Create Your Own User Manual

Create Your Own User Manual

It’s important to create a set of real Core Values that define your culture, and guide the behaviours of everyone in your company.

But what about the informal expectations and personal preferences that each manager has – in terms of how they like to operate and what they expect from team members?

I learned about a great concept called a “User Manual” from Adam Bryant, author of the book, “The Corner Office”. Basically, it’s a document to give managers the opportunity to describe how they prefer to work, their likes and dislikes, and then share this information with their team.

I’ve taken the basic concept and built a template of what I think a “Manager User Manual” should contain. I created an online workbook that guides managers through a series of questions to help them clarify and communicate their personal expectations and preferred working environment with their team members.

I’ve also adapted a shorter version of the template for team members to use to create their own “Team Member User Manuals” to share with their manager.

Once completed, I encourage managers to call a meeting to share and discuss this information with their team members. The goal is for the manager to give the team clarity about what is expected at work, and for everyone to learn how to communicate more effectively with each other.

The key components of my “Manager User Manual”:

  • What is most important for you to achieve as a leader/manager in your current role?
    (e.g. the goals you want to achieve, the impact you want to make)
  • What honest, unfiltered things should your team know about working with you?
    (e.g. what is true about you, that if known, it would help people to better understand your psyche and how you prefer to operate?)
  • What behaviors do you expect your team members to exhibit?
    (where you will challenge people if they fail to uphold them)
  • What management behaviors do you want to exhibit?
    (where you invite your team members to challenge you if you fail to uphold them)
  • What are your performance expectations?
    (e.g. Metrics and KPIs? Projects & Tasks? Due dates? Work Quality? Meetings? Decision making? Communication? Collaboration? Other?)
  • How do you prefer to communicate?
    (e.g. email? phone? text? instant message? team meetings? 1 on 1 meetings? – In what circumstances?)
  • What is your policy on communication response times?
    (e.g. emails? phone messages? text messages? instant messages? – From team members? From clients?)
  • What is your policy on after-hours communication?
    (e.g. What is considered ‘work-hours’ and what is considered ‘after-hours’? What (if anything) do you expect people to respond to after-hours?)
  • What is your policy on working from home vs face time at the office for your team (if relevant)?
  • What is the best way to persuade you to try a new approach?
  • If you were feeling stressed, frustrated, or under pressure, what behaviors would your team members observe in you? How can they best support you in these circumstances?

The process is designed to make you think deeply about who you really are as a manager, and bring to the surface your hidden personal preferences. Provide plenty of detail and examples to illustrate your preferences. Then you share and discuss this information with your team members so they don’t have to guess what pleases you.

Having everyone on the team fill out these workbooks and share them via team discussion gives the manager and the team the opportunity to clarify, negotiate, and finalize the finer points so the team can communicate more effectively and operate more productively moving forward.

What would you include in your User Manual?

Here’s my personal User Manual as a reference.


Until next time…