What the heck is this?

Back in the day, when you installed a new program on your computer, you might find a file named README. This was a text file that explained how to use the program and often included known bugs and fixes. Think of it like an instruction manual.

I’ve often wondered why people didn’t come with instruction manuals… It turns out, some do.

Recently, tech leaders in Silicon Valley have taken to writing “Manager Readme’s” that explain their management style and how to work well with them. Here are a couple Manager Readme’s that I really like.

I wanted to do the same for you.

This document is a user manual for Tim. I’ve included personal details about me, how I like to work, and I’ve even included some known bugs and how to re-boot me when it seems I’ve crashed.

If you’re reading this, that means that we may be working together, and I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that I’m excited to partner with you. I hope this guide helps you understand me a little better. Hopefully, if we both follow this manual, I'll operate as intended and we'll see great results together.

This is a living, breathing document, and I will be updating it as I learn more about myself. If you spot anything that you think is inaccurate, please let me know!

Now, let’s get into it!

About MeMy Personal ValuesMy StrengthsMy WeaknessesHow I WorkKnown Error Codes
A little about me...

My name is Timothy James Hickle. Pronouns are he/him. I’m married to a wonderful woman named Kristen Hay. We have a son named Myles Robert Hay Hickle, born on May 6th 2020.

Kristen is a Marketing Manager for Bloomerang, a nonprofit donor database located in Indianapolis by Fort Harrison State Park. We live in a house in the Geist area and spend our free time hiking, camping, watching the Indiana Pacers, and reading. She’s more into fiction, I’m more into non-fiction. She’s more introverted. I’m more extroverted. She’s a cat person. I’m a dog person. We have two cats named Clue and Jenga, so… She won that one.

I was born and raised in Indianapolis to two top-tier parents. My dad, Dennis Hickle, was a CPA and accountant who is now an accounting professor at Ball State. My mom, Rosie Hickle, was the Executive Director of the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana and is now semi-retired, but she still makes time for tutoring. I have three sisters, two older (Laura and Katie) and one younger (Andrea). My two older sisters each have a son and a daughter, giving me two nieces and two nephews. I pride myself on being a really fun uncle. 

I graduated from IU Bloomington in 2013 and I’m a huge IU fan. I was there for the Kentucky game. It was awesome. I actually like IU football more than IU basketball. To be honest, I’m not sure why. I follow the Colts, but not as closely as I used to. I used to do sketch, standup, and improv comedy, and I still follow the comedy scene pretty closely. Some of my favorite comedians include Pete Holmes, John Mulaney, Tim Robinson, Jerrod Carmichael and Bo Burnham.

I also serve on the marketing committee for Arts For Lawrence, a non-profit theatre in the Fort Harrison area. Other non-profits I support include the ACLU, Indy Reads, and the UNCF.

What pays my bills

The way I view my job is simple: Capital-efficient growth over time wins every market.

I actually wrote a book about my views on marketing strategy, and they’re pretty simple.

Short-term tactics generate short-term results and long-run losses. The brands who focus on adding value and generating assets that are helpful for their target market have always, and will always, beat the brands who focus on hype and promotion as their primary marketing engine.

Jay Baer said it first, but it’s my mantra: Help over hype.

When I’m doing my job, I’m laser-focused on helping our target market. My goal is to always stay 20% ahead of goals, 20% under budget, and 20% more valuable than our competition.

My personal values

My actions are guided by four core values that I bring into work every day:

Family first
Yes, and

My job will never be as important as my family. I don’t expect for your job to be as important as your family, either. Family is always most important.

This concept is stolen from the world of improv, but it’s my favorite way to approach work and life. When we contradict one another, we tear eachother down. When we say “yes, and,” we build on one another.
Help over hype
Calm over crazy

Again, stolen from Jay Baer, this principle is simple. Put another way, Zig Ziglar once said “You can have anything you want in this world as long as you help enough other people get what they want.” My job is to help other people get what they want.

I believe that it doesn't have to be crazy at work. In fact, I believe that there is an inverse relationship between craziness and long-run sustainability of a business. Churn-and-burn, growth-at-all-costs businesses are lame. Sustainability is sexy.

Working with me 101: How to be my friend and trusted advisor
My assumptions

My strengths

My shortcomings

How to motivate me

Positive verbal affirmation is my lifeblood. The single easiest way to motivate me is to ensure that, if I do the thing you want me to do, I will receive praise from you or others. I’m a golden retriever and that’s my treat.

Be my friend

 I really value my relationships, and the closer I feel like we are, the further I’ll go to help you. If you’re my friend, I’ll stay up until 2 AM to help you. I’m a people pleaser, which is a bit of a double-edged sword, but if you become a close friend of mine, I’ll stop at nothing to help you.

Help me level-up

I have always struggled to go to the gym consistently, but one trainer changed my perspective. He said: “Focus on what you’re gaining, not what you’re losing.” Instead of focusing on losing weight, focus on gaining core strength. That perspective shift changed my life. If you focus on helping me level-up and gain new skills, I’ll endure a lot of pain to get there.

How to de-motivate me
Criticism (Not Feedback)

There is a very, very big difference between criticism and feedback. (Note: Here is the feedback model I use.) I’ve had managers in the past say things like “[Project] is bad” or “You’re not very good at [Thing].” When that happens, it erodes trust.

Make things transactional

 If it feels like you don’t care about me as a person, it’ll be hard for me to get on board with you. I know that no one is irreplaceable, but the more I feel like a cog in your machine, the less likely I’ll be to respond to you.

Use a scarcity mindset

 I’m a big believer in the power of the prosperity vs. scarcity mindset. I’m an optimist and believe that, ultimately, if we try our best and work together, things will probably work out. In the past, I’ve really struggled to work with hyper-pragmatists. Their worldview has been “things will fail unless we do X, Y, and Z.” I find that to be a self-defeating worldview and don’t work well with those people.

How I Like To Work
Communication Waterfall
> Start by taking a note to cover with me
> After you’ve done that, think about the matrix below. If it needs to be covered before the next time we’re talking 1:1, send an email documenting the issue and your proposed solution. This ensures proper context on my end.
> After you’ve done that, send me a Slack message if it needs to be covered in the next 24 hours.
> After that, send me a text if it has to be taken care of in the next four hours.
> After that, call me or find me in-person if it has to be taken care of in the next hour.
How I Prioritize My Work

Consequences: What happens if we don’t act? If the consequence is we miss a quarterly goal, that’s high. If the consequence is that we’ll put a project timeline at risk, that’s medium. If the consequence is that a blog post might be 10% worse, that’s low.

Urgency: How quickly do we need to act on this information? If it is within the next hour, it’s highly urgent. If it’s within the next year, it’s not urgent at all.

Planner Activities
These activities are highly important to guiding us, but they don’t need to be done right away.

My goal is to bucket these items and focus on them during FBOTs when there aren’t pressing matters at hand.

Builder Activities
These are the most important activities to the business. They have a meaningful impact on our ability to hit our goals.

My goal is to dedicate at least one FBOT per day to builder activities.

Busy Bee Activities
These activities aren’t very important or urgent, but they’re something to do.

My goal is to either delegate these activities or do them during down time. I’ll keep a running list of them over time.

Firefighter Activities
These activities need to be done right away, but don’t have a structural impact on the business. Maybe it’s fixing an error or helping with a deal that’s at risk.

My goal is to funnel as many firefighter activities into another quadrant as possible, empower others to fight their own fires, and dedicate flex time every day to helping put out fires that require my attention.
Feedback and Evaluation

I like to have my work evaluated on a regular cadence using this feedback model when possible. The best way to give me feedback is to align on desired outcomes and ability of my work to achieve those desired outcomes.

Bad Feedback
"This copy isn’t good enough."
Not actionable and value judgement. Likely to erode trust between us.
Sub-Par Feedback
"This copy isn’t converting."
Not actionable and hard to build on. Likely to frustrate me.
Average Feedback
"This copy is too long. We need shorter copy to convert."
Opinion-based. Could lead to an escalation.
Above-Average Feedback
"I’m concerned about the conversion rate of our copy. I think it might be too long."
Situation and hypothesis are clear. Next steps are a bit uncertain. Not that big of a deal, but could slow down action.
World-Class Feedback
"Right now, we’re not converting enough to hit our goal. I’d love to test some shorter copy to see if it increases conversion rates."
Situation, hypothesis, and next steps are all clear. I’m ready to rock!
Known error codes, and how to re-boot me

And, that’s me in a nutshell. If I missed something, let me know. My goal is to make this comprehensive so that every working relationship I have is as successful as possible.

If you made it this far, send me an email with the subject-line “HIGH SCORE” plus your initials and I’ll add you to the leaderboard.