Some years ago I came across the notion of compiling a personal user manual as a way of making everyone's life whole lot easier. It is a great self-reflection exercise too, as you think about how to complete each aspect of the manual. Here is what might go into your User Manual:
1. My Style: here you can talk about the kind of person you are; your personality style; your leadership style; how formal or informal you like things.
2. What I Value: you can talk about your values; what you appreciate in others; your views on the work/life balance question.
3. What I Don't Have Patience For: these might be things that irritate or annoy you; it could be about behaviour you regard as childish; taboos that apply in your life.
4. How to Communicate with Me: What do you like people to lead with; do you want detail or just the headlines; do you want a heads-up before a discussion; do you like conversation or do you prefer to read something; do you want background or should people get to the point. It may also include your approach to decision-making: what do you expect from your team members; when do you want to be involved; how you make decisions yourself. If you are aware of not being a great listener, you can also tell team members how to bring to your attention that you need to LISTEN.
5. How You Can Help Me: this might include what team members can do to make your life easier; your own weaknesses and how team members can complement you on these; what team members can do to make their own lives easier in terms of working with you.
6. What People Misunderstand About Me: these are the quirks and foibles that people think mean one thing but actually mean another.
You can mess around with these headings and come up with something that is more you - they offer you a starting point.
It can be a really fun exercise to encourage your team members to prepare their own User Manuals, and then for the team to have a series of conversations that makes each of you a whole lot more knowable. You could use a process like this:
- Tell your team that you want to have a session where you can each get to know and understand one another better, and agree on a date and time. This will take a couple of hours, so maybe arrange an afternoon where you can all be relaxed and take your time.
- Share the template (see below) with them and discuss what might go under each heading. Modify the headings if it seems appropriate to do so.
- As the team leader, you go first. You could present your user manual as a document or as a video, or you could simply speak to each heading and then share your document afterwards.
- Invite team members to ask any questions that may not have been addressed in your user manual. Answer them and then perhaps add some FAQs to your user manual, which you can then share.
- Give each team member the opportunity to present their own user manuals, and answer any questions including questions from you.
- End with each person having the opportunity to offer their personal reflection on any important insights they have gained and the benefits of the conversation. (I'm a big fan of end-of-meeting reflections.)
Have fun with it. Laugh at yourself and invite others to do so too. Notice when your colleagues deal with you in the way you have outlined. Be aware of doing the same for them. A couple of weeks later, have another reflection with your team - what is working, what has improved, what still needs to change?
Here is a template that you are welcome to use.