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What Shape are You?

My post before this was a kind of therapy / Buddhism / personal growth kind of deal, but I also spend a lot of time thinking about how to run effective teams and to be a responsible, thoughtful manager of people. It is my work: I am a lead engineer at Bungie, an independent video game developer of about 300 employees (though not for long, we're growing.) There are some unique aspects to making videogames, and I'll use game development terminology here as I refer to, say, texture artists or sound designers or programmers, but when I talk to friends in different creative industries - film, industrial design, other software development - I find these themes are pretty universal.

If you're going to manage people, you're going to have a lot of conversations about employee performance. It's just bound to happen. Sometimes, like during reviews, it might seem excessive. You might wonder if's worth all the time it takes. It is. It's OK that you spend a bunch of time on this. As a manager, that is your job. It's your job to have well-formed opinions about how you evaluate people and how you work with them to help them grow. If you aren't spending time on that, then you may be succeeding as a leader, but probably not as a manager. Apples and oranges.

It is, however, important to spend this time well. During conversations about performance, everything you talk about should boil down to one thing: the value they contribute to the team. What is their value, and how can they become more valuable?

I find a lot of review conversations tend to focus on strengths, weaknesses, and specific work results. These seem like reasonable topics, and there's value there, but I also find this often leads to a review that looks like this:

Casco Viejo

On Tynan

Jose, our friend and the guy who rented our apartment to us, is a Spanish teacher here in Panama. He comes over a couple times a week and hangs out with us. It's business and pleasure - we learn Spanish from him and we teach him about online business. He's a lot more of an expert in his field than we are in ours.

Last week he told us about a couple he teaches here. The guy, Peep (pronounced 'Pep') is from Estonia, and the girl, Sarah, is from Austin! We called them up and planned to hang out one night.

They live in Casco Viejo - "The Old City". Todd and I kept intending to go visit Casco Viejo, but never got around to it. Unless there's a moderate amount of pressure, you can't ply us from our work.

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