Do you have a user manual?

Transparency about how we work and learn, our preferences, values, beliefs, likes and dislikes, ultimately shortens the learning curve for your colleagues by making explicit the things that often take many years to learn through trial and error. A critical and candid self-reflection via the creation of a user manual is one way to practice radical candour and transparent leadership. A user manual is not static; rather it is a living piece of writing that captures a moment in time and articulates that you will always be a work in progress.

Inspired by the work of Adam Bryant and Kim Scott, this self-reflective exercise can serve as a prompt in identifying specific areas for personal growth, or it could be an activity a leadership team performs together as a discussion starter on how to become a more effective team.

Bryant recommends asking yourself questions like,

“Which activities give me energy, and which deplete me? What are my unique abilities, and how do I maximize the time I spend expressing them? What do people misunderstand about me, and why?”

Here is my first attempt.

I used to wag finger painting in Kinder so I guess I have always been a bit rebellious.

I identify with the tenants of progressive education but believe that there is always a place to learn directly from the instruction of others.

Your teaching style matters less to me than your attitude and dispositions toward the profession.

I enjoy exercise. In fact, I need it. Often I will squeeze in a run or a gym session on my lunch break. I make this a priority by scheduling it into my day and find that I am 100% more productive in the afternoons if I do.

I am constantly reflecting and learning. I value doing over perfection. I do not always know what I am doing and sometimes lack confidence, but I accept that, and just let my bias toward action guide me. I am committed to continuous improvement.

I have a diverse range of interests and believe that one of the best things you can bring to the workplace is a multitude of various and varied life experiences.

I believe in giving people freedom to do what they do best and then support in whatever way I can.

Intellectual stimulation energizes me. I enjoy turning challenges into opportunities. I enjoy working with people who are open to ideas and can explore possibilities.

Saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way.

I do not have patience for over-analysis of non-important issues and sometimes being in a discussion about semantics frustrates me. I also dislike grandstanding. If you have an issue come and see me and we can work through it. Do not wait until a public forum to air your concerns or issues for the first time.

I am fiercely loyal but if my confidence is broken it is hard to repair. Be open and honest, communicate with me and treat people around you in a friendly and professional way. When communicating I like to get to the point. I also like others to do the same. Please don’t talk in riddles. Say what you mean. Be yourself. Challenge and disagree with me because I value this. But please be respectful.

Communicating face to face with me is preferred, but sometimes if you require a thoughtful and considered response, an email can also work. I appreciate people telling me what I need to know, not what you think I want to hear.

I’m often working on many different projects so appreciate help making sure all the details are covered, and flagging for me any that need my attention.

Have empathy for others, as you never know the struggles they are going through.

I value difference and believe in diversity. High functioning teams have a range of experiences, expertise, skillsets and mindsets.

I want every member of my team to feel valued and empowered. I want you to feel supported in your quest to be a better version of yourself, because I believe we can all be better. 

This is not exhaustive by any stretch and still needs a bit of work, but it is something I look forward to revising and revisiting regularly.

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