I really started paying more attention to the motivations behind why I'm doing certain things. Sometimes you do things spontaneously, but other times there's a force behind it, whether you realize it or not. There's always some kind of intention driving the actions you take. This understanding made me pay more attention and take time out of my day to think about what I want to do in the coming day or week.

In this episode

How often do you approach your daily tasks with clear intention?

There’s a prevailing notion in many businesses that prioritize “output” over “outcome”. But what if this mindset inadvertently redirects our focus and dilutes our intentionality?

James explains that, “Every action is a vote for who you intend to be.” This philosophy revolves around aligning each action with the desired outcome based on set intentions. Moreover, James sheds light on the significance of acknowledging ‘invisible work’—the countless, often overlooked tasks that fill our days.

James Carr is an engineering leader with over 20 years of experience building and running distributed systems, leading high performing teams, and collaborating across functions. He has worked in various positions at CARFAX, Monetate and Zapier, and is currently the ​​Director of Engineering at

In episode #164, James shares his advice for using ChatGPT for job applications, being an ideal team player, and what to “lean in” on as an engineering leader.

Tune in to learn more about James’ leadership journey and the invaluable lessons he’s gathered along the way!

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Focus on outcome not output


What to lean in on as an engineering leader


Change work by using intention


Quality vs quantity


Using ChatGPT for job applications


What’s the deal with cover letters


What an ideal team player looks like

Resources mentioned in this episode:


James, welcome to the show.

James Carr  03:21

Hey, how’s it going?

Aydin Mirzaee (  03:22

Yeah, it’s very nice to meet you. I’m excited to do this. Before we hit record, you were talking about how you’ve actually been a listener of the Supermanagers podcast for a while now. Right?

James Carr  03:33

That’s correct. I think Supermanagers is like probably like the three or four different management podcasts I’ve been listening to, since I believe like are like 2020. So

Aydin Mirzaee (  03:41

awesome. Awesome. Yeah, it’s great to hear that and obviously very excited to have you on the show you have more than 20 years of experience and in leadership across tech companies. reify how starfish, you were at Zapier for a number of years more eight years or so as an engineering manager. And so lots of things that we’re going to dive into. But the question as you know, that we like to start with is we always like to start with the mistakes. And so do you remember when you first started to lead a team? What were some of those very early mistakes that used to make?

James Carr  04:13

Yeah, sure thing, I think. So when I first got into leadership learning a team was and I believe it was 2015 2016. Up until I played soccer, we didn’t have anything, management. Most had the co founders and then went on to having a manager. And a certain point, we decided to make a few folks engineering managers to start laying some of the teams and I was one of the people that kind of took over on the infrastructure side. And so first of all, we get a lot of good resources. I think like Wade gave us like a lot of really good resources on management, subscription to management tools, podcasts, things like that. So you just have access to like a lot of resources on hand at the time. And the biggest mistake, I think, in retrospect was trying to being an individual contributor and a manager at the same time. At the time, I really had this idea of like, you know, somebody who’s a leader, they’re also like, doing the work with the team leading the team, by example, basically, when you have a small team, I think that still works, okay? Like, if it’s a team of just two or three, before, like, things don’t really work, okay. But at some point, like, you start to realize that you really have to put yourself out of the trenches, so to speak, and look at the big picture and understand the strategy. They’re saying what the team needs to focus on. And I think part of that, too, is just understanding the fact that case, shifting perspective, from output to outcome was probably like a huge like, switch. For me, it took a lot of time to kind of transition to this understanding, like really clarifying the objectives, the things that we’re after, and recognizing that others aren’t going to do the same things you did as an engineer. And that’s okay. Because a lot of times, it’s like, what’s really important is the right outcome is achieved

Aydin Mirzaee (  05:52

to in the shift from output to outcome. Maybe you can define like, what is the difference between output and outcome? So if someone is leading a team right now, and they’re trying to evaluate whether they have more output or more outcome, what you might you advise them to look at?

