonly slip up here when they already have personal relationships and plenty of history working together, so they feel they don’t need to do extra work to keep in touch with those teams directly.

Manager Accountability

  • There is one universal goal for these relationships: they should make your life easier.
  • Your managers should allow you to spend more time on the bigger picture, and less time on the details of any one team.
  • When they repeatedly fail to do this, they’re failing to do their job.
  • Keep an eye on your new managers. You may need to provide not only coaching but strong corrective feedback in the first six months.
  • Managers create subcultures, and a manager who creates an incompatible subculture can be a problem if you want your teams to work together well.
  • It’s easier to gain access to industry information than it is to retrain someone who doesn’t know how to work in your culture.
  • Don’t compromise on culture fit, especially when hiring managers.

High Output Management, Andy Grove

His observation is that most new hires act in self-interest until they get to know their colleagues, and then they move into group interest.

Remember that you’re not expected to know everything just because you’re a manager. Use this to your advantage. Ask the person to teach you about the work she does.

Good meetings have a heavy discussion element, where opinions and ideas are drawn out of the team.

Estimates are often useful even if they aren’t perfectly accurate because they help escalate complexity to the rest of the team.

Chapter 8. The Big Leagues

Challenging Situations: Delivering Bad News

  • Don’t blast an impersonal message to a large group.
  • Do talk to individuals as much as possible.
  • Give them space one-on-one to react, to ask questions, to get it straight from you.
  • Don’t force yourself to deliver a message you can’t stand behind.
  • Do be honest about the likely outcomes.
  • Being forthright with people will help them trust you more and make them more likely to tolerate the unhappy news well.
  • Do think about how you would like to be told.

Senior leaders, more than any other group in a company, must actively practice first-team focus.

They are dedicated first and foremost to the business and its success, and secondly to the success of their departments as a way of contributing to the overall business success.

If you haven’t learned how to let a peer own her specialty, now is the time.

Giving her respectful deference when it comes to her turf is fundamental.

Engineers frequently struggle with the transition to respecting and communicating well with diverse peers.

It can’t be said strongly enough: your peers who are not analytically driven are not stupid.

Disagreements that happen in the context of the leadership team don’t exist to the wider team.

It’s deeply tempting to rant to those people you consider friends in your reporting team about the challenges of your position, but this is a bad idea.

You’re a role model. What kind of leaders do you want to develop? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Instead of getting tense and angry, get curious when things don’t seem to be going well.

Chapter 9. Bootstrapping Culture

John Gall’s book Systemantics: A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.

Culture is the generally unspoken shared rules of a community.

You certainly don’t want to hire people that your team can’t stand to be around, but cultural fit is not about hiring friends.

The shortcuts you get by hiring friends are not usually the values you need to form a strong team.

Writing a Career Ladder

  • Solicit participation from your team.
  • Look for examples.
  • Be detailed.
  • Use both long-form descriptions and summaries.
  • Consider how the ladder relates to salary.
  • Provide many early opportunities for advancement.
  • Use narrow salary bands for early-career stages.
  • Use wide salary bands when and where you have fewer levels.
  • Consider your breakpoint levels.
  • What is the lowest level at which people can sit forever, never getting promoted but also not underperforming?

Recognize achievement.

I do encourage you to have at least some of your levels be keystone promotions, which are shared and celebrated.

Split management and technical tracks.

Consider making people management skills a mid-career requirement.

Don’t be afraid to evolve over time.

Cross-functional product development groups are a popular structure for a good reason.

Chapter 10. Conclusion

Think about things from the other person’s perspective. What are they trying to do? What do they value? What do they want and need?