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What Shape are You?

On Made of Metaphors

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:

#4 Ch. 2 Righteously Laid - Next - Special Wednesday Post: Outtake: Erotica

On The Case of the Fiery Grillman

RIGHTEOUSLY LAID

One night nearly two decades after Hennessey, I plotted to corner Hilton at a Christmas party. He was deep in his cups and settled onto the sofa by the tree, when I sat beside him with a couple of glasses and a bottle of exceptional Oregon Pinot Noir. Hilton is wary of cops, even me, but he knew who I was and could appreciate my wine. He is a man who likes to spin yarns, especially to women.

I said, “Tell me something about Paul I don’t know.”

He tasted wine, smiled, nodded, and rubbed his graying stubble of a beard, considering his story. He said, “Did you know he hired me at The Open Door?”

I shook my head, a detail I’d missed, and Hilton went on. “He was nineteen, been in town a week. I was interviewing for whitey, three of ‘em sitting around a table like I had applied for a cabinet position, all in suits, Mitchell in plaid pants with that stupid fake afro and widest tie I’ve ever seen. They was looking at each other like ain’t no way this nigger fronting my restaurant but talking like, ‘Well, Mr. Beaudre, tell us about your experience in sauté.’ I didn’t have much hope.”

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