Zoe Gagnon

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So! I'm a people manager. You are probably wondering what that means. Maybe it's because I'm your people manager for the moment. Maybe it's because you want to steal this content for yourself (that's too much pressure for me). Regardless, read on to see some of my idea of management.

Theory of Management

My theory of management focuses on providing value in several directions. I aim to do this by providing mentoring, coaching, and sponsorship while helping align personal growth goals with business goals. I firmly believe that my success as a manager is directly tied to the success of people I coach.

I believe that any successful system must be human-centric, and that includes the business relationships inherent in management. I hold to a set of values, and seek to have my practices always descend from and reinforce those values. Additionally, I believe that "a bad system can beat a good person", and direct my efforts to increasing autonomy, safety, and support of individuals by the system they operate in.

Values And Practices

I'm an agilist at heart, and my values directly relate to that. The formulation I like best right now is the Modern Agile Values . The specific practices I put in place are derived from and contribute to those values.

Make Safety a Prerequisite

Safety is a broad concept covering not just physical safety, but psychological and process as well. I strive to create environments where people can comfortably contribute. This means being transparent, predictable, welcoming, and reliable.


  • Least Surprise: I work to minimize surprises to all of those around me. In a management position, there are laws and corporate policies that prevent me from being fully transparent, but I pledge to always do my best to not surprise people.
  • Calling In: I work to make environments I am in more comfortable for everyone. That includes helping people learn more welcoming modes of interaction. I'm not afraid to identify harmful behaviors that I see, and try to provide more inclusive alternatives.
  • Growth Mindset: I accept and promote the understanding that learning derives from a cycle of attempt, failure, and adjustment. I work to celebrate, and help others celebrate, this cycle. This includes turning failure to success through recognizing and internalizing the lessons it presents.
  • Feedback Seeking: I acknowledge that I will not always succeed at living up to my values, and that there are better practices that I have yet to learn. I am constantly seeking feedback and working to receive that feedback gracefully.
  • Give Ownership, take responsibility: It's much easier to succeed when people explicitly have ownership over their work. I look for opportunities to clarify ownership and divest it to people with the most information and stake. Conversely, I take responsibility for my own work, sphere, and actions. When an effort is less successful, I own my part in that.

Make People Awesome

People are the only ingredient in any organization, and the strength and success of that organization depends on the contributions of those people. I believe processes, tools, or policies that don't contribute to making people more awesome tend to decrease the overall effectiveness of the organization instead.


  • Feedback Delivery: Feedback is a core ingredient in learning and growing. Particularly as a manager, I am well placed to facilitate this. I work to regularly gather feedback on behalf of people I am coaching, synthesize that feedback to derive useful trends, and deliver that feedback in a kind, candid way.
  • Sponsorship: I believe that growth happens through confronting challenges and learning to overcome them. I work to identify opportunities for growth and to sponsor people into those opportunities.
  • Support: Confronting challenges is only possible with proper support. I work to provide people with the resources, both physical and knowledge, that they need to succeed.

Deliver Value Continuously

We come together to accomplish our goals, and I want to always be directing my energy towards that end. I am value-focused, always checking my course to ensure that it is worth pursuing. I am outward focused, working for others in addition to myself. I believe in capturing incremental value; even a work-in-progress is better than nothing.


  • Re-evaluate: I work to question and re-evaluate my efforts, practices, and values. When I am doing something that is no longer delivering value, I try to stop doing it. I look for new values, practices, or techniques which can provide more value.
  • Launch early and learn: I don't like to let value sit on a shelf. When I'm working on something, I try to share it as soon as it can provide value, even if that value is partial. This helps me to get the most from my efforts, and gives me more opportunities to learn and experiment.

Experiment and Learn Rapidly

Most of the activities I do will be activities I am not good at. The the goal of systems, particularly software systems, is to reduce the burden of activities as you become better at them. This means that most of the time, I will be doing things for the first time. This is particularly true when it comes to working with individuals. I will always be learning more about the people I work with


  • Try courageously: I work to identify new things to try, and to keep an open mind to suggestions from others. I also work to accept that not everything we try will be successful or work on the first time. Once a new try is identified, I like to move on it quickly, in order to learn as soon as possible.
  • Steal shamelessly: I'm always looking for good ideas. I read and listen to others, and whenever there is something I think could work, I like to try it out. I'm not ashamed to incorporate other's thinking into my own (with credit, of course)
  • Small bites: I prefer to work in small iterations that allow for rapid feedback cycles. A lot of my specific techniques and goals are about reducing feedback cycles in order to get the most learning.
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