James Carr  06:11

Yeah, I think it’s really looking at the bigger picture, like what we’re really after, like, what’s the big objective, like, what’s the big feature of the interact or whether it’s customer success, whether way, those different with those specific things, because a lot of times easy to get caught up. And so the systemic stories that teams working on the specific features that they’re releasing, and making sure that that that’s not connected to a bigger picture is hugely important. And to ensure you can shift your focus a lot less on this pork was chopping these things for customizing those things. And we’re like focusing on this big feature where you’re after or this big, like objective we’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s decreasing the amount of time signups to be completed, or, Hey, measuring those different kind of like objectives that, like, enhance user experience. And once you set the focus to that, it gives your team a lot more flexibility in what they’re actually doing. It allows them to really, like be involved and collaborate a lot more product, and shaping, like how long accomplishing those things versus, you know, just really saying feature a feature. Feature say,

Aydin Mirzaee (  07:17

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense into, it’s the making sure that expectations are set in the sense that, you know, this is what we’re actually striving towards. And it doesn’t really matter necessarily how you do the things. And maybe the way the individual members of the team, the way they do things is different than what you’re used to. And, and maybe in the beginning, you think that that matters, but ultimately, as long as like the outcome is there, and we’re striving towards the same thing. And we all agree on it, then we’re in a good place. Yeah, exactly. I

James Carr  07:49

think that’s the biggest thing that really took me some time to adapt on, right, because, like, I was laying your infrastructure team, I was pretty familiar with AWS, I was very familiar with TerraForm. And I have very specific ways I do things. Anyway, I came to realize that like, a lot of the team members weren’t gonna do things the same way. And I needed like stuff that like sometimes like, even though it’s not exactly the way I do it, it was like it’s okay, because it was achieving the right outcome. Plus, it got some provides a growth opportunity for the team members as well. Like you can delegate some things to them, allow them to have like more decision making, with how things are being done, like how they’re architecting, certain solutions, and being able to take a step back and just provide them with the right support guardrails and like things to help empower them, I felt like a lot more effective for the team.

Aydin Mirzaee (  08:38

And on the other point that you made, which was kind of shifting from being an individual contributor to a manager. What do you think the balance is today? Like? Do you think it’s important for engineering managers to still have a hand in the code? You be able to drive outcomes that way? Or stay familiar? Or do you think they they should become hands off and just focus on on strategy?

James Carr  09:04

Yeah, that’s a good question. Because my opinion shifted over time, in a lot of different directions. It keeps going back and forth about what thing? For me I feel that maybe a controversy will take though it’s like, I think it’s important to stay topical, but let’s vote can you be hands off the mainline work. So what that means is, I won’t be in the Jura board or the Kanban board or whatever with the team and picking up tasks and doing those, like sleeping and doing tests like the team’s also doing like our main hands off on the main line mark. So I might lean in on those like I might do one or two things. I might just kind of like work on proof of concept sometimes just kind of stay fresh. Keep my tech skills sharp, meaning it’s gonna be thrown away. I’m not gonna like put this perfect LSAT and as I bring it to the team site here, can you all finish this? I don’t do that. Let’s just understand, like, again, understanding how certain things work, something else. I am a big fan of that I saw like some time ago, I think stripe CTO, I champion this champion in kind of a way, it’s like I think it’s good to take time out maybe like once a month, once a quarter and find a feature that you can work on that’s fully independent of the team’s mainline work by allows you to exercise understand, how does it look like from a developer’s point of view, to develop a future locally, just ship it to staging to test it, to go through the CI CD system and like ticket all the way from local development to production. And I think it’s important because it really allows you like, like, Yeah, you should be getting this feedback from your team processes are working but also gives you like a very ground level view of like, how things are working, I cause likes yesterday system working? How is the local development environment, it just gives you a good feel for like, how easy is that for a new person coming in to really get on board and start working on a project?

Aydin Mirzaee (  10:47

And what do you think do you think it also relates to in allowing the team to be able to, I guess, respect your ability to just in the area, I feel like for engineers in particular, like this is something that’s important that they can trust the abilities or have respect for, you know, the managers abilities, and like technical knowledge is an important part of that

James Carr  11:13

I think you can pay by, don’t get me wrong, I think somebody I’ve worked with a lot of engineering managers today and been like, come up as a programmer, or as an engineer, like I’ve worked with people who got into software engineering management, they started as a product manager, or they started as designer and they were really effective. I think it can be important, though, to demonstrate that as a manager that you had, like some technical understanding where the team is facing what they’re dealing with. And that you’re also have, like respect for the challenges that they have the solutions that they’re coming up with. And I think the important thing to set with a team is to really have full style that they are the experts when it comes to the architecture, the design, and that use a manager, you can provide some feedback, or help them just kind of like figure out like, what did they were they missing? Like, you know, kind of like gives us probing questions kind of dig into, like architectural designs and things like that. But at the end of the day, that they see you’re somebody who understands, like the high level view, but they’re like empowered and trusted to like really own, like the technical vision.

Aydin Mirzaee (  12:17

Got it? Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. So the other thing that I know that you care a lot about is intentionality. It’s something that you’ve really iterated over the years. So maybe we can just start with a broad definition of when you say intentionality, and that you believe in intentionality. What does that mean?

James Carr  12:35

Yeah, I think that that really just means that their most most basic level that everything you do has an intention behind. But like, if you’re reading something that you know, you’re not just mindlessly browsing around it, right, that you’re actually allocating time to read something specifically, because you’re interested in something you want to get out of it. Whether it’s reading a book, it’s on management techniques that you know, specifically level up certain technical skills behind that. Or if you’re reading a fictional book that’s like, Oh, this is for your own enjoyment laser that says he is having a tough time. And whenever you have a goal in mind, that’s really connected. It’s kind of a bigger picture.

Aydin Mirzaee (  13:13

Why is this something that’s important to you? Or how did you come upon the realization that it should be something that you should pay attention to?

James Carr  13:22

Yeah, that’s a good question. I think, for me, it started probably about three or four years ago, I first started getting into meditation, and just kind of starting to accidentally practice and doing morning meditation is part of that. This is like, you know, you’re sitting there quiet language with thoughts, you don’t have any influence coming in, and you start dissecting, like, you know, how your system operates, how you’re working, professionally, personally, the things you do. And from that point, it’s just like, I started really paying attention a lot more. So motivations behind why I’m doing certain things, sometimes you’re gonna do things spontaneously. And sometimes it’s like, there’s some kind of force behind it, whether you realize or not, like you have some kind of intention, you’re that’s really driving the actions that you take. And so it started me making me pay a lot more attention to it, and then figuring out like, just kind of taking time out of my day and thinking about, Okay, what do I want to do in the coming day coming week. And just being really intentional about the things I think that I’m doing, I think that I read this really good snippet, somewhere I’m trying to think for it was as a while back, but something I kind of took note of was that every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to be. And for me, I was like that it really resonated with me because I realized that she was like, every single thing I do, and they still can connect to something I don’t need to be like forethought behind what I’m doing.

Aydin Mirzaee (  14:41

I really liked that quote, your every action is a vote for who you intend to be. Yeah. So how does this now knowing this and being much more intentional in this way? How does this work its way into the way that you manage teams.

James Carr  14:57

Yeah, I think a couple of things there. Like, I’m actually a lot more transparent on my motivations. Yeah, I think that’s important for any anything to do with a team is if you’re going to call a meeting, if we’re going to call put together a workshop, you have to be really clear what your intentions are behind. And it can be as simple as saying, Hey, we have like four new people on the team, two people have left, we have a new manager coming in. And I think it’d be a great time for us to do a team building workshop just came figuring out, like, what are our values as a team? What do we champion? What, how would our working agreements, what are the things we want to do together as a team, because a lot of times when teams change a lot, like when they’re in flux, it’s easy to just keep going, whatever the ceremonies were previously, and not taking a step back and saying, okay, as a team, what do we really want to do together? What’s gonna make us as a team effective? Because what’s gonna make the current team effective is totally different from what made this team eight months ago, which was composed of different people. And so I think it’s like, that’s something really feeds into, and it’s one thing, the other one is just being really intentional with what the team Wait, your team’s doing. Don’t don’t, I think a lot of times teams can get tripped up. Like, lots of things are in their backlog, technical debt that’s accumulating, and you have to like, say, okay, stop, we have 500 things, but let’s go into business, the biggest opportunities, the biggest impact, and just being willing tensional picking and choosing those kinds of things effectively,

Aydin Mirzaee (  16:27

yeah, is your like a story or example that you have around how maybe you were exposed to a team that was just continuing the rituals of the past and not necessarily doing things intentionally or remembering why they were doing these things in the first place? And you basically put a stop and said, Hey, let’s really think about this and change this.

James Carr  16:49

Yeah, I think one time I had this situation was that I my last role, basically, like, you know, I just came on as a new director. And the team itself had lost two people, game three people, and each sprint pass by are still just doing the same regular, like ceremonies that we had. And while it was kind of working, it’s like, okay, we need to stop for man just can’t introspect how things are. And I think the biggest thing that we got from that, you can see us a lot with platform infrastructure teams, I think, but anytime convinced this is that we had a lot, I’ll interrupt I’m trying to work that we were just like, dropping the ball. And doing as soon as it came. I know what that means. As a team, it always worked like that, because the company had been smaller at the time, right? So people are popping this like Mac, hey, can you help us with this load balancer? Can somebody help make provision this lambda, and naturally being helpful that he was saying, sure thing and jump right into zoom call helped him with it, obviously is not going to scale is the company burrow in the timber there’s like this put a lot of demand on the team as I stopped being in tracked. So just being intentional about tracking network, so start tracking it, everything that comes in, whether it’s a Slack request, whatever, it just automatically gets into the project tracking system. And from that point, say, Okay, let’s start changing how we’re approaching this. Because we can just drop the ball every single time and just work on these kinds of tasks, these kind of asks, As we started pulling those out and giving you realize that there was like, missing collaboration with teams that this team should be involved with, and other teams as part of planning, like a feature and thing had, and like the tasks that our team needed to work on are really part of a bigger project versus just these isolated asks that were coming in. So it’s just like, it’s really important to just take that time out, be intentional figure out like, Okay, what’s a missing process here? What’s the missing prioritization strategy for these kind of things? Yeah, I think something really helped to with that was, there’s a book that I actually read about two or three years ago, making work visible. And it’s just like a really, really great book, because I had a lot of good strategies on how to get work that wasn’t being tracked, like work just coming through direct messages to people things like that. And be like, alright, let’s like, start visualizing it, and then start decomposing it. And as you do that kind of activity, start realizing that’s like I say, there’s zero missing vibration, or sometimes maybe there’s a missing team. Maybe it makes them strong, say okay, there’s not actually missing team that’s in charge of either KTL work, like keep the lights on. Or maybe it’s like some kind of optimization type work. So there’s some interesting things that can come from that.

Aydin Mirzaee (  19:32

Hey, there. Just a quick pause on today’s episode to let you know that we’d really appreciate you helping us spread the word about the Supermanagers podcast. If you’re enjoying what you’re hearing so far, dial into your podcast app of choice, whether that’s on Apple or Android or Spotify, and just leave us a quick review. Now back to the interview. Yeah, it’s very interesting. I’ve run across this similar scenario so many times or you get into a situation and there’s someone on your team, and they’re just so insanely busy, and you can’t figure out why they can’t figure out why somehow, it’s just always busy. And it turns out that there’s a lot of hidden work, like you said, right. And it’s just a basic concept of what you were saying in terms of, okay, if a request comes in Slack, don’t just respond in Slack, make sure that it’s tracked in this other place, all of a sudden, once everything is in this central location, then you can actually manage the work, you can figure out if there’s a missing team, you can figure out if there should be a process or there should be SLAs involved or, but when the work is not visible, you just don’t know. And I think like, even from a personal productivity standpoint, we all have exposure to different platforms, and different places, email or slack or wherever, where you can get work. But if you don’t put all those things into one central place where you do the prioritizing, and even on a personal level, it can be very disastrous, right. And so, same concept definitely applies for teams. The other concept that I wanted to chat with you about, I think it’s a topical thing, there’s been a lot of changes in the world of tech and in the economy in general, the job market maybe isn’t as hot as it used to be. There used to be a time that it was definitely more of a candidates market where you would apply to some jobs, get multiple offers, everybody’s competing to win the same candidates. And now it kind of seems like the reverse of that. And then you recently went through some experiences, and we talked about how it might be useful to share some of that with the audience, just so everybody kind of has an idea of what’s going on out there. But also maybe some tips for people who may be affected by the macro environment.

James Carr  21:52

Yeah, definitely. It’s kind of wild, because as I mentioned, it was like, in 2021, as a hiring manager, it was a really wild market. It was like really, really hard to like, get people to the finish line and make a hire, because they had like so many other offers coming in. From all these different companies. There’s, if I hadn’t pushed really hard, I could lose a candidate within the course of a day or two days. So that was 2021. And then 2023. It was like you said the exact opposite from a follow up like I started 20 and 23. Hey, taking a bit of a break. I’ve been working continuously for 20 years, and I’ve never really taken more than a one week vacation. So I decided, okay, well, let’s take a one week vacation or a two week vacation with kids or being in school. It doesn’t really count as a vacation. Right?

Aydin Mirzaee (  22:38

So useful analogy. I’ve heard the difference. Is that a vacation with a family’s vacation. But then if you escape, it’s called and you don’t go with the responsibility of kids that’s called getaway. That vacation versus Getaway is interesting difference. But yeah, so you were saying so you’ve only ever taken one or two weeks off? You had the time to rest and recoup?

James Carr  23:00

Yeah, it’s I had some time to rest or cred I was doing, I was doing really well financially. That’s like my two and a half months off. And then I started interviewing getting near the end of March, it was probably the most intense market I had don’t, but it was just so many candidates out there in the markets just so saturated, that it’s really hard getting noticed. And it’s also really hard, getting your views to the finish line. And I think the best tip I could provide, like what worked really well for me, and I think really works well. For others, it’s really important to focus on quantity over quality. Now, it doesn’t mean that you don’t feel some effort into your resume or cover letter, you should I came to realize as like when I started, I was following some advice I’d seen on LinkedIn by different LinkedIn influencers, that you know, spend a lot of time researching company PAINTING crafting together like a really good cover letter, tailor your resume to the company like what they’re looking for in the role, and then apply. Well, I did that. And guess what I had done instant reduction. This, I spent like four hours, like really putting together what I thought was really, really well crafted cover letter and everything. And so I came to realize as the most important thing was just as many applications as you can get out per day is the most important thing, because that’s going to increase your chances of actually getting a call back. Right. That sounds like one thing. I think that when you look back at the metrics, I think that a two to 5% response rate on applications is what you’re typically going on get going to get in so you know leverage all the tools that you can like you can use one password to automatically fill in fields. I mean, you can use chat GPT to generate cover letters, but you really have to do some prompt engineering to get the right right cover letters generally from that those kind of things right because I was like one thing that I found worked while the other one is you have to do a lot more direct outreach. And that means whenever you’re while you’re applying for type a hiring manager, always try to find out who the recruiter is just for To talk to them directly, almost all the interviews I’ve done during the period are most about 90% or more, I just reached out directly to somebody and they say, oh, yeah, let’s get your schedule. Right. And sometimes I was a bit bald, I actually reached out to the co founder of a few companies and was able to like, kind of get a call back from that. So it’s like, you’re just really have to like, put yourself out there, you do reach out as much as possible.

Aydin Mirzaee (  25:24

Yeah, I think the outreach for sure makes a huge, huge difference. It is, you are relying on to some extent, chance, right, because nobody’s hiring process is perfect. And so yeah, so at some extra effort like that makes it goes a long way. But I do have to call out the usage of chat TBT, which we always find fascinating. It’s such a mean or relatively obviously, new concept and being implemented everywhere. I have to ask you, you said you have to be good with the prompt engineering. So what really worked at the end? What is your prompts look like? What was the structure for to produce good output for you? Oh, gosh,

James Carr  26:02

honestly, I’ve had to like put together a blog post, I leverage Zapier and like a 14 stubs out, wow, to basically generate my cover letters tell us fascinating testify of all you want to do is like you need to provide like a summary of your work your work, but your background, your resume is probably going to be too big for so you want to take your resume and summarize it to a very key points. So you do that and then you grab the job description is one than useless to his employees. And then for your prompt, you want it to be something like, particular cover letter that aligns like, you know, like the skills with what’s posted in this job posting. And then define like, hi, okay, tell him you want it to yours. Like, do you want the casual tone, professional tone? And you know, there’s also like some snippets you might put in there like things you want to really emphasize or Hey, really emphasize on the leadership skills? Because if you don’t do that, still look at your resume and emphasize on the topic or which might not be what companies laughter. So doing all of that I also tried to like kind of like, had churches to to analyze the job descriptions and figure out what’s the key things that they’re looking for out of last, so then like that can also kind of fit into the cover longer? A lot better?

Aydin Mirzaee (  27:11

Yeah, that’s awesome. And then in terms of the outreach, did you also use any chat GPT or similar for for the outreach?

James Carr  27:19

Yes, I know, like, I basically put together some of my own templates for that, just because I kind of wanted to cover I connect to Chapter Three to generate an outreach that I felt was the right thing. So I can put together my own template. And I use that as a basis for changing pretty like, Hey, here’s my to my reach out, like messages I like to use and tailor to job description, then this person who is the CEO at this company, and then something as close to like what I would what is it like I thought it was a really wild setup, I need to put a blog post on it, because why there was like reviews, notions Web Clipper tool to basically capture the job posting. And then from there, I had this zap kicked off on Zapier, it’s like a 14 stubs out, analyze the job description it find like the company’s values and put that in like the notes and just pay for like all the details in there. And then at that point, when I went to go apply, I just uploaded my resume, upload the generic cover letter, use one password to fill out the filled system that and then when it came time for the interview, I’d like all of this information, like I just referenced during the interview, as well. I’m just like, being able to like ask questions about things that are important,

Aydin Mirzaee (  28:27

super interesting into on the way that you would feed it devalues. Does that work? Like the ZAP just creates like a field? And then you have to manually paste in the values? Is that how it worked? Or did you actually have it like crawl the web and grab the values? Like I said, it

James Carr  28:43

was interesting. So like, whatever design would kick off whenever a new notion note was created, which basically will just count for the job description as a note. Yeah, and it would create a new note at that point. And then it would use on the chat GPT extract fields plug in, or zap your stuff. And basically like extract, like certain values, I haven’t like that this salary band, the job title, whether it was remote or hybrid, what are the key values that they’re that they have? What’s the key responsibilities, like just kind of analyze and summarize all those things out of it. And from there from there, then like get yourself we go down and like okay, generate the cover letter, create it in Google Docs, link it back to the notion note. And so there’s everything there at that point even like link to just go and download the docx file from the cover letter. And so at that point, once I finish I’ve opened up a notion and I basically have a ready to apply column that had like all of the jobs in there and like all the details filled out for each one I could just plug it in.

Aydin Mirzaee (  29:44

Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, it sounds like even from a consideration perspective. It’s useful right because if you say that you want only certain types of jobs and again like these descriptions are long and if your your game is to look for are a lot of them that volume matters. Like this is also a really good way for you to like very quickly evaluate what you’re looking for, which is awesome. So obviously, you’ve started as a new company now. And, you know, my question is knowing what you now know, in terms of like, chat GPT, and AI is being used and like these things are become I mean, it sounds, you’re probably still on the forefront of how people are using this sort of thing. But very soon, everyone’s cover letters are going to look so great. And they’re going to be very personalized, and there’s going to be outreach, and there’s no more grammar mistakes anywhere. So now that you’re on the opposite side, and now your hiring manager, like does this change anything for you? How do you think about this stuff going forward? Are you going to use it to evaluate candidates? Like what is your thinking they’re

James Carr  30:49

like, I don’t think I would so hard evaluate a candidate. The thing that really frustrates me with cover letters is that companies never read them by it’s a required field for a lot of companies. Like I know, a lot of companies will not consider it a candidate if they didn’t upload a cover letter, right? On this during a peer read them. And so I was like, we’re just really difficult situation, I only had one interview, where they referenced something from a cover letter, and the rest of them were asking questions that were actually covered in the cover letter. So as an interesting thing to say, for me, if I get time, I definitely read a cover letter, but it’s never really been a deciding point from a, it’s really been looking at their background and speaking with the candidate, and we’re saying what they’re coming from, I think where things change quite a bit, though, is like, it’s gonna require a lot of effort, I think to really sift through, and we only find like, the core experience that you might be looking for, like, it’s good, because it’s gonna be easier for for our applicants start playing the information. And I think there’s going to be a throw utilize a lot more noise, or a signal. And I’m just fighting to become so much more important for other whatever ATS system we’re using whatever hiring process you have, as it goes through and get the right signal out of applicants. And really, that you’re getting some FaceTime to them. I think the most frustrating thing from the situation is that there’s so many jobs you apply, I applied so that there was no chance to actually talk to anybody, right, there was no chance to say, Hey, I got all these experiences are looking for, like I have this background, and I can definitely help you all out. So I think there’s gonna be a lot more of a need for candidates to really put themselves out there saw themselves a lot more effectively, and can make their name stand out. And then as a hiring manager, try to have like a really, really good way a really good system to talk to candidates and make sure candidates get the respect, right that they get the right consideration. I’ve seen a lot of companies doing this, while I’m companies doing poorly. I think the key thing is, no matter what candidates have to be updated, and where they stand in the process, don’t let them sit around waiting for a month, two months, and then just get a generic rejection email, that’s the most important thing is like, if they get disqualified me stop you quickly and easily. happen, why. And then I the other side of it too, I think is that it’s important to like move them through the process as quickly as possible. Like, if you’re going to make an offer to this person, you need to like move them through closer close, quickly as possible. I went through one hiring process with one company, then like a two month cycle, the 10th time I turned to the hiring manager to the final executive review. And it was just like way too long, just get a generic rejection at the end. So I think it’s hugely important to always giving people feedback if I can. But I think it’s really important. If somebody gets rejected, like after system design, your videos are the exact interview. If we really rely upfront, we’ll give them a personalized message. Nokia was why we decided not to move forward, just to like be open and honest and transparent with them.

Aydin Mirzaee (  33:49

Yeah, I find that especially a lot of times when making these selections, it’s very difficult to articulate reasons for things because oftentimes, it’s It depends who else is being interviewed. And sometimes the answer is like, given the circumstances you have another candidate that is has a little bit more relevant skills to whatever is being looked at. So I know that a lot of people shy away from sending these sorts of more customized messages. And so generic ones go out, but maybe you can give us like just a tactical tip of what do you do in that kind of circumstance, like both candidates were good. One candidate ended up being more of a fit for the role. Maybe there’s a skill set, maybe there was an experience or something that made them more more relevant. It’s not really about Candidate A, it’s just a candidate B had, what do you recommend one put in a rejection letter in that circumstance?

James Carr  34:41

Yeah, it’s a really great question. I think it’s important to realize that the candidate is not going to like the feedback, some are going to accept it some are not and you just have to be like you know, you just want to be open and transparent with people but like, you know, we really enjoyed chatting with you worked really well. They really enjoyed the discussions about we decided to move Word with Americana who had more experience AWS or had more experience managing teams of this time, right? And the only one that can think could be helpful too, is like, I had a couple interviews whether Kunal was willing to jump on a call real quick and just take and run down like, Hey, we’re not moving forward, here’s why we really enjoyed chatting with you. If you’d like to apply in the future, we definitely encourage you to do so. Right. And I think those were the ones that are the boss that were pretty well,

Aydin Mirzaee (  35:26

how did you find that? Like, did you like having a phone call? Because that happens more rarely. Right? So I assumed that you were probably further along in the process in those circumstances, but in general, you appreciate it that kind of call.

James Carr  35:40

Yeah. Me personally, I don’t know if I revise what. But for me, I personally liked it. Like, that’s in time investment, right? You definitely put some time invested like interviewing with the company, chatting with them learning about their business. And then at least say, while you’re not moving, I’m not moving forward. I think it’s important. For example, like everyone says, they weren’t moving forward, because they when a director who is also extremely hands on who’s gonna be contributing, and that’s not my philosophy. So it’s like, okay, I can understand that. Like, I don’t agree with it, but I wouldn’t be happy in that role. Right. So I think it’s important to do that. It’s just like, I think it’s also as important on the RSI to realize that, you’re gonna have some candidates who aren’t going to like hearing that. And you just got to leave it as spirits, and you give them the feedback and move on. And some This sucks. But sometimes it’s what you have to do, especially if you have other candidates. But you know, he found more promising for the roll.

Aydin Mirzaee (  36:32

Yeah, got it. And so I did also want to ask you about a nother topic, which is just high performing teams. And I think that one of the things that you care about is also what an ideal team player would look like, that obviously helps enhance and get teams to high performance place. So maybe we can talk about what you think a high performance team is like, what’s your definition of one? And then what an ideal team player looks like that fits into that?

James Carr  37:05

Well, definitely, I think that book is great. By the way I wrote it, I think, like just at the end of like 2020. So as far as what the book defines as the Empire thing for me. Sure. Which book is it? Oh, sorry. It’s called the ideal team player, by Patrick Lencioni. Yeah, my book, for me, pretty much all lines that they write when they’re like, the ideal team player is somebody who is that they’re really dragged on right there. I think the book describes them as hungry. They’re really driven, they’re really passionate about what they’re doing. They’re really want to, like, level up. And sometimes you have to help them find that I think that’s important for a leader, sometimes you have to have to help people find their drive. Like I’ve had people who were underperforming. And then once we had the discussions of one on ones, can’t really unpack what they really liked doing what they’re really passionate about, when you can focus their energy on that, it gets a lot more excited. I mean, I think the r1 is somebody that’s very humble. And they also have worked well with the rest of the team. Right? That they can communicate effectively, they’re willing to admit when they make a mistake, and they’re willing to learn, like they’re open to like the fact that you know, that maybe they’re gonna learn something that’s different, and maybe they’re gonna fight that closely held belief can be challengeable, maybe it can be challenged by others, and others can like come up with something a little bit more interesting or efficient. I think that the big one always comes down to collaboration, like you really want to get teams together that can just think and work seamlessly together. They’re not afraid to ask questions. If they get stuck, they don’t train their wheels for like a week, two weeks that they’re, like, thick on others, though, there’s also a system of self accountability built in by the team. It’s kind of harder for the team to spin their wheels silently, without asking questions of each other.

Aydin Mirzaee (  38:52

Yeah. And are there things that you’ve done in order to make sure that the teams do collaborate more better together, and they don’t spin their wheels? They they’re examples of things that you’ve implemented?

James Carr  39:05

Yeah, I think calling back earlier to be like that, that make work visible, that just really helps making work visible to your peers, whether it’s like, if you want to do a draft PR, if you want to like request feedback, something like that, it really comes up to the team. No, I think the most important thing is you want to work out with the team, like doing some kind of exercise where you’re saying you’re working agreements together, figure out how you want to operate your values, in those will shape like the kind of system that’ll help the team be self accountable with each other. Right? So you don’t really want to be a manager saying do this, do that with a team, you want to do an activity or workshop with their team or like, hey, come up with those kinds of things. So that’s one part of it. The other one is is like definitely finding time to have the team spend time with each other outside of just doing work. Now think reify whole, the number of my teams we’ve done like an activity like we play among us on Friday afternoon or We put a puzzle together, it was kind of fun putting a puzzle together because it was like this interactive puzzle, everybody move pieces around. And people just started chatting about like, oh, what they’re doing this weekend, things like that they get to know each other bar. They fill it those kind of activities. Like they definitely build a rapport and makes people more open to like chatting with each other. It’s like having discussions, getting feedback. That’s like part of it. And then then when it comes to actually ceremonies form with the team, you can have things like architectural reviews, demos, those kinds of things that you just come up with a Windows like, you know, for example, maybe every and department week, everybody does a demo of what they’ve been working on, I get feedback, right? That’s just like lad, different things can come out of that. I feel like that. That one’s love activity of doing a team building to values, working agreements type activity. This is the phone door box of all the things that help the team be successful.

Aydin Mirzaee (  40:52

Yeah. And I think this ties really well to all of the discussions that we had around intentionality, meaning that you have to be intentional about your teams becoming high performance ones and having these collaboration opportunities and doesn’t magically, sometimes maybe magic happens on its own, but very rarely, and you have to be proactive about it. So James has been super insightful conversation, we started the conversation by talking about shifting from output to outcome. I love the quote of every action is a vote for who you intend to be. We’ve talked about chat GPT for cover letters, making work visible, and so many other topics today. And so the final question we always like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks, or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

James Carr  41:41

I can’t say it’s enough. But finding some kind of community is really helpful. I joined brands leadership slack, which is like it’s just an amazing resource, like get resources from other leaders. The same thing is like, you know, other communities I believe follow has one as well, like this podcast is a really great place where I’ve met other people can feedback in different types. So it’s just like finding your community, right? Finding a management community is so helpful, because then you can like talk to somebody that’s a CTR now I’m like, hey, what do I need to do to get through level? Right? That’s always been helpful for me. And then from there, it’s just finding the right blogs, newsletters to subscribe to.

Aydin Mirzaee (  42:19

Yeah, that’s really good advice. And I would definitely agree on Rand’s slack group, my coop, if you’re not familiar with Michael, he was actually guests on the podcast, so make sure to check out that episode that we did with rands, and of course, yeah. Supermanagers slack workspace also there for anyone who wants to join. But James isn’t great. Thank you so much for doing it, and really appreciate having you on.

James Carr  42:45

Definitely. Thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.

Aydin Mirzaee (  42:48

And that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Supermanagers podcast. You can find the show notes and transcript at If you liked the content, be sure to rate review and subscribe so you can get notified when we post the next episode. And please tell your friends and fellow managers about it. It’d be awesome if you can help us spread the word about the show. See you next time.

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