I ran across a tweet recently that posed an interesting thought: What if managers created “personal user manuals” about their management style? Back in the old days, we called this managing up. Managers would share information about themselves with their teams – things like “I’m not a morning person.” or “I like communicating via email.”
Employees could then use the information about the best times and methods to communicate with their manager to help them get the necessary resources to do their job. Thinking back, managers were, in a way, giving employees a personal user manual.
But, in thinking about the personal user manual concept, it seems like limiting this to managers could be short-sighted. Why not ask every employee to create a personal user manual? I can see two huge benefits:
- Employees learn more about each other. The original idea of a personal user manual is to help others learn more about you. Great communication starts with understanding your audience. Personal user manuals are basically the audience giving you the roadmap to working with them.
- Employees learn more about themselves. Writing a personal user manual for others implies a tremendous amount of self-awareness. You can’t tell others the best way to work with you…if you haven’t figured it out for yourself. Today’s business world requires employees to self-manage. This activity could be a good first step.
Creating a personal user manual can be something you do on your own. I could see it being a part of career journaling. Or it could be an activity that takes place during onboarding. The organization could give new hires a Moleskine (or something similar) and ask them to journal their first 30 days on the job.
How can you turn your career journal into a personal user manual? Here are five steps to get you started:
- Think about how you would use this information. And who you would share it with. Developing a personal user manual has a goal – better communication. Consider what information you would like to share and the co-workers you want to share it with.
- Be prepared to accept the personal user manuals of others. Before doing anything realize that, unless you plan to keep the manual completely to yourself, you need to be open to accepting the manuals of others. This means being open to changing your style so you can communicate with them better.
- Conduct a self-assessment. Start documenting how you like to communicate, make decisions, collaborate, problem solve, etc. If you’re stuck, pull out personality assessments you’ve taken and old performance reviews. They might offer you a baseline to get started.
- Solicit feedback. After you document your thoughts, consider getting some feedback about your manual. Each of us has perceptions about ourselves that may or may not align with what others think. And the activity of creating a personal user manual is going to bring those to light.
- Regularly revisit your manual. Times change and we do too. As new communication methods emerge, you could discover new ways that you really enjoy (or that totally aggravate you). Not only should you review the information in your manual, but revisit the goals and make sure the manual is accomplishing what you want.
Personal user manuals could be an individual or team activity to improve performance through better communication. It does involve commitment to completing the activity. But the rewards of transparency, feedback, and openness could be worth the time and effort.
Image capture by Sharlyn Lauby after attending the Great Place to Work Conference in Austin, TX16