How to onboard a new hire

Recently I hired someone new here at Know Your Team. Here’s exactly what I wrote on Day 1 and the 23 questions I asked as a part of our employee onboarding process.

Something new happened recently: We hired a new employee at Know Your Team – and it caused me to rethink our entire employee onboarding process. As a small, profit-focused team, we don’t hire often. As a result, this time around, I wanted to be intentional about how to onboard a new hire.

After all, the numbers on how likely it is for a new employee to leave within the first 90 days are astounding: 30% employees leave before their first 3 months are up, according to a survey with 1,500 people.

It got me reflecting deeply… How to onboard a new hire, and make sure that person feels welcomed, encouraged, and well-equipped to contribute to the team?

Keep reading “How to onboard a new hire”

Shape Up with Ryan Singer

Earlier this month, Basecamp released a new book by Ryan Singer, the head of strategy. Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters is a “spiritual follow-up” to Getting Real, Jason and David’s 2006 guide to how product development happens at Basecamp. In Shape Up, Ryan goes deep into how small teams get great work done in six-week cycles without sprints, Post-it Notes, stand-up meetings, backlogs, or long hours.

Ryan sits down with the Rework podcast to talk about some of the major themes in Shape Up and how the book came together as its own product.

Next week, we’ll bring you a roundtable discussion between Ryan, a designer, and a programmer at Basecamp to go deeper into the process described in Shape Up. Be sure to subscribe to Rework in Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, or your favorite podcast app so that you get the episode as soon as it’s released!

What great managers do: Prune

Being a great manager and English gardening have more in common than you might imagine.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, there no shortage of analogies that have been made about great managers.

A great manager is a “coach,” a “captain of a ship,” or even a “human shield.”

However, I heard a more unlikely comparison about leadership made on our podcast, The Heartbeat, when I interviewed David Cancel, CEO of Drift. He told me:

“I kind of think about most of this stuff as English gardening. If you want an English garden most of the work is actually the pruning and the taking care of. It’s not the planting, it’s not the plant selection. It’s this constant pruning. The day that you stop pruning is the day that the garden is full of weeds and overrun.”

I found this to be a brilliant analogy on several levels.

Keep reading “What great managers do: Prune”

Hire When It Hurts

You may have noticed that Basecamp is in the midst of what qualifies around here as a mini hiring boom: five open positions across customer support, programming, and ops, as well as a newly created marketing role. The company has received more than 4,000 applications and every single one is read by a human being. In the latest episode of the Rework podcast, hear about why Basecamp briefly lifted its hiring freeze, how job ads are written, and what the process is for evaluating candidates.

Am I micromanaging my team?

Here are the 5 most telling signs of micromanagement – and what you can do instead.

I won’t tell anyone:  You think you might be a micromanager. Argh. If there were scarlet letters for a bad manager to wear, “m-i-c-r-o-m-a-n-a-g-e-r” would be among them.

But, how do you know if you’re a micromanager, for sure? 

Yes, you can directly ask your team members if they think you’re micromanaging them. If you have a direct report who has a penchant for shooting you straight, I highly recommend this. (In fact, when we asked through Know Your Team to 606 employees across 61 companies, “Do you feel micromanaged?” 12% said “Yes.”)

But it’s also probable that your direct report might not concede the truth. You are their boss, after all. And telling a boss they’re a micromanager is the equivalent of, well, slapping them in the face. 🙂

Keep reading “Am I micromanaging my team?”

Six Hours of Phone Calls

When Jason put out a call on Twitter for SEO consultants, he received dozens of responses. In order to choose someone to work with, Jason and Basecamp designer Adam Stoddard interviewed all of the candidates in one six-hour block of back-to-back phone calls. They sit down with Shaun in the latest episode of the Rework podcast to discuss why they’re looking for SEO expertise, how they conducted the interviews, and what it’s like to shop for something you know nothing about.

Leverage? No thank you.

Since we began including salaries in our job postings, a few people have asked if it affects the leverage we have over candidates.

The suggestion is that if we tell people exactly what we pay for a specific position, and they would have accepted less, but we’re now on the hook to pay them more than we “needed” to, then they have a leg up on us rather than us on them.

I find this line of thinking abhorrent.

I have zero interest in having leverage over anyone in a hiring situation. Of course we get to choose who we hire – so, yes, there’s power inherent in the act of hiring – but other than that necessity, leverage is the last thing I’m looking for.

Remember, I’m looking to to hire someone to work with, not work against. Starting things out with “look what we got away with!” seems like a terrible start to what hopefully develops into a wonderful, long-term working relationship. Leverage need not apply.

Announcing “Shape Up”, a deep dive into how we work

Back in 2006, we self-published Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web app. It was our first foray into broadly sharing how we work at book-scale. It struck a nerve, turned heads, and changed minds. It offered product people, designers, and developers a way out – an escape hatch. They could finally ditch their way of working that wasn’t working for a new way that would.

Since then we’ve released a number of books, all focused on the business end of things. You could learn how to run a company from REWORK, REMOTE, and our latest mass-market release, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.

Today we return to our roots. Nearly 13 years after Getting Real was published, we offer the spiritual follow-up. Today we introduce Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters. This web-based book explains how we work in replicable detail. It’s comprehensive, yet approachable. A recommended read for anyone involved in software development. And it’s 100% free to read online – we don’t even ask for your email address.

Why now?

Over the last few years, there’s been a renewed, heightened curiosity about how we work at Basecamp. People often ask us how we get so much done so quickly at such a high level of quality with such a small team. And how we keep our teams together for years and years. We’ve written some blog posts about it, but the topic really demanded a book-length effort.

For one, we’re not into waterfall or agile or scrum. For two, we don’t line walls with Post-it notes. For three, we don’t do daily stand ups, design sprints, development sprints, or anything remotely tied to a metaphor that includes being tired and worn out at the end. No backlogs, no Kanban, no velocity tracking, none of that.

We have an entirely different approach. One developed in isolation over nearly 15 years of constant trial and error, taking note, iterating, honing in, and polishing up. We’ve shaped our own way. This book is for explorers, pioneers, those who don’t care what everyone else is doing. Those who want to work better than the rest.

But ultimately, don’t think of this as a book. Think of it as a flashlight. You and your team have fumbled around in the dark long enough. Now you’ve got something bright and powerful to help you find a new way.

We hope you find it interesting, enlightening, and, most of all, helpful.

Let’s read.

The hardest leadership advice to follow

We all know we’re supposed to “work on the business and not in the business” as a leader… but what holds us back? And, how do you exactly put “stepping away” into practice?

“Work on the business, not in the business. Pause. Step back. Take stock. Reflect. “

This is some of the most ubiquitous advice I’ve received from leaders on our podcast, The Heartbeat, over the past few years. Yet, as often as it’s repeated, I wonder how often it’s followed.

I’m writing about myself here, namely. Yes, conventional wisdom says to “sleep on it”, to step away from the work to get a fresh perspective on it. And yes, I’ve vigorously nodded my head in agreement whenever someone espouses something along those lines. But, if I’m being honest with myself, how often do I personally act on that recommendation?

For the longest time, my answer has disappointingly been, “Not often”. Prior to last year, I didn’t regularly set aside blocks of meaningful time for myself to reflect on the business. When faced with a critical decision to make or a tough situation to resolve, I plunged myself deeper into the work.

“More, harder, faster” was my default setting. Is it yours, too?

Keep reading “The hardest leadership advice to follow”

It’s high time to rewrite the hiring script

The disconnect between how many companies claim that they only hire the best and how they try to actually do that is perverse. A depressing number of job postings are barely more than a list of technology or process requirements paired with an arbitrary desire for years of irrelevance. That’s then fluffed up by a bunch of trite rah-rah bullshit about the supposed glory of hiring company. Ugh.

It really doesn’t have to be like this, but it’ll continue to be like that until companies drastically change their hiring script.

Let’s start with how the process is driven. Far too often, hiring is made someone else’s job. Not the responsibility of the team leader nor subject to input from future coworkers. Instead, the job posting is written by someone in HR or the executive who’s too far removed from the domain or the specifics to do a good job.

Second, the matter is rushed because “we need someone yesterday” and “how hard can it be”. No wonder most job ads look like they’ve been cut from the same template because they probably have! Writing a good job posting is hard because it requires you to actually think about what the position entails and how to realistically portray the organization it’s within. This takes time.

At Basecamp, we have no illusions that we’re going to hire “the best”. In fact, even thinking about candidates in such absolute terms is nonsense. The world is full of people who are stuck doing mediocre work in a shitty environment or blessed to do stellar work by virtue of an elevating one. Most people are well capable of doing both! The only thing that makes sense is to hire the best – defined as most complementary to the organization – person out of the candidates who apply.

Which is why taking the time to describe the role, the work, and the organization with clarity and honesty matters so much. The vast majority of potential candidates in this world are not going to apply to your position in any case. The aim of a great job posting is to expand the pool in awareness of that fact. To entice those complementary candidates to apply who might otherwise wouldn’t have. Dropping this “the best” nonsense is a start.

So that’s what we’ve tried to do with renewed vigor over the past few months here. We’ve been in an uncommon hiring spree with five open positions recently. Every single one of those involved a prolonged, careful process of crafting the best job posting we knew how. Yes, some of the framing is similar between the posts, but each one was written for that particular position. Then subjected to critique, review, and editing by a broad cross-section of future coworkers. I think it shows.

It’s a banal statement that hiring is some of the most important work that an organization does. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Although perhaps the endless repetition of that thought has dulled most people to its wisdom, and they’ve failed to act as though they believe it.

Next time your company is hiring, try to get involved. If you like the way we write job postings at Basecamp, feel free to be inspired, but do the authentic work to make them yours. Your next hire will thank you!