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7 / Are you living in the land of broken promises?

October 16, 2022

This Issue at a Glance:

  • A follow up on last week’s challenge to define management.
  • A continuation on last week’s exploration of how management is a combination of concern for production and people and how you can use that to improve your management style today.

Welcome to Issue #7!

Last week I promised to share my bite-sized definition of management. So here goes.

Management is how we organize people and things to solve problems for other people.

Why it Matters: It’s hard to fix something if we can’t describe it. I’m convinced that the key to a brighter and wealthier future—one, too, where people reap the benefits of production—will come from a wider understanding of the decisions and tradeoffs that result in stolen-red-stapler-burn-the-building-down management versus eighty-world-class-people-playing-instruments-and-making-people-cry management.

The Backstory: Management governs our lives. It impacts the stock market, our moods when we come home (or sign off Zoom) at the end of the day, our salaries, and more. And despite the progress of three industrial revolutions, management still gets a shit grade on its report card.

The Bottom Line: Before we can improve management’s failing grade, we have to learn how to talk about what it is, what it’s supposed to do, and where it’s busted.

Big Idea #7: The Land of Broken Promises

Grid based on The Managerial Grid (1964) by Robert Blake & Jane Mouton.

Managers get themselves in trouble when they set expectations they don’t live up to when it comes to juggling their concerns for people and production.


Why it Matters: The Managerial Grid from Issue 6 is a useful tool for charting where you think your management style lands, getting feedback from your team on where they think it lands, and then charting where you’d like it to be.

  • It’s a rough estimate, but I feel safe guessing most managers default to a style in the “blue zone” of the graphic above. Similarly, I think many managers pretend, promise, and delude themselves and others into thinking they operate in the green zone, or “the land of broken promises,” as I like to call it.
  • In an interview with Elad Gil for The High Growth Handbook, Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, said, “people’s disposition with regard to the company is actually a function of what they feel like they signed up for.” (p.190 or here; hat tip to Brie Wolfson).
  • In my experience, startups are especially prone to promising terrific work environments that combine high concern for production—*fast-paced, get shit done kinds of cultures—*and a high concern for people—unlimited vacation! But then the experience doesn’t match the sales pitch.


How to Use it: First, plot where you think your management style falls on the grid. Then, ask your team where they thinkyour management style lies. You’ll have to decide what you agree with and don’t, but your self-estimation is likely a bit off (if not, good on you!). You should now have a clear idea of the reality of how you manage. Next, ask yourself if you’d like to shift that at all. If you do, plot a goal, and communicate to your team that you’d like to spend the next few months working on shifting your style and would like to receive feedback along the way.

Here’s a fictional example:

  • The green avatar represents where I think my management style lies.
  • The blue avatar represents where my team thinks my management style lies.
  • After learning how different my style feels to my team than I thought, I set a goal to focus on increasing my concern for production, represented by the purple avatar.
  • While my initial efforts to focus on production paid off, my team shares that it was at the cost of concern for people, represented by the orange avatar.

The Bottom Line (and People): Self-awareness is the first step toward setting accurate expectations and goals for your behavior change (and behavior change in other managers on your team) that can lead to an improved experience for the people at your company and your bottom line.

Reads & Resources


If you’ve ever struggled with a voice in your head who tells you that your writing sucks, usually after you type half of a sentence or paragraph, then boy, is this piece going to be a treat for you. I honestly believe this piece has singlehandedly unblocked me from more writing difficulties than anything else. Hat tip to Rachel Jepsen for introducing me to this one years ago.

From Twitter

Bri Kimmel, founder of WorkLife, surveyed 500 people in tech to find out what they really want. The tweet includes a table of the ten most frequently mentioned responses, but the top request is pretty goddam simple: paid holidays.


Sam Hinkie is the founder of 87capital and the former GM of the Philadelphia 76ers, “who executed a radical plan, pissed off a lot people, quit his high-profile gig in the midst of a palace coup orchestrated by internal and external forces, dropped an infamous 13-page manifesto that was one of the biggest, most singular exit statements in recent memory, and then lit out for the California coast,” (thanks John Gonzalez). For as controversial as Hinkie is in the world of sports, I found the interview to be a thoughtful conversation about how to build meaningful relationships.


The author of Thinking in Bets, Annie Duke, released her new book, Quit, about a week and a half ago. A CEO friend of mine texted me the prior week while he was at a retreat Annie spoke at, and I think his text speaks for why you should pick up a copy of Quit: “Man, I’ll tell ya what—I’ve heard a ton of phenomenal speakers, and I feel like I took more actionable stuff away from listening to her speak about this book for 45 min than I did from most everyone else I’ve heard speak combined.”

Dice Roll

Performance reviews are controversial. Most great managers have now adopted a style of continuous feedback instead of feedback delivered in bi-annual payloads. But a new startup, Confirm, is bringing a fresh take to measuring performance that accounts for how “the network around an employee often has a different opinion than their manager.”

That’s all for this week. I’m looking forward to what’s next!