You're into working asynchronously and having the space to come up with fresh ideas, but your colleague seems to thrive on draining brainstorming sessions that pop up out of nowhere?
While you prefer to communicate through emails or documents, your colleague wants to hold impromptu face-to-face meetings all the time?
It's like oil and water, clashing work styles that can really get in the way of getting things done.
Finding a middle ground that respects the need for individual focus and collaborative work is necessary, but it can be difficult if no one is open about their working styles.
It is a long journey of "getting to know each other," but a personal user manual or guidelines for collaboration can really help.
This article will show you how to create a great user manual to address those challenges and foster a harmonious collaboration with the team.
What is a personal user manual?
As its definition, a personal user manual is a handy guide that provides instructions and information on how to use a particular product or service. A kind of user manual that is written down specifically about you, your working styles and preferences is called Personal User Manual, also known as the Personal Operating Manual.
A personal user manual is a unique and personalized guide to provide valuable insights into how you work, what you value, your communication preferences, and your expectations in the professional workplace. A personal user manual helps:
- Tell others how to work best with you.
- Reduce misunderstandings and conflicts within a team.
- Minimize time wasted on trial and error to navigate interactions between individuals.
- Enhance productivity and task delegation by enabling others to align their expectations and match projects with suitable talents.
At the end of the day, it is all about finding the most effective and efficient ways to collaborate harmoniously and pave the way for success in the workplace.
A user manual is really help at work
"I've been working with them for a while now, and they already know how I like to work. Why do I need to create a user manual?"
Some people may wonder if making a user manual for themselves is necessary. We tend to assume that colleagues already understand our work style and preference, strengths and weaknesses, and priorities, because this information is frequently included in the job description, CVs, or a few team sharing.
The truth is, however, that those sources of information only give a limited glimpse into our personality and approach to work. It is even more true for companies with many layers and different departments, where cross-functional collaboration sometimes happens. Without a comprehensive user manual, it can be challenging for others to fully comprehend the intricacies and nuances of how we work. And it results in friction working together.
At FlexOS, we I've asked all my team members to create our user manuals in the early days at work. We found many ways to enhance the “how to work with me” guidelines to make it more comprehensive for individuals and fun as a team. We will put everything together in this article.
An introspect on what work best for you
A personal user manual must go beyond what your colleagues already know about you. It allows you to reflect on your past work experiences, identify your work style, and communicate your preferred collaboration modes with your team.
Writing your user manual is like replaying scenes from your work life in slow motion, providing a deeper understanding of your work persona and helping you define your professional identity more accurately. In this manner, a user manual encourages self-reflection and self-awareness, which supports your personal growth and development.
What to include in your personal user manual?
If you don’t know where to start, here are some prompts you can use to begin writing your working user manual:
- About you: A short introduction about yourself
Where did you come from? Where did you grow up?
What are your hobbies, your favorites, and your hidden talents?
Any fun facts about you?
- Work Style and Preferences: Explain how you approach tasks, manage your time, and prioritize your workload. You can also share your specific techniques or strategies to stay organized and productive.
- Communication and Collaboration Style: How to work best with you regarding preferred communication and collaboration.
- What you value: Sharing your core principles and beliefs is important as it gives others a glimpse into what motivates and drives you.
- Feedback and Recognition: Explain how you prefer to receive feedback and recognition for your work. Are you open to constructive criticism, and if so, what is the best way to provide it?
- Strength and Weakness: Highlight your strength and share your weakness.
- A few more things about you: You can also share more on how to help you, what you think people perceive wrong about you, or What you don’t have patience for?
It's essential to regularly review and update a personal user manual as everyone progresses in their professional journey. Your skills, experiences, work style, preferences, and values may change over time. So keeping your user manual up-to-date ensures that it accurately reflects your current approach to work.
What are some great personal user manual examples?
Many great leaders have drafted their personal operating manuals. Here are some great examples to get inspired by:
- Steph Smith, Director of Marketing at HubSpot. I really like this one because it has strengths, weaknesses, and even favorite quotes to get to know Steph. I also like that it's in an easy Google Slides format.
- Madi Taskett, Growth @ Auth0. Another one in Google Slides, in the same format at Steph Smith. The photos are a great touch.
- Sid Sijbrandij, Founder and CEO of GitLab. Gitlab is one of our favorite remote-first companies, and this user manual has so much detail about who Sid is and how he works. As a busy CEO, there is a lot of valuable information in here about how to reach Sid even when he has a lot going on.
- Lisette Sutherland, Author of Work Together Anywhere. I love how she designs her user manual on the landing page, listing her communication preferences, personal values, hobbies and quirks. She also provides other examples of personal user manuals for reference. (We have ours here.)
Pro Tip: Ask how your colleagues describe you
The way you see yourself, as described in your user manual, might differ from how your coworkers perceive you. Your colleagues have a different lens through which they observe your work style, communication approach, and collaborative abilities. Therefore, their feedback can uncover blind spots or strengths you may not have realized, enabling you to gain a comprehensive understanding of how you are perceived in the professional workplace.
Asking for feedback from your team is more than just improving your user manual. From there, you can learn to grow personally and become a better version of yourself. Embrace this crucial step, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised by what others reveal through a user manual they create for you.
Collect feedback from colleagues for User Manual
There are some areas you can ask your colleagues for feedback to create a “User Manual By My Colleagues:”
How would you describe my communication style from your past working experience with me?
Were you comfortable approaching me when you needed help or had questions during our collaboration? Are there any ways I could improve my collaboration and teamwork skills?
3. Work preferences
Have you noticed any patterns in how I prefer to work, such as my preferred work environment, time of day for productivity, or preference for independent or collaborative work?
How have you described the way I responded to your recent feedback? Are there any adjustments needed in the way I react to it?
5. Conflict resolution (if any)
How have I handled conflicts or disagreements in the past with you? Are there any ways I could improve my approach to conflict resolution or make it easier for you to address concerns with me?
6. Strengths and weaknesses
What do you perceive as my key strengths and areas for improvement? How can I leverage my strengths to benefit the team and work on my weaknesses?
Use AI to identify perspective gaps for your User Manual
After gathering valuable feedback, utilize ChatGPT to summarize the key points and identify areas for improvement. ChatGPT can help distill the feedback into concise and meaningful insights, allowing you to focus on the most crucial aspects that require attention and refinement. From the suggestions, ensure you make the necessary improvements to reach your full potential.
Try AI prompt:
I need you to be my critical advisor. My purpose is to let the team know how to work best with me and understand their opinions about me in terms of working styles to improve myself for better collaboration. I will send you my user manual and colleague feedback about my working style in extracts. Keep asking me until you receive both pieces of information. Then help me identify if my self-definition and my colleague's perspective are the same or different in a table (include "aspect," "my perspective," "how my colleagues think, "gap and advice"). And how they can improve me for more productivity and better collaboration.
Then keep providing context for chatGPT until it returns analysis and advice for your user manual.
Get your user manual game on!
If your team hasn’t created user manuals, it's time to take the lead and be the first to craft a unique one, setting an example that will inspire your entire team.
Giving examples and making sharing a part of your user operating manual initiative will increase your success, says Grain and Atlas founder Sung Yong.
"User manuals are highly valuable. It helps everyone understand themselves better. To maximize impact, we found it helpful to give examples, let people craft theirs, and then let them share the user manual in our weekly leaders' meeting. This motivates people to write and increase the quality."
But that's not all—get ready to embark on an exciting user manual activity where the whole team gathers to share their user manual and come closer together. This guide will walk you through how to organize this activity with your team and facilitate mutual team sharing that will leave everyone inspired and energized.
How to organize an exciting team user manual session
1. Prepare before the event
This activity will take around 30 minutes, depending on your team size. It works for both in-person gatherings and remote settings. Follow these steps to prepare for the activity:
- Set a date and time.
- Copy our template and send it to your team. Ensure that everyone can assess to the link.
- Communicate about the activity and ask team members to fill in the template. Each person will have one slide to note down their answers which are key elements for a user manual. Encourage your team to complete it before the event day.
2. Facilitate the activity
- Start by sharing your user manual. Create an open, honest, and transparent environment where everyone feels comfortable and respects others’ opinions.
💡 Tip: You can take this opportunity to provide context and share personal insights that can help team members better understand your managerial approach.
- Encourage mutual sharing. You should invite volunteers to share their user manuals and engage in open discussion. Some common patterns may appear after a few sharing, so don’t forget to capture it as a catalyst for team connection and future collaboration.
💡 Tip: Don’t force sharing. It is also important to ensure an inclusive environment for the team.
- Reflect on it. After the session ends, send a note to your team channel to express your appreciation and keep the momentum going. Remember, the goal of this activity is to let your team understand the significance of a user manual and get familiar with it. This activity is a starting point for each team member to create their own "how to work with me" guide. Consider giving a little nudge by attaching a beautiful user manual template.
A personal user manual is a worth-to-create tool in professional settings. Providing valuable insights into work styles, communication preferences, and expectations enhances mutual understanding, reduces conflicts, and fosters better relationships between colleagues.
With the help of AI and the feedback collected from your team members, you can bridge the gap between self-perception and how others think about you, leading to continuously improving your better self.
1. What is a personal user manual? A personal user manual is a customized guide that helps enhance collaboration by providing insights into an individual's work style, communication preferences, values, and expectations in the professional setting.
2. Why do I need a personal user manual? A personal user manual can help reduce misunderstandings and conflicts among colleagues and improve collaboration efficiency by providing a comprehensive overview of your work style, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses.
3. What should I include in my personal user manual? Key sections to cover include an introduction, work style and preferences, communication and collaboration style, values, feedback and recognition, strengths and weaknesses, and additional insights.
4. How often should I update my personal user manual? Regularly review and update your personal user manual to reflect skills, experiences, work style, preferences, and values changes. Keeping it current ensures accurate guidance for effective collaboration.
5. Are there examples of great personal user manuals? Many leaders have created personal operating manuals. Seeking inspiration from examples, such as those of successful leaders, can guide you in crafting a meaningful and compelling user manual.
6. How can I gather feedback for my user manual? Ask colleagues for input on communication style, collaboration, work preferences, conflict resolution, strengths, and weaknesses. Use their perspectives to identify areas for improvement and enhance your user manual.
7. How can AI assist in the user manual process? Utilize AI, such as ChatGPT, to summarize feedback, identify perspective gaps, and provide insights for refining your user manual. AI can help distill information for a more focused and impactful manual.
8. How can I encourage my team to create user manuals? Lead by example and initiate a team session to make user manuals together. Share the importance of user manuals, provide examples, and encourage open and honest sharing to foster mutual understanding and team cohesion.
Get Even More Collaborative and Engaging
Personal User Manual is the only way to enhance collaboration and teamwork. Check out the following tips to engage even more with your team:
- Engagement: Employee Management Software, Employee Engagement Tools, Employee Engagement Survey Providers, Employee Surveys, Employee Survey Tools
- Collaboration: Virtual Meeting Platforms, Virtual Workspace, Remote Collaboration Tools, Remote Communication Tools
- Workplace: Desk Booking Software, Room Scheduling Software
At FlexOS, we want to help you stay ahead in the future of work, check out our deep-dive guides on the most important topics for leadership and managing remote teams: