Our beliefs
Teaching.com Manifesto

We care deeply about the culture at Teaching.com. In this regard, it is of utmost importance for each person to understand what is expected of them and what they, as part of our team, can expect from others.

Introduction

One of the key factors guaranteeing our success is that we cultivate a self-managed team that constantly ships. The word cultivate is intentional: we work tirelessly to provide the right context so that our bonds as a group and our motivation to do great work can grow. Nevertheless, success is possible only when all of us are committed to this end. This document focuses on our values and our approach to communication that assists us in cultivating that team.

If I were to summarize these pages, I’d quote Patty McCord of Netflix: “Act in the Company’s best interest.”

Some may take issue with this statement as our society at large vilifies “the Company” into a faceless entity trying to get the most out of its workforce for as little as possible. It’s true, you are providing a service to the Company. However, the Company is also making an investment in you. At Teaching.com we endeavor to nourish mutually beneficial relationships. This reciprocity works only when each party feels they can trust the other to look out for their best interests. And trust is built when both sides consistently act within agreed-upon expectations.

Our Values

We have three categories of values at Teaching.com, and it is critical that they are thoroughly understood by all. They are used to guide the people we hire, our approach to performance reviews and our approach to severance with all our relationships.

Permission to Play

These values make up the Company’s minimum behavior standards. We take these seriously, and violation of these values is subject to termination. 


Honest

Without honesty, there can be no trust, and trust is the foundation of any effective team. We believe that lying is akin to stealing.

Accountable

Each person should feel free to take risks and innovate, without the need to be overly cautious or restrain themselves from being proactive. All the same, when a person makes a mistake, they should own up to it without attempting to shift blame or sweep any personal failings under the rug.

Resepectful

The company is made up of a group of people (and serves a user base) of varied backgrounds, with different beliefs and preferences. Blanket conformity or acceptance is not expected, but we do expect our people to be respectful towards all colleagues and users.

Our Core Values

Our core values are the unshakeable qualities that describe the character of each person.

Confident Humility

A humble person is more concerned with the success of the team than with getting credit for their own contributions. At the same time, they are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents they bring to the team, though never in an overly-proud or boastful way. The balance between confidence and humility is important, as someone who is humble, due to a lack of confidence, is actually insecure and therefore not humble. 


Hunger

Hunger is the desire to work hard and do whatever necessary to help the team succeed. Hungry people rarely have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They volunteer to fill gaps, take on more responsibilities and are eagerly looking around corners for new ways to contribute to the team. 


People Smarts

People smarts, often equated with “emotional intelligence,” is about being wise and empathetic when interacting with others. These people grasp the nuances of team dynamics and know how their words and actions impact others. Their good judgment and intuition help them interact with others in the most effective way.

Aspirational Values

These values shift as the organizational emphasis changes throughout the seasons. They are things we want everyone to be cognizant of and work towards.

Empathy

Being able to see things from another’s perspective is critical. We seek to live by the platinum rule: “Treat others as they want to be treated.” This applies to our colleagues and our users.

Self-Improvement

People should continually seek ways to improve themselves. New skill acquisition, or improving existing skills, is essential to growing as an organization.

Required Reading

While reading through this list of values may have been helpful, these will be fully understood and integrated by reading the two books that have informed these values. All new team members are expected to have read these books by 90 days after their start date:

Free to Learn by Peter Gray

This quick read demonstrates children have a natural instinct to learn that, unfortunately, gets suppressed by the traditional school system’s teaching methods. Our goal is to create educational products that children and adults can interact with in a way that promotes the natural learning instinct.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Our team members have repeatedly commented on the tremendous value they place on our non-toxic Company culture. To maintain this, we encourage team members to read (and re-read) this corporate fable by one of our Company’s favorite authors. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team outlines the root causes of politics and team dysfunction and the keys to overcoming them.

Our Company Philosophy

Whether spoken or unspoken, every company holds fundamental beliefs about its identity and approach to doing business. Here are a few of ours.

How we talk about ourselves

Many companies employ “family” language to describe the relationship between colleagues. We think calling ourselves a “work family” is disingenuous at best. It’s a tactic designed to solicit more loyalty from the employee to the employer than the latter is willing to extend in-kind. 

When you’re a family, you don’t kick little Timmy on the streets when times are tough or they’re not pulling their weight anymore. However, as a company, lay-offs and terminations can happen. When a company pretends that they won’t, they’re lying to you. 

Instead, we talk about Teaching.com as a team. We’re a group of high-performing individuals contributing at the top of our craft. And we’re fiercely protective of the integrity of that team. This is not meant to inspire fear, rather, it’s our promise to A-players that we’ll ensure you’re surrounded by other A-players. You won’t have to carry the team by yourself.

How we talk to each other

For every piece of subpar work you accept, for every missed deadline you let slip, you begin to feel resentment and anger. You no longer think the work is bad: you think the person is bad. Once these opinions are formed, it’s nearly impossible to reverse them and the relationship inevitably ends. Which is why it’s critical to engage in Radical Candor, the act of delivering critical feedback because you care. 

Often, we get caught up trying to protect others from hurt feelings, or worse, trying to protect ourselves from another’s defensiveness. We must put those fears aside and wade together into subjective performance conversations. This is more art than science, but our commitment to you is that we won’t wait for an annual performance review to tell you when you can do better. When done correctly, better results and relationships follow. 

To take this a step further, an important saying we have here is that “effective communication is measured at the listener’s ear, not the speaker’s mouth.” Just because you said something, doesn’t mean it was heard. Whether communicating about performance, product, paid time off, or play we must ensure we’re optimizing our communication for the end user.

Our Communication Strategy

Communication is at the heart of what we do, and as a fully-remote team, we face many unique challenges. Therefore, it is essential to understand the Company’s communications philosophy. The hot trend in tech companies these days is to use a group chat platform, like slack or hipchat, as the primary means of communication. However, we’ve found that this always-on culture encourages burnout and hinders productivity. This blog post from the Basecamp team explains in greater detail why this approach is inferior, and the philosophy behind our approach.

We separate our communication tools into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous. There are some conversations that need to happen right now (synchronous), and require all participants to be actively engaged until a resolution is found. More often, conversations don’t require an immediate resolution. These conversations can happen slowly, over time (asynchronously), and won’t interrupt the participants until they are ready to engage.

The question everyone should ask themselves is always: “Am I blocked on this?” or “Does this person need to know this right now?” If the answer to either question is “Yes”, then it makes sense to reach out using a synchronous method. If the answer is no, then async should be used.

By being dogmatic about this, we are freeing everyone up to be masters of their own time. No longer fearing death by a thousand notifications, our team members are free to work in large blocks of uninterrupted time, which is a critical component to achieving flow.

Our Project Management Strategy

We’ve found that traditional project management strategies like waterfall, agile, and scrum set teams up to fail. Those who are writing requirements and those who are implementing them are fundamentally at odds when they begin to bicker about what the acceptance criteria really means. It turns designers and developers into task-monkeys focused only on execution. Worst of all, the real losers in this scenario are the users who end up being forced to deal with the end-result, which is either delayed or terrible.

Instead, we seek to establish general boundaries around new work. We arm teams with what they need to know to make decisions on the fly, give them a realistic deadline and set them free to do what they do best. The general basis of our process is documented in the fantastic eBook Shape Up, from the makers of Basecamp.

Our Benefit Offerings

We are convinced that what keeps employees happy is not how many neat perks you offer, but how often they're able to ship something they built. Salary even often comes secondary to output in terms of measuring individual happiness. However, that doesn't mean we don't pay well and enjoy a few fun perks.

We've got the standard offerings, like health insurance (medical, dental, vision) for the entire family–where we cover 100% of the premium cost for the employee–as well as various disability and life policies. We offer a 401(k) plan with a 4% match and our time-off policies include flex time, paid vacation, sick, maternity, and paternity leave. Of course, we also provide you with a laptop and reimburse you for certain essentials to get your work done.

Beyond the standard, we'll also pay for your ongoing education, support you if you want to speak at conferences, pay for you to enjoy a meal from a new restaurant in your area, and bring you to Puerto Rico for our annual company retreat. If you have any questions about any of these, you can discuss them with the hiring manager.

Summary

Work can either be linear or cyclical. To be a factory worker in today’s world is an example of cyclical work. You show up at the same time every day to stand next to the same conveyor belt and assemble the same pieces to meet your productivity goals. You may not ever get to see the finished product, but at the end of the day you go home and don’t think about work again until the morning. It is cyclical, it is predictable, it is safe.

This job is not any of those things. We are moving in a single direction. There is a finish line, a goal to be accomplished, and we’re moving linearly towards it. And when we cross that finish line, there will be another. We are a team in pursuit of an ambitious common goal. This can be intimidating, but on the other side, the value and satisfaction you can reap from being on such a team is tremendous. It is on such a team that you learn the most, perform your best work, improve the fastest, and have the most fun.

Working in an environment like this is not for everyone. As a bootstrapped, profitable company, we lack much of the whip-cracking that comes with a VC-backed, high-growth startup. On the other hand, we want to make sure complacency or bureaucracy does not set in. We are in a competitive industry, and without a dogged adherence to cultivating the best possible environment, we will not be successful.

If you found yourself nodding your head as you read through this document–then this might just be the place for you.