A personal user guide

Below is an artifact I created several years ago—I sent it as a note to my company that outlined some handy tips and tricks for working with me.

The whole message comes across a bit ego-centric because, well, after all, it is describing how I work. In hindsight, the user guide was say ~ 10% effective for others and 90% effective for myself. What I mean by that is that most of the value in creating the guide has been for myself—in becoming more aware of my defaults and preferences. Whereas externally, I have not found people, at least most people, to be particularly adaptive in working towards my user manual.

Nonetheless, see below—you may find it interesting.


Working with Jordan: a User Guide

Hi – I’m Jordan. I’m excited to do our best work together. 

This personal User Guide is successful if it: 

  • Promotes effective communication between myself and others. 
  • Fosters introspection and self-awareness. 

Please reach out if you have any feedback.
This document was last updated in June 2022. 

Overview 

I care deeply about making our company successful. I’m happy to change my behavior to make this happen. This quest has prompted me to evolve a number of habits which I’ve listed here. If you work with me and/or at this company, I encourage you to read this entire essay and comment if you have any questions. 

I admire owners

I work best with people who own their outcomes—people who take radical responsibility for their work. The most effective owners often achieve what others consider impossible; they produce high-quality work, very quickly, by being relentlessly resourceful. They do this by narrowing focus (amping up specificity). They are capable of discussing their work for both three seconds and three hours. Owners tend to believe in the conditional probability. They control the outcomes in their lives (rather than waiting for external forces). 

Owners I admire choose to act kindly, even in difficult and frustrating situations. They prioritize achieving the company mission above personal ego (e.g. they are not afraid to ask for help, they will disagree and commit with integrity). 

I particularly admire owners who bias toward quality. I believe quality is an art, not a science (it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see and feel it). I’m pretty contextagnostic; I just like DOPE things (and especially love working with the dope people making DOPE things). 

How I work

My favorite movie series is Fast and Furious. If you haven’t watched it, A) consider it and B) it is essentially a documentary demonstrating how to achieve the impossible. 

Below are some learnings from the films that demonstrate how I work:

  • Bet on slope over intercept. 
    • I believe in the people who work here. I don’t prioritize where you’re starting from (previous college, jobs, hometown, etc.); I believe much more in your ability to learn and grow. I want this place to enable you to achieve your best work.
      • My dad came to the US with $1000 in his socks. As an example, imagine this paraphrase in an Israeli accent: “you can achieve more than you can imagine. You just have to work hard.” 
    • When I say I believe in you, I truly mean it. I believe in you, me, and us, including our ability to achieve together more than we could have ever imagined possible.
      • I will often ask you: “what would it take to accomplish the 10 times version of this?” and “Could we do this in half the time?” These questions are designed to help us achieve more than we can default imagine. This is what I mean when I say I believe in you. 
    • I care about the speed of learning. I don’t want us making the same mistakes over and over.
      • To accelerate your learning, consider increasing feedback loops with those around you (truncate your work, get more alignment, ask for more from us and you shall receive). 
  • Work with integrity. 
    • Reliability is important to me.
      • The path to demonstrating reliability has two parts: 1) “say you are going to do something and do it” AND 2) “proactively communicate when you are going to be delayed.” This is my favorite formula for earning trust and leveling up. 
    • I’ll never ask you to do work that we’re not proud of (e.g. which passes the frontpage test and is genuinely good for the world). I want you to do work you’d want to sign your name on.
      • I’ll start most conversations with the framing: “what is best for our clients?” 
    • My job is to help make this company successful. I therefore do not blindly trust people, but I am optimistic that together we can and will succeed. I believe in an approach to management called inspected trust
      • “When someone brings a problem or a concern to you, trust them that there is a problem, but give yourself space to independently verify their interpretation of the problem. Occasionally, I’ve had folks push back on me inspecting their work, arguing that I should just trust them. This is a short-term perspective, and in my case has always been a reflection of a deeper relationship challenge between me and the individual I was working with. Your goal in working together is to help each other succeed, and that includes catching each others’ mistakes. Inspection is a gift: it’s taking the problem seriously enough to ensure we’re getting to the bottom of the actual problem at hand. (As an aside, inspected trust isn’t strictly something that managers do for their team, many of the best folks I’ve gotten to manage have diligently inspected everything I told them, refining my rough proposals into something much better, and catching me when I’ve gotten too attached to my own interpretations.)” 
  • Communicate directly. 
    • I am not good at faking; I will always be genuine with you. That said, direct communication is not an excuse to be rude. I fully believe it’s possible to be clear and kind (and fill each others’ buckets—being an asshole is not tolerated). 
    • I’m strongly biased towards writing as a vehicle for thinking, communicating objectively, and truth-seeking.
      • In pursuit of doing what’s best for the company, I’ll often ask questions to build conviction in our ideas (through debate, analysis, and questioning). To facilitate this growth, I encourage you to write down your ideas. I also suggest writing success criteria at the top of any document: “this document is successful if…” 
      • Meetings can be a great way to collaborate. But not all meetings are set up for success—if a meeting is recurring, more than 25 minutes, has no agenda, and has more than five people, I wouldn’t bet on it being productive.
        • I believe feedback, brainstorming, and bonding are very often done better live (either on Zoom or in person). 
      • I’m allergic to most absolute statements (see what I did there). I admire intentionality and precision and am wary of false causation. 
      • Brand and client trust matter, so if you’re writing for a client or public audience, consider how all sorts of potential readers will experience your message before you hit publish. 
    • Collaboration is the only way we succeed.
      • I would love to work closely with you on your work-related and professional goals. I am not more skilled than you, especially at your area of expertise; I’ve just been working and thinking about this problem space nonstop for the past several years and believe a large part of my job is sharing that context so you can do your best work. Reach out whenever – I’ll always respond (and if I can’t help you, I’ll tell you).
        • My general outreach template: “Hi, I need X thing by Y date for Z reason.” I try to link to as much context as possible to make it easy for the reader to respond. 
      • I enjoy reading. I especially enjoy reading well-informed analyses and ideas. Please default to transparency and I’ll read everything you send me. 
      • When I reach out to you, I will label items [urgent] that I believe I need an urgent response to (meaning as soon as possible). For all else, I trust that you will respond when you can. 
    • I’m going to be at least slightly offended if you have feedback for me and don’t give it to me. Please give me feedback (on the micro and the macro. I’m the sort of person who would like to know if I have food in my teeth). Help me improve.
      • I tend to give feedback directly, generally in a 1:1 setting. 
  • Be healthy. 
    • I’m not a doctor, but I am more effective when I am physically and mentally healthy.
      • I am noticeably less effective when I don’t work out and/or eat healthily. Feel free to ask me in meetings if I’ve been doing either (it’ll incentivize the right behavior) and tell me ways I can support your health.

I have a certain speaking style that’s unique to me – so much so that one longstanding collaborator made this as a friendly dig. If you receive one of these responses, don’t overthink it: it’s just how I talk!


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