Knowing Me, Knowing You
At Mighty Bear we’re always looking for ways to help new hires feel at home. This makes sense for everyone: the more effective the onboarding is, the happier our new team members will be and the more likely they are to succeed. Everyone wins!
In our experience, one of the worst parts of starting out anywhere is figuring out how to work with your manager: What do they like? What don’t they? How honest you should be? (At Mighty Bear the correct answer is always “Totally.”) All of these can be a source of anxiety for anyone finding their feet in a new role.
As a head-on solution (inspired by Tobi Lütke’s appearance on The Knowledge Project), each of Mighty Bear’s managers have put together a “Guide to Working With Me” to share with new team members when they join. The idea is to help cut out those first 3–6 months of parsing that trickiest of working relationships by giving our new hires a cheat sheet up front.
Below is my “Guide to Working With Me”, reproduced along with some explanatory notes.
This document exists so that I can be transparent about my expectations and what I consider to be best practices. It serves as a guide rather than a “bible” on how to work with me.
When you join we will start with weekly 1:1s, and these will gradually shift to being once every two weeks.
During your first session we will talk about what you value and what your aspirations are.
1:1s are not for my benefit, they’re for your benefit. I will expect you to come prepared and do some thinking ahead of the meeting.
Regular 1:1s are a huge part of our culture and provide a touchpoint for general alignment and regular two-way feedback.
I do regular check-ins with all my reports, and will also “skip levels” and speak to their reports. As CEO I feel it’s important to speak to everyone on a semi-regular basis, check how they’re doing, and make sure I haven’t missed anything I should be aware of.
This can be a bit scary for newer managers at Mighty Bear, but as we grow it’s tremendously important I keep my finger squarely on the pulse and stay up on issues that people are having at all levels.
My approach to management is to explain to people what it is we need from them, the thinking behind the ask, and then leave to figure out and implement the best solution. You were hired to own your area of the business.
I will not insert myself into your areas of responsibility unless:
A specific piece of work is of critical importance and it would be negligent of me as CEO to not get involved
You ask me for help
Issues begin to surface which require my attention or raise concerns
If you’re struggling or something is going on away from work that’s affecting you, it’s perfectly fine (and expected) that you will ask for help. As CEO there’s nothing more important I could be doing than helping you succeed. If you don’t ask for help and you fail at something, then that’s 100% on you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The people who report to me tend to be those with management responsibilities. I hire managers because of their skills and knowledge, not to be my proxy. At Mighty Bear managers are expected to own their area of responsibility, but if someone needs support it’s also expected they will escalate the issue so we can provide the help they need.
I value time above everything else. Speed and our ability to fire “shots on goal” faster than our competitors while maintaining a high quality bar has consistently set us apart. Being able to continue doing this maximises our chances of success.
I have a very low tolerance for people wasting other people’s time, so please show up before a meeting starts, so that you’re ready at the agreed time.
Don’t invite more people than are absolutely required. If you want to book a meeting with more than 7 people, please clear it with me first. This is to protect people’s time and not have people sat inactive in meetings just for the sake of “not missing out on information”. People attending meetings to not “miss out on information” points to a broader communication problem, namely people not taking and sharing notes. If we observe that occurring we have to fix it rather than have dozens people sit in largely useless meetings.
Meetings where I’m present will always start at the agreed time regardless of whomever may be missing. I expect you to do the same on the rare occasion I’m late for a meeting.
If materials are circulated ahead of a discussion, I expect you to read the materials, take notes, and show up ready to the discussion. If someone comes to a meeting and it’s clear they haven’t prepared then we ask them to leave. If they’re critical to the meeting, it gets rescheduled so that they can do the homework and have time to digest the information before the meeting.
We never have meetings where someone is reading through a document to the group and then asking for feedback.
If someone starts going on a monologue or going off on tangents in a group discussion, then please feel free to cut them off and get the conversation back on-track — we can always pick-up any necessary side discussions at another time and with the relevant people.
No phones allowed in meetings at Mighty Bear. We want the meetings to be short and we need everyone paying attention so we can get in and out without wasting time.
Everyone is expected to take detailed notes in every discussion and own their action points.
If poorly managed, meetings can be the single biggest barrier to productivity, focus, and motivation in any organisation. We accept that meetings are a necessary evil, but we have processes in place to ensure they’re fast, focused, and include only the necessary people. We celebrate conciseness, punctuality, and making the best use of everyone’s time. My reports embody these principles and help set the standard for everyone else.
Honesty and transparency are my two most fundamental principles. I have a pretty strong bullshit detector: if you try and hide or obfuscate the truth in any way, I will probably find out and it will not go well.
