in team-work management profile image for Brendan Caffrey by Brendan Caffrey
Humans don't come with instruction manuals.  But your manager could.

Humans don't come with instruction manuals. But your manager could.

Humans don't come with instruction manuals.  I remember when my son was born.  The hospital gives you some rudimentary demonstration on how to feed and change the baby.  They make sure you have a reasonable car seat.  And off you go - on your own - with a new born.  Good luck!  We did a lot of work preparing for this child.  We read books.  We talked to friends and family who were raising children.  We even took a class.  But in that moment I couldn't have felt less prepared or less qualified for the task at hand.

Let's pivot to career talk.  Imagine you start a new job.  You've done your homework.  You met your new boss during the interview process.  You probably spent - what, a few hours with them at best?  You read the glass door reviews and chatted with people who work there.  You show up bright and early on day one.  You get your shiny new laptop, maybe an American Apparel tee.  Now what?  You feel incredibly unprepared and unqualified for the task at hand.

This is where - if you're lucky - a first class on boarding plan comes in.  This is a combination of efforts between your manager and HR to get you up and running as seamlessly as possible.

As a manager, I've be thinking a lot about my role in this process.  How can I ease that transition.  Wouldn't it be great if there was some kind of manual.  Here's how you can work best with me.  Here's what I expect of you and what you should expect of me.  Hat tip to my colleague Eddie for introducing me to the concept of the Manager ReadMe.

The origin of the ReadMe file in software goes back to at least the late 1970's.  The ReadMe is that brief one page synopsis that serves as the intro/guide/documentation to a piece of software.  The rise of git and Github have elevated the ReadMe to an even higher status.  When you create a new empty repo in Github it doesn't give you an empty repo.  It gives you one file - the  Surely you didn't really want an empty repository.  Surely you will need a ReadMe.

By default humans don't come with instruction manuals.  As a manager you could help your new and existing team members by writing yours.  The Manager ReadMe is that quick intro or guide to a key person you'll be working with - your manager.  For the employee it can break the ice, ease nerves and level set expectations.  For the manager it's a great introspective exercise.  How do you work best?  What do you expect from your team?  What should they expect from you?  Tell them to hold you accountable to these expectations.  

Beyond this if you make your ReadMe public it can serve as an excellent recruiting tool.  Read about me, what I'm like, what I expect - does this sound like someone you'd like to work with?  

As with just about everything these days - there's a SAAS App for this.  So I've created my Manager ReadMe on  Hopefully if you work with me now or have in the recent past it's reflective of our experiences together.  And if not - let me know!  Check it out at  

If you're a manager I'd encourage you to create your own ReadMe.  You don't need to use a SAAS app - you can just do it in a Google Doc or really whatever format works for you and your team.  As I wrote in my ReadMe - "Writing software can be really really difficult.  Let's not compound that complexity with uncertain expectations and the uneasiness that can arise from working with new people."  

About the author:

Hello! I'm Brendan Caffrey. A software engineer and leader currently working as Engineering Director @ Litmus where I lead teams making awesome tools for email professionals.