Getting To Know Your Team Members
One of our most important functions as managers in GitLab’s Support Team is to provide a safe, inclusive, supportive environment in which our team members (direct reports) will be happy, productive and successful. We want them to feel valued. We want to reward them for outstanding contributions. We want to give them opportunities to grow and to be challenged. We want to offer guidance for improvement when it’s needed and get out of the way when it’s not. We want to be a readily available, trusted resource rather than a crutch or a burden.
Given the uniqueness of each person on each of our teams, though, and their correspondingly varied needs, skills, personalities and behaviors, how can we possibly hope to succeed in this endeavor? We will need to tailor our management approach uniquely for each individual team member. Offered on this page is what we believe to be a good first step in doing that, and in becoming not just a good manager, but the right manager for each individual member of your team.
Laying the Foundation for a Tailored Management Approach
Begin each manager/direct-report relationship, whether you are the new manager on the team or you have a new member joining the team that you manage, with a special one-on-one meeting. The agenda for the meeting is two-part, and essentially amounts to this:
- Tell your story to your team member
- Ask the team member to tell their story to you
It’s important that you each give enough information about your personal and professional background so that the other person can begin to know who you are, what’s important to you, what’s meaningful to you, and how you do work. And as you’ll see when you look at the template for this meeting, you as the manager have the added responsibility of learning specific details about how to work with your team member.
Preparing for and Conducting the Meeting
- Use the All About You Template
- Copy it to a folder in Google Drive where both of you will have access
- Add the team member’s name to the file name (e.g. All About Lee Matos)
- Fill in their name inside the file, too, replacing
- In the calendar invitation, include a link to the new file. Invite the team member to fill it out in advance OR to wait for the meeting at which time you will take notes in the doc while they tell their story.
- Use your Support Engineering Manager Readme
- If your Readme covers your whole story, meaning it answers pretty much all the questions in the template, then ask your team member to read it in advance.
- Here’s an example of one such complete Readme
- Conduct the Meeting!
- Build trust by being vulnerable - tell your story first. If your Readme tells the whole story, you can just ask your team member for any comments or questions they have. Otherwise, start by using the template as a guide and filling in the gaps between it and your Readme. Then ask for comments and questions.
- Then seek to learn about them
- Remind them of what the document calls out at the top - that they should only share what they feel comfortable sharing, and that the only purpose is for the two of you to learn about each other and how best to work together.
- Go through every question in the document, either reviewing the answers they’ve already provided or taking notes as they answer at that time. Remember that, unlike in a job interview, you can talk about almost whatever you want. Learn about them. Share stories as you find common interests and experiences. Build a connection.
- Thank them for going through this process with you.
Now that you have all this terrific information about your team member, make use of it all the time! In the beginning, you might consider looking through it before each one-on-one to refresh your memory on, well, everything. Over time you’ll probably remember some of the information and not need it as a cheat sheet. Still, continue to use it as a reference as necessary. Some good uses are:
- When you want to recognize them for an achievement, look to the document to remind yourself of how they want to be recognized
- When you want to talk about their development plan, look to the document to remind yourself what they’ve already told you about their aspirations
- When you want to coach them about something, look back to see how they want to work with their manager and receive feedback