At one time or another, we’ve all wished that people came with an instruction manual. A guide that answered questions no one thinks to ask and provides information we often forget to share. Every big-ticket, important, valuable item comes with instructions. Why are people any different?
The beauty of humanity is that we’re all unique. However, our differences often lead to frustration, miscommunication, lack of productivity, and can even end up threatening our job performance. How can you bypass miscommunication and anxiety? Develop a personal user guide!
What is a Personal User Guide?
Just like electronics and appliances come complete with operating instructions, your user guide is a set of guidelines illustrating how to operate you.
Your personal user guide enables you to perform at your best, whether you’re a manager or part of a team. This guide should answer questions about your communication style, values, pet peeves and what a team can do to help you perform at your best, even under times of high-stress.
Sample Questions that a User Guide Might Answer
- How would you describe your work style?
- What is the best way for people to communicate with you?
- What do you value the most in people you work with?
- How can people help you be at your very best?
- What do people sometimes misunderstand about you?
- What will you not tolerate in others?
Improve Company Culture, Collaboration, and Communication
Aside from the traditional interview and first-date questions, a personal user guide digs deeper into your thoughts and feelings to allow your co-workers the opportunity to learn how to best work with you. Not only does communication between a team improve when you understand the person you're working with, but the team is more collaborative, the team turns into a tribe, and the company culture flourishes. Overall, having a solid base in this area can set the stage to improve your company's overall sales performance!
The first step? Create your user guide. Using questions like the list above, create your guide, listing out each category and what your coworkers should know about you. It might read, "The way I like to work is… and this is how it applies to my team." Along with many other 'directions' on how to best work with you.
For example, when you’re focused and in deep concentration, do you unintentionally appear angry or annoyed? If so, this is essential information to include in your personal user guide! While it’s a normal appearance and habit for you, it could cause major misunderstandings for others.
If you prefer quick and concise recaps, teammates need to know, so they don’t send an email that takes five minutes to read. And vice-versa! If your teammate prefers specific details, then you should make it a goal to send them detail-oriented reports.
Clear, concise, and brief information in your user guide will help others get to know you and your work style, helping to build a trusting relationship that will improve everyone’s performance.
Team Bonding: Write User Guides for Your Work Styles
Sales managers, CEOs, and executive coaches are always looking for ways to shorten the learning curve for teams to find the best way to work together. How can you get the most out of your team?
The next step is to have each person on your team create a user guide for themselves. Give them some prompts and questions like the list above, and ask them to spend some time developing their own user guide.
Now for the fun part! As a group, have everyone read their guides and ask questions. Are there similarities that you didn’t realize? For example, on my team, we all realized that we prefer a bullet-point communication style to tons of detail. For years, we have included extra detail in our emails that no one really needed. Now we’re more efficient!
Building a Successful Team
The best managers understand the importance of growing solid, working relationships with their people, and there are lots of ways to build good teams and working relationships. Personal user guides have proven their value for our team, and we continue to grow and learn more each day.
When I’m working with teammates, I notice myself spending a few extra minutes thinking about whether I’m applying their guidelines and preferences so I can ensure I work best with them. It’s a personal goal of mine to use their own advice to work with them most efficiently.