On New and Inexperienced Managers

This is a very good question on Quora: What are common mistakes that new or inexperienced managers make? Ian McAllister, general manager at Amazon, has one of the most up-voted answers:

Performance Management

  1. Being slow to deal with performance issues – Smoke becomes fire. If you take note of performance issues early you can give gentle corrective feedback. If you’re too slow to notice you have to give stronger feedback, and the performance issues may be harder to reverse.
  2. Not documenting poor performance – Documenting poor performance via email helps employees understand the gravity of the situation (“This email summarizes the discussion we just had”) and it is also helpful to have on hand if it comes time to terminate the employee.
  3. Not documenting good performance – Documenting good performance via email, to the employee alone or to a wider audience, is a great way to recognize their contributions to the team and company. It’s also a good habit to regularly document good performance of team members for your own purposes, so you can remember what you want to praise them for at annual review time.


Career Development

  1. Not getting to know your employees – It’s great to know the names of all your employees’ kids. It’s even better to know the type of work each employee most likes to do, their particular pain points within the team or company, what their career objectives are (depth, breadth, management), or why they might be thinking about taking a different job or moving to a different company. You need to develop a rapport and level of trust with each employee before they’ll start to share these things with you.

  2. Not paying attention to your high-performing employees – If you’re very satisfied with how an employee is performing you need to turn the tables and invest in making them more satisfied with their job. Find ways for them to do more of what makes them happy and less of what doesn’t.

  3. Not investing in developing your employees – Every employee needs to be developed, either to support the career development (and retention) of strong performers or to improve the performance of weaker employees. Every year you should be trying to raise the level of performance of every employee.

Worth reading in entirety. And definitely worth keeping in mind.

How to Capture Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle

Someone asked this on Quora: what are the optimal siege tactics for taking Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle? Jonathan Kirk Davis, Sergeant of Marines, who fought in the Iraq War, provides an awesome response.

The best part of the post is the description of the primary assault on Cinderella’s Stronghold:

Now comes the glory. An assault force comprised of an infantry company staged in Tango base will attack the back of the castle. The most obvious route is to take on the castle through the Mainstreet. This is what they want you to think and will result in the sure death of you and your men. The front of the castle is lined with a moat and the counterattack will be an easy matter if they blow the bridge and your men stand helpless staring at the statue of Walt as they are taken out one by one. Go through Fantasyland and attack the castle in the rear. There is no moat and the defenses are much weaker. This will also be the time when you would need to prepare with additional reinforcements at the train station for the final assault.

The secondary objective sounds impressive as well:

While in Fantasyland we will have the opportunity to take down the menace of all parents everywhere. The “It’s a Small World” ride will be within our reach. Our secondary objective is to eliminate the ride with extreme prejudice. This isn’t a capture mission like the castle, but one of complete annihilation. Expect heavy casualties as their adorable repetitiveness burns into your skulls like white phosphorous in the jungle. Our sacrifices will be great, but our suffering is in the name of protecting others. 

I love stuff like this.

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(hat tip: @kottke)