My team lead, Simon, and I have a one-on-one chat every week. It’s typically casual in tone but big picture in topic. At some point in an August chat, we hit the topic of managing people. Recently this book has been read by several Automatticians and Simon is one of them. He recommended I read it too after we typed at each other a bit.
The most interesting thing about this book is how much it reminded me of Automattic. We focus a lot on employee freedom and that’s a major tenet presented. Bock mentions a conversation with another company’s HR lead and how they were interested in trying things like a room with lava lamps and beanbag chairs, but not giving the employees more freedom, responsibility, or transparency. Good ideas pretty much stop with that roadblock of less employee freedom.
Another great discussion in the book is around the topic of managers. It’s a commonly bemoaned thing in tech that managers just get in the way of engineers, but this book showed the steps that Google took to show that while bad managers do indeed just that, good managers are invaluable and make their teams better. One of the big decisions that kept Google managers good at their role was distancing them from acts of compensation and promotion.
At Automattic we have a similar philosophy: we don’t have managers, but we do have team leads. Simon is my lead, but is not my boss. Team leads are charged with making sure the team does the very best work we can do, but they can’t decide on their team members compensation unilaterally. Our HR team does compensation reviews rather thoroughly, and the team lead’s opinion is only a part of that. As was recently put at the grand meetup, Happiness Engineers like myself bring happiness to customers. Team leads bring happiness to Happiness Engineers. Same job, different purpose.
You might also enjoy this book for a more thorough view of why Google has the ‘fun’ perks it does like the free food and napping pods. There has been tons of media coverage over those little things in past years. But instead I hope you’ll read this book and help your business shape the way it sees its people. For now, I see it as a pat on the back that Automattic really is doing things at the top tier of HR and strive to make myself an employee deserving of such a great team.
Work Rules!: Insights From Inside Google That Will ransform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock