I spent the time and the energy investing in relationships. I always have an open door policy, always have an open Slack DM policy, I have office hours that anybody can come to weekly. I catch up with people, I chat with them, then I understand what really motivates them, I get to know them. And the thing is, you have to do it consistently.

In this episode

Trust is like a jar of marbles. 

Each marble in the jar can represent a positive interaction that helps build trust between two people.

However, just as easily as marbles can be added to the jar, they can also be removed. Negative experiences or actions can quickly deplete the trust that has been built.

In episode #142, Rukmini Reddy shares how she is purposeful with her leadership and communication style to build strong relationships. 

Rukmini Reddy is the SVP of Engineering, Platform at Slack with over five years of experience building successful, driven teams at the VP level.

Rukmini shares how and why we should hug the elephant, rather than point at it, meaning having candid conversations and creating psychological safety to discuss difficult topics and acknowledge the emotional toll of change.

Tune in to hear all about Rukmini’s leadership journey, building team alignment, and becoming a more influential person.

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


Going through the stages of grief


Bias to action vs problem solving


How to become more influential


Open door policy and office hours


 “Come find me” approach to management


Hug your own elephant


Slack rituals


Writing a weekly digest



Aydin Mirzaee (  04:35

Rukmini, welcome to the show.

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  04:40

Thank you so much for having me, Aydin. It’s a pleasure to be here today.

Aydin Mirzaee (  04:43

Yeah, yeah. Very, very excited to chat with you. I mean, I just have to mention this because this is pretty funny that so you’re located in the Bay Area somewhere and you were just mentioning that you bought a raincoat for the first time after living there for 17 years. Here’s something.

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  05:00

Yeah, I think it the weather has been wild. Like everything else that just, I think wild is now our default state for these past four years in this pandemic. So it’s been very challenging with the weather in California this year, we wanted the rain, and now there’s too much. So I’m glad it’s raining. But I also wish it would just stop.

Aydin Mirzaee (  05:18

Yeah, yeah, it’s super interesting. Yeah, it’s raining here in Ottawa today, too. So lots of talk about today, you have a pretty extensive leadership career. Companies like determine model in abstract today, you’re SVP engineering at Slack software company that we love and use. And so there’s a lot for us to talk about, but maybe a good place to begin is the very beginning, where you first started to manage or lead a team. Do you remember those days? And maybe an early mistake or two that you used to make that maybe you make less of today?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  05:53

Oh, gosh, yes, I think, you know, I was an individual contributor before I became an engineering manager. And I remember working at this really tiny company like 13 years ago, and I was approached by my CTO who was like, you seem to have a way with people. It’s like, I don’t like where this conversation is going. Like, you know, I know what happens when someone’s like, you seem good with people I know, the initial next thing is going to be how would you become a manager. So, you know, he was really kind, he was my mentor, and CTO and he was like, with me, you have a knack with people, you seem to care about them deeply. At the same time, you’re a really good engineer. I was a principal engineer at that point, I had done a bit of like, I was deep into my icy carrier. I was very afraid of the move. And I think I went through all the stages of grief that ICS usually go through when someone says the word management to them. And he gave me something that I think was very rare for those days. I don’t know what if I hate it? Can I just go back and do my job? And he’s like, absolutely. So that’s how my management engineering management career began. And I haven’t looked back, I think that code is simple. People are way more complex. And I just find like, my career and my job, like every day is a new challenge. Every day is exciting. And in the end of the day, I love love, love working in service of people. So management, was it for me, and I didn’t know about it. But I’m glad my mentor did. Yeah, that’s super

Aydin Mirzaee (  07:15

interesting. You’re the first person to say I went through all the stages of grief. That is actually pretty funny. Do you remember? I mean, what were some of the I mean, was it you became manager? It was smooth sailing? You got everything right. Or what were some of the early, maybe blunders?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  07:33

Yeah, I you know, I think we all forget, like, I went to school for computer science and engineering. I did both my bachelor’s and master’s. I didn’t go to school for management. So I think it’s a really important thing. Most managers like I had to remind myself early on that, because I made so many mistakes. It was just like, I always ask when someone asked me this question, which one of let me look at my rolodex of mistakes and pick one or two to talk about. But I think it’s super important to remember that I didn’t go to school for this. So I’m probably going to fail a lot before I learned to recognize patterns of failure, one of I think, the greatest mistake that I’ve learned and evolved from and you know, it’s something that I’m always working on. It’s just like, sometimes it’s engineers and managers, like we see solutions to a problem. And then we just want to solve it, right. And we’re just like, keen on solving it, we want to improve productivity, or we want to improve efficiency, we want to ship faster. And it’s something I learned the hard way was this always context to the human behind who’s trying to solve that problem. And if you spend the time and the energy at that moment, understanding that person’s why it’s actually going to be a lot faster to motivate them and get things done. I’ll give a brief example, I once had an engineer, he was really struggling, and you know, he was not able to produce code. And it’s months and months went by, and it was very early in my management carry on, like, This is logical, I’m going to put this person on a performance improvement plan, I’m going to do a pip. And I’m going to tell them how they need to get everything together and 60 days or, you know, a plan to grow then, but then I stopped and I was like, let me ask more. And I just sat down with them and was like, so what is going on with you? Like, you know, you seem like you’re really struggling? Can you share a little bit more, and then they shared this, like huge personal circumstance that I could never have actually worked at all if I was facing similar difficulties. And what I was able to offer in that moment is like, Okay, how, what does the code look like for you right now for me as your manager? Do you want to take time and go be fixed figure out your situation? And it’s like, yes, I want to, and I’m so glad I did take that moment to have that conversation because that person went on they solved their personal problem gave back and became one of the highest performing you know, output engineers and fled a very productive, thriving career for like the next five years that I was leaving their organization. So it’s moments like that like to remember to stop and listen to ask some thing I really struggled on earlier in my career that I value immensely today.

Aydin Mirzaee (  10:04

I mean, that’s a great example. And it really drives the point home. One of the things I mean, but just like digging into this, this natural problem solving, desire is bias to action that that a lot of us have, especially coming from individual contributor roles. Have you found that or found ways to hold yourself back? So someone comes to you with a problem? Like, is it just it’s become second nature to you? Or is there still that tendency, and you kind of have to hold back before you go into problem solving mode? Or how do you approach it today?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  10:39

I still operate in a zillion miles an hour. That’s just who I am. My personality is that way. It’s something I really have to struggle and have to ask why? Why does this person need to solve this problem today? And how am I going to best support them? Like, why are they facing the problem that they’re trying to solve? That’s the cause I have to take. Because I love slack. You mentioned you love slack. And sometimes they just get into this mode of like, let me respond right now and solve something for you. Instead of saying, Tell me more. Just a simple word. Tell me more. Why are you feeling like you’re facing this right now? How can I support you? And I think if you invest and build trust with a person, you understand a little bit about where they might be coming from as well. So sometimes I’m personally like, do you want to just huddle quickly and have a voice or audio conversation? Do you prefer to like write about why you’re struggling right now, process it, and then we can discuss it together. So I offer them different avenues, but it’s always their choice. And I have to hold back. And sometimes it’s part of coaching, I almost tell someone, I’m going to sit this one out. And I’m going to let you try it yourself. I’m always here for you, I got your back. But for now, I want you to try what you would want to do first. And this, I think becomes increasingly important as you start to manage managers of managers and managers and VPS. And directors, it’s really important to let people figure that stuff out, because you want them to problem solve on their own. They have a unique problem solving approach. And they’re really good at what they do. That’s why they are where they are. So it’s been a challenge, though. And it’s something I have to always remind myself, but I think I’m getting better at it.

Aydin Mirzaee (  12:12

Yeah, I mean, I love that phrase, like a very simple thing. Someone comes to you and says, Hey, this thing is happening. What do we do? Tell me more? Yeah, I do like that. I mean, it really allows you to more deeply understand it. And I like the framing that you put, which is I want to understand why they have this problem versus necessarily how to jump and solve it. You did mention in passing, as you were talking that it seems that this is maybe a skill that is even more useful when you’re managing managers. Is that something like I’d love to hear more about that?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  12:46

Yeah, I think you know, it’s also on my own journey. Like, as long as I managed, I was a line manager, like a whole team of four or five people, I could just get things done. Again, it’s very easy. It’s very similar to being an IC, you have a team, you have a structure, you have deliverables and goals. And it’s easy to execute to get into this mode of like execution, and you figure it out. But when you have to lead through other managers, you really have to find that spot on what is going to motivate this person for them to meet their goals. It’s not you being motivated. And you can directly like, bring five people, five engineers together and deliver some code, you have all you have, as a manager of managers or even cross functional roles, I think it becomes really critical as you become an executive, all you have is influence. You have influence with another person. And that’s how you help them be better managers. So some leadership philosophies and rules I have is like in any of these relationships, I like to establish what the flow of information is going to be like, right? So first thing, what’s our shared water flow of information? How do we want to pass on information to each other? What do you care about that you’re going to share with me? What do I care about that I’m going to share with you really important second thing is shared view of reality, are you and I on the same page, that things aren’t one totally broken? Or maybe really fantastic? Let’s get together on a shared view of where our organization is better cross functional partnership is where our product strategies, things like that. And finally, it comes down to chance success. My success is making you the most successful we be for this team, your successes, making sure you enable me to meet my business goals forward for this organization. So kind of aligning on those three principles is like and using influence to get there is what’s been the change for me was his like execution process. Management. I think that’s the difference between being the line manager and becoming a manager of managers later on in your career.

Aydin Mirzaee (  14:45

So that’s super interesting. And one of the things that’s notable for me is the fact that you have this framework and that you have thought deeply about it and you understand when you are doing cross functional work, how you are able to break it down On in that format, the other thing that you mentioned is you start to get to a point where you have to use influence even more like influencing another team. So I mean, here’s maybe simplistic question that won’t have a simplistic answer, which is how do you become more influential?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  15:17

Oh, you know, I learned this at a conference once and I love the framing, you have to find out what people’s currency is. So you may value gold, but maybe gold is a worthless currency in my world. Maybe sand is my currency, right? So just you know, giving an example there. It’s really important. People are motivated by different things. And if you spend the time and energy to like, ask questions, I think you and I, we’ve shared, I’ve shared like my first meeting template, when I’m talking to someone for the first time, like, what do you care about? What do you feel my organization’s doing? Well, or something that I really need to like help unblock here? How can I move your goals forward? If I ask that question, then I understand what their currency is. Some people value for example, for me, my currency is belonging. That is my currency. Being legal, you know, an immigrant woman, like, that’s something I value more than, like, other materialistic things. And that’s how I’ve chosen my career choices. And then I’m going to work. It’s like, belonging is my currency, but somebody else may not care about belonging at all, they may care about execution, they may care about speed, they may care about like shipping their roadmap for this next year. And if you align on like what that person’s currency is, you can say, I know, you care about this. And I have a recommendation, I have a suggestion, I have a request or I have a solution. Does that make sense?

Aydin Mirzaee (  16:43

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And would you say this applies? I mean, we’re talking about influence as an executive cross functionally, but this works for your own team as well. Right? 100% 100%?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  16:53

I think it just, it’s always like interesting, like, you know, people tell me whenever we calibrate an entire organization, I’ve been able to scale this entire time. So it’s, I think it’s because of my deep love for the Dean’s I lead like, it’s one of my core values to get to know what every person cared about them. But when you’re calibrating, I’ll almost be able to speak to every node in my organization and every person and every story. And people are like, how do you know that and I was like, because I spent the time and the energy, investing in relationships. So for example, always have an open door policy, always have an open slack DM policy, have office hours that anybody can come to weekly, I catch up with people I chat with them, then I understand what really motivates them, I get to know them. And the thing is, you have to do it consistently, though, you just can’t show up once in three years, and be like, Hey, I’m your executive, nice to meet you. You have to like routinely spend time at a predictable cadence with your people. So then they know what to expect from you. And then you will eventually like, some people don’t share for years, but I keep at it. I tell them I’m relentless. I’ll keep coming back until you know, I understand how I can support you. But it’s very helpful. Because once you know what unlocks a person to thrive, like you can really put support systems in place for them. So

Aydin Mirzaee (  18:10

I’d love to get a little tactical here. So this is interesting. Open Door Policy, investing in relationships having office hours, what does that look like? So for example, again, I don’t know rough order of magnitude, how big your org is. But who comes to these office hours? How frequent are they? How do you encourage people to actually come? Do they just message you on Slack? And you just do a call? I’m just curious, like, how does this all play out?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  18:37

Yeah, I love I know, I’m a platformer at heart. So I’ll speak a little bit may sound like a marketing executive slack platform. But what I do is we actually have a workflow where people can sign up for office hours, that goes to a calendar invite, I have for 15 minutes slots, one hour a week. And usually Fridays are like focus Fridays, we don’t have meetings. And I’m like, I’d rather be talking to people who just want to drop in. And it’s really easy to sign up. They can use like a slash command, and they like, Go office hours with me, and then it automatically signs them up for the next available slot. So I take the friction away and take the hesitation of a lot of people do amazing. I’m excited to be here. I’m new, I would love to chat with you can I find time and appoint them to my office hours, my product partner and I have also been hosting New Hire brunch, for the last like every quarter for the last three years. So everybody who’s new to our team, they get a branch that they get one on one time with as usually it’s a small cord to no more than 10 people we spend an hour just getting to know people. So we encourage them again to come to our office hours. So there’s a system and there’s a cadence. We have amas every quarter where we collect questions from a workflow, and we answer it. Then we have the regular all hands corns, and then we make round robin visits to every team every quarter. So there’s different ways everyone likes things differently. Right one on one team base, all hands

Aydin Mirzaee (  20:00

Yeah, so and this is very interesting. I think you are all still operating in hybrid model people all over the world. So when you say things like people you do brunch, is that also virtual like, in front of okay, got it

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  20:16

100% virtual, it’s super simple. We send everyone a DoorDash gift card and we say it’s a dinner breakfast or lunch, wherever you are, get yourself something hop on the Zoom call, let’s hang out. And it’s the spin because you have to also make sure you don’t, you have don’t have, you know, bias, location bias. I think this is proximity bias, I really have to think about it. Because sometimes you see people all the time, you just can’t you it’s human, you can be more bias towards them. So I think it’s very important to make sure all your team events are as hybrid as possible when people can come in and spend time with you. Yeah, super interesting. Local, I would go in like, you know, if they were all the gloves probably go in and say hello. But that’s almost never been the case in the last four years.

Aydin Mirzaee (  21:02

Hey, before we move on to the rest of the episode, if you’re an engineering leader, whether manager, director, or VP, all engineering leaders know that one on one meetings are a powerful tool for team engagement and productivity. However, not all leaders know how to run these meetings effectively. That’s why the fellow team just released a comprehensive guide on the art of the one on one meeting. For engineers. It has over 60 pages of advice from engineering leaders at organizations like Apple, MailChimp, Stripe, GitHub, Intel, and more. We’ve also included expert approved templates for you to play immediately to make your one on one meetings that much more effective. So head on over to fellow dot app slash Resources to access the guide and the exclusive templates right now. We’ll also link it in the show notes for you to check out there. But you can go on over to slash resources to get the guide and the templates today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. Yeah, I remember Yeah. And my last company, as we were growing, once we occupied two floors, we might as well been in different cities, it it really changes the dynamics at some level, everyone’s prac, for all intents and purposes is practically remote. There’s this quote that we have from you where I think you were talking about you quicker you realize that the come find me approach management doesn’t work at the free to first describe what is the come find me approach? And why doesn’t it work?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  22:37

You know, when I first started my career, I manage my team, like I like to be managed, like, I’m just like, I’ll do my work. And when I need help, I’m taller. Like that’s literally my style of who I am as a person. And sometimes, you know, I think as a culture, we feel like when someone needs support, it’s a sign of weakness, and then you don’t feel safe asking for it. So this, what happened to me personally was, when I say Come find me, my team ended up finding hiring their problems. And it was not in the loop on what the roadblocks were or where they were going. And you know, this feeling where you feel like you went to the station and the trains left, like everything felt like, very inaccessible. And that was that’s what I mean, when I say like, was like a come find me there was a lot of problems with that approach. And that’s when I transitioned at an aha moment of like, I need to learn about the human behind the job, there’s a human was actually trying to make something happen. I like to believe that 99.99% of people in the world are good, decent people trying to do their best, right, and I should have faith in them understand their context and ask to learn more. So then I started reaching back in. So you, I think you’re familiar, I have like a one on one template, which is very practical, and very tactical, I would encourage everyone to like steal it, make it your own. Tell me what works and doesn’t work. Because this first question I lead with before I say how are you? I hope you’re good. We do some social chatter, then get and be like, well, how the projects going. Tell me about all your projects, standard management thing. And now I start every meeting with what’s the most important thing for you to talk about today. It changes the entire conversation from being execution. And maybe someone wants to discuss a personal crisis they’re facing and need support. Maybe someone’s having a project issue, or maybe there’s something in between are greater than the two right and that’s okay. But making space with what’s the most important thing you want to bring today is it shifts the conversation to the person you’re managing, and it’s about them. Someone once told me about management that it’s never about you get over it. And I really appreciate that. It’s not about me, it’s about the people I need.

Aydin Mirzaee (  24:47

I love that question. So what’s the most important thing that you want to bring to the conversation today? And that can go in all sorts of different directions. It can be something personal, it can be project based and Yeah, no, that’s a very, very, very good way to start a conversation. So is this what you mean? Because I know you’re passionate about People First initiatives in general? Is that what you mean by that? Like? Is that how you go about establishing trust? Or how do you think about that, like you get parachuted into a team? How do you effectively build trust with them?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  25:21

Yeah, I’m a huge Brene Brown fan. So I will share a little bit about how she dropped about trust. I think it just, it just unlocked something for you, when you hear it for the first time. Like I tell people like trust is like having a jar of marbles. And I’m going to give you my jar of marbles upfront, that’s how I lead I lead with trust upfront. Now the actions you and I may take in this relationship, make us take some marbles out, like if we cause some distrust, we’ll take it out. But you can always be pulled back in. And it’s a really interesting, and I see that to people when I first meet them, I tell them, here’s my jar of marbles. You have my trust, let’s go. Like you know, we’ll work on this together. But you don’t have to prove yourself to me, you’re here because you’re great. And think about how I trade my currencies belonging. So I assume at the base, like that’s what I provide to everyone. So I tell them, you belong here. Because your trust, you don’t have to prove anything to me. Now let’s do that’s been a very helpful, I’ve done it with every team. And it seems to work so far. Because again, it comes from an authentic place, it’s very core to who I am as a person, so I’m not actually doing something that feels unnatural to me. And people find it refreshing. That’s the feedback I received. They say, I felt refreshed and someone like had like a more vulnerable deep conversation. And most importantly, I think you have to live with vulnerability yourself. You have to be that woman in the arena when timezone good and times up bad. You have to show up, and you have to own up to how you are feeling. And in a way, I feel like it’s my responsibility to share the stuff is hard, like Tech has been hard for the last three months. I’m gonna say like, I’m finding it hard to. I’m human. That sucks. It’s a very grounding exercise. People understand that you’re not like some super human who has it all together all the time, you also face similar struggles. And it brings everyone together on the same page. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (  27:20

I love the here are my marbles starting from a place of trust. But also I mean, just share your analogy, like you said, Yeah, we may take some out, like if you know, there’s indications that we should take out we could but they can be put back in. So it’s not. But this is a very interesting thing. So say that, you know, we start from that place, and then there isn’t execution the way you want it or something goes wrong. And so now you’ve lost some trust. How do you communicate that? Like do you literally just say, Hey, we’re taking some marbles out of the jar?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  27:53

Actually, I sometimes I’m too candid to a fault. But again, I also first meeting templates really important, where I asked people the first time I meet them how they like to receive and give feedback. And I answered that question for them as well. I say I like to receive feedback very directly, very candidly to my face. And I will give feedback very, very directly. Because again, quoting the incredible Brene Brown, she says clarity is kindness. So when I’m being extremely clear with you, I hope you know it’s coming from a place of kindness towards you. And I say that in the very beginning. So in this case, I would have said, you know, what I’ve been struggling looks like a few Marvels have been taken out and in spirit of being clear, because being clear as being kind, I think you need to just step it up and find out why your projects are only now tell me how I can help you what are the opportunities, you can see that I can come in and support you? Right, you just can’t like just put fire everywhere and just like cause stress and burnout for people like if you’re showing up in that moment. And being candidate, you also have to support them. That’s just your job. It’s part of the job description of being a leader.

Aydin Mirzaee (  29:01

Yeah, I love this in you know, of course, we’ll link to all of the templates and well thought out structures or conversations that you have thought of over the years. So you you kind of passively mentioned this. It has been tough in tech over the last few years. I mean, depending on when people are listening to this. We had some sort of event in banking in the United States over the last little while we obviously pandemics, lots of changes in technology, AI, everything is changing all of the time. And when we were chatting before we hit record, you said that you had some frameworks or just an approach to communicating with your teams during times of change. And yeah, I’d love it if you could talk to that.

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  29:45

Yeah. Oh, there’s a book that I love. It’s called Switch How to Change Things When Change is hard by Dan Heath and chippy then it talks about how to install behavioral change and the frameworks called the rider the elephant and the path. The premise is that Add, there’s the emotional side, the rational side, the writer, the emotional side of the elephant and then the path like you know where the road that you have to take together. And if there’s a disagreement ever between the elephant and the rider, guess who’s going to win, it’s always going to be the 6000 pound beast, right, which is your emotional center. And I think it’s really important for me, at least it’s been to hug my own elephant and slack, we have this phrase, we don’t point that the elephant, we hug it. And so I have my own elephant. So when things are hard, like you will see me showing up to my team meeting, probably I didn’t have one this week, because we are making a week but I would have showed up and been like, Oh, my God, what just happened with the banking industry? That was incredibly stressful for me, I can only imagine several of you have partners in startups, it must have been a very stressful week. How do you want to check in this week, just a context of like, owning up to Hawaiian feeling these events, and encouraging folks to like, be present in the moment, if they choose to be the creating psychological safety to like, maybe I know a lot of people whose partners were founders who were struggling for the last three days figuring out how they will make payroll, that’s a life changing event. Right. So before we dive into projects, and execution and new technology strategy, let’s take a moment to acknowledge how hard it’s been. I think that goes a really long way in management when you’re able to check in with people. First, you have to have your own elephant because I had to make peace with what this meant for me. So I could show up and be there for maybe.

Aydin Mirzaee (  31:33

So I love this concept, just the phrase hugging your own elephant and you said at SLAC, you don’t point out because we all talk about let’s point to the elephant in the room. You don’t point to the elephant, you hug the elephant. I love that. What does that practically mean? Other than I mean, you explained it when you’re hugging your own elephant. But so what is the intent behind the phrase hugging versus pointing?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  31:55

Yeah, I think it’s more like there’s a really difficult conversation nobody wants to have. And you just have to have real talk and just talk about how hard this is. I’ll share I’ll give a shout out to like our platform cross functional PD team like leadership team, we have a channel called hugging elephants. It is brilliant. We go there every week and 45 minutes of just candor, no judgment on what’s working, what’s not working, what’s broken, candid conversation? That’s what hugging the elephant means, like not afraid to say, I don’t know, I’m just really struggling with the way your teams shipping right now. Can we talk about what you need? Do you have a plan to fix it? But very directly, having candid conversations, right? Or saying, hey, our people are struggling this week? It’s been a really hard week. How are we going to show up? What do you think we should do together? So it’s a very, like, very, very candid, very core emotionally raw meeting, but super productive.

Aydin Mirzaee (  32:55

That is super great phraseology. I mean, it’s one of these things that sometimes when you have the right language, it enables so much trust building, but also just ways of working. You also mentioned passively that this was maker week at SLAC. What is maker week? So maker week is no meetings. That’s all it means.

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  33:14

Yeah, it’s great. It’s like you get to make you get to be in your deep flow state and build things. So we actually cancel or recurring meetings once a month, every month. It’s just absolutely brilliant.

Aydin Mirzaee (  33:24

Okay, so it is it’s a once a month thing, practice it. And did this start this year? You’ve been doing it for a long time. We’ve been doing it since the start of the pandemic. Oh, cool. So one week of the month? And is this something within your team visit within the entirety of slack? Because I also know that some of the business folks have different workflows than folks on the product and engineering teams.

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  33:47

It’s for the product design and engineering teams got it. Build technology, they are the ones who have this, and it works really well. And it wouldn’t work if it was just engineering, you have to have product and design with you. So the entire PD lifecycle can be different that week.

Aydin Mirzaee (  34:02

Yeah, this is super interesting. And one of the things that I guess that we kind of hinted at was some of this stuff does work differently, when people are remote. Are there any other practices that you put together? I mean, you know, you have AMA’s, you have all these different sorts of events that, you know, can be synchronous, there’s asynchronous portions to it. Like are there any lessons that you would know after practicing remote management, which is more difficult because you do have to be more purposeful? Are there any other practices that you found super helpful that other people can also learn from?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  34:39

Yeah, I think it’s like, again, rituals. We human beings love our rituals. And I think just having like, cohesive, predictable, consistent rituals are really important for every more team, so people can build a sense of like so for example, things we have, right we have, I think it’s so important for the last three years is that It’s been more than ever in our entire history to celebrate each other, like celebrate progress, celebrate the small wins. So we, for example, have an awesome sauce thread every Thursday evening. It’s called Awesome sauce, where we just basically give kudos and highlight to someone who did something great that week. It’s simple ritual, but it happens every week happens consistently. We know exactly like we kick off our all hands at the beginning of the quarter, right? We know we have, we’re playing like right now we’re doing like, so we have in channel AMA, with someone you’ve never met. And it’s 145, every Friday for 15 minutes, some teammate volunteers to be in the hotspot. And this is hysterical. Like everybody gets in there, ask them questions in general, and it helps build culture and you get to know the person you may not interact with, or ever meet. It happens so often to me now, when I see someone when they call you for the first time, it still happens. It happened last week, I was at PDX. I was like, I’ve never met this person. I’ve worked with them for three years, and I’ve never seen them in person. So just having rituals is going to be really important. And I think this again, templates that you can so this consistency. And most importantly, I think for managers feedback, loop back to what you’re doing working, because you could just be doing this and most of management feels like a void sometimes. So especially in remote world, it feels like you’re speaking into the ether and not getting a feedback loop. So something I have done with my product counterpart is had a survey a pulse survey this entire time. And they’re deep questions like one of the questions I will ask is, Does my team have confidence in me as their leader? I’ve always asked that, do you believe that I care about you, and you thrive in here? Do you feel like I can help us meet our goals? And three? Do you have confidence in me as your leader? And I’ve always kept apart? That’s a very hard question to ask a bunch of people. But it’s just who we are. So it’s worth it’s been getting really good feedback. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (  36:56

that’s very interesting. And I mean, and that is a great question. It reminds me of the glass door, like confidence in the CEO running but yeah, it’s crazy to obviously asking the question is really good, it’s going to Surface Material feedback. Have you ever gotten anything from those surveys that caused you to pause and think and really think that you need to change the way that you operate for in your own style,

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  37:24

I receive constant feedback about my communication. Like sometimes, you know, people are like, I’m more, I speak more than I’m a more over communicated and written communicator, and everybody accesses it in front synthesizes information differently. So I have received feedback, like, you know, my team was like, I can’t there’s zillion channels, everybody has too many channels. And sometimes you just don’t know where to go. Like, if you’re a remote employee, and you’re new, can you write me a digest that came in from the team. And then I started writing a weekly digest for my team. I’m not great at it. So I enlisted three other people to help me so I have to do it only once a month. But the team’s getting what they need. They’re getting a single digest with everything that’s important and pertinent to them published, I have received feedback that, you know, I have not cut more things than I should like, I should cut more, I should focus more, because I’m a huge like, focus person, like I just, I remember my first three months, we had like 50 projects and 50 people or something. And then I cut it down to five projects. So my team really values that. So they held me accountable to when I slowly started adding scope, as it became this person with no longer the first set of eyes, they’re like, awfully, we’ve been doing more things than you would have liked to two years ago. And I was like, You’re right. Sometimes you can just become lethargic, after you’re in an organization for a while to go back to their feedback and look at everything differently and be like, are we doing too much?

Aydin Mirzaee (  38:44

Yeah, super interesting. And what goes in the weekly digest? Is this, just all the things that are happening, that people might want to know about? You know, just it’s as if like, hey, if I was gone for a week, and I come back, here’s what happened.

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  38:58

Yeah, it’s not just company by this very specific to my organization, because the company by digest. So this is not meant to be like an all inclusive, everything that’s happening in Slack. It’s more like, hey, top of mind for me, or one of somebody on my leadership team was top of mind for us, for example, Hey, we have quarterly planning coming up, or this is how we’re doing with our KR, like we made good progress this week, or this is where we’re really struggling. Here’s some really cool prototypes that you should check out. Like, we feel like this is the direction you want to add in. These are some important decisions we made about pricing or packaging or monetization or something like that. That could affect like a large portion of people and things of that like basic stuff. When we do all hands though we also have like an award section. I think going back to rewarding people. We have this bragging rights. The award gives you nothing but bragging rights. But we have like a People’s Choice people walked in for people for our smart, collaborative, empathetic attributes. We have people vote in and then we award them that so things like that.

Aydin Mirzaee (  39:58

Yeah, that’s how Awesome Rubini this has been a great conversation. There’s so many different topics that we talked about everything, from rituals to hugging elephants, to asking the great question of what’s the most important thing for you right now? And of course, marbles and trust. So those are very, very cool, cool frameworks to use. The final question that we like to ask everybody who comes on the show is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks, resources, or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  40:35

I think, you know, one thing I did early on, like decision making is really hard as a manager, and how do you build your framework, and I did this exercise on core values. For me personally, like, it’s a hard exercise, like your Google core values, you’ll get like 50 values. And I think the trick is to just identify two of those core values. For me, my core values are courage and love. And I try to use that as like a decision matrix. And like, when things are really hard, I’m like, lean into, like, who am I? What are my core values? How do I want to meet through this moment? That’s been really important. And I think there are things like decision razor, what is your decision razor? My decision razor is like, Will I regret not doing yet. And you know, it again, ties into how courage is my core value was the time I’m like, You know what, I’m feeling courageous enough that I have to do this, otherwise, I’m gonna regret it. So I take a chance. So it helps me when I’m feeling stuck. Or when I don’t have enough like, data to support my decisions. I wish we had all the data. But I think sometimes management is just about having patterns that you can rely on. And sometimes you’ll see a brand new pattern at that point, you have to have like, a framework of decision making and trust your instinct to make decisions. So I would say that’s important advice. And I just want to leave it like, again, thanking people around you. Do something small, like everybody who’s listening today. Maybe it’s just your direct reports, take two minutes and send them a DM on why on why you appreciate them. It’s a small tip, but I think it’ll just unlock something for you.

Aydin Mirzaee (  42:08

That’s great advice, and a great place to end it with me. Thanks so much for doing this.

Rukmini Reddy (Slack)  42:12

Appreciate it. Nice to meet you.

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