Human beings are complex creatures. Particularly because we’re all so unique. In a work environment, this diversity brings the opportunity for stronger teams and better service for our (equally individual) customers. But because we are all so different it can also potentially spell trouble when we misunderstand, miscommunicate, or make assumptions about those we work with.
When we don’t understand those we work with this can negatively impact the wellbeing for all those involved. And with new hybrid ways of working, where you