I will be completely candid, honest, and respectful with you. You will never be in any doubt as to where you stand, how things are going, and what areas (if any) require improvement. This saves huge amounts of time, treats people fairly (no ruinous empathy), and is better for everyone’s mental wellbeing (no anxious reports worrying about “how things are really going”).
I also expect you to be just as candid and honest with me. Tell me how you feel, what I could be doing better, what the company could be doing better, etc.
I have never, and will never, punish someone for giving difficult or critical feedback. We welcome difficult feedback and we strive for an atmosphere where critical voices are not just heard, but recognised and rewarded.
The best way to succeed at Mighty Bear is to speak openly when things don’t go well. Don’t be afraid to challenge your peers or your superiors: no-one has a monopoly on the truth.
I actively encourage my reports to disagree with me and be open about their feelings. When people escalate difficult news and opinions, we embrace it and thank them — “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Communication and Decision-Making
I value concise and clear communication. I’m not a very patient person, so get to the point, and don’t worry about sugar-coating things — I’m here to help you succeed so the faster and more precisely you can help me understand the challenges you’re facing, the better I can help you.
I have been accused in the past of responding to comments “too quickly”, which implies I’m not giving due consideration or thought. This is likely because I spend most of my week in discussions (some weeks I’ll do 30+ meetings) and chances often are that I’ve discussed the topic before and have an answer to hand.
If you think I’m not taking something seriously enough then it’s your #1 priority to make me aware of that.
The best way to convince me of something is to come prepared and bring facts, specific examples (I will almost certainly ask for specifics), and data. If we have to choose between various options I will ask you for costs, options, and consequences for each. If you can’t provide these, I will ask you do come back when you’ve done your homework.
When proposing a change which requires a CEO-level decision, be prepared to be challenged. (And never take this personally!) We strive for intellectual rigour across all levels of decision- making, and I will push you to ensure that the logic is sound and that the request has been properly thought through.
As above, everyone is encouraged to share their thoughts, challenge our methods, and openly disagree. I will challenge people and probe their thinking to ensure it follows. The best way to effect a change is to deliver a well thought-out proposal (preferably with data to back it up). I love it when my reports show me the way.
We strive for an open and inclusive culture. Mighty Bear is a place for everyone, and we have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any sort.
AAA studios have a bit (sometimes more than a bit) of a “bro culture” — we don’t. It might take you a little while to adapt, but if I see even hints of it, I will call it out in private to make you aware. Don’t take this personally: it can take people a few weeks to adapt.
We can be a sweary bunch, and that’s OK as different people express themselves differently, however we draw the line at any behaviour which could be deemed as abusive.
We have zero tolerance for toxic behaviour of any sort. My reports are expected to set the example here.
If I need something quickly I will walk over to you, call, or ping you via Telegram.
If I need something within a few hours I will send you a Slack message
If I need something in >24 hours I will either Slack or email depending on the nature of the ask
I’m pretty bad at sleeping so I will often send emails or Slack messages at all hours. I do not expect an immediate response to messages sent out of hours. On the very rare occasion it’s urgent I will call or send a Telegram message. Feel free to ignore these messages until you’re back at work.
I work at all hours (Thanks insomnia!) so ignore anything received outside of your working hours. Should there be a real emergency, someone would just call.
I don’t micromanage so I will not chase you on your deadlines, but I will notice if you miss them. It’s not OK to miss deadlines, but it is OK to tell me ahead of time if you’re struggling so that we can renegotiate the deadline. If I find out after the deadline was missed that you were struggling but didn’t escalate it, that’s on you.
I don’t micromanage and I certainly won’t remind my reports of their deadlines. If it looks likely that a deadline is going to be missed then I need to know as early as possible so that we can plan around it.
I try to spend as much time as possible on things that only I can do (i.e. can’t be delegated), as these are where I can have the biggest impact on the business. These are typically things like investor relations, working with partners, negotiations, overseeing product and design, supporting my reports, and checking on the health of the wider org.
I will probably not get in to the micro of your work (unless you ask me to) — I will provide direction, explain the thinking behind the direction, and help you figure things out.
I will avoid taking decisions for you as much as possible. You’ve been hired to do a job and own an area of the business. My job is to hire the best people, provide support, and then get the hell out of the way.
I focus my time on the areas where I can have the biggest overall impact on the business. This means that if my time is needed elsewhere my reports will need to make a point of asking for it: otherwise, beyond providing high-level guidance I will not get into their day-to-day tasks.
Making It Work For You
It’s still early days, but providing a handy how-to for new hires seems to be working out. Starting a new job is always a little scary and providing a list of pointers can only be a good thing.
I hope some of you are inspired to incorporate this into your own way of working. Feel free to share thoughts and comments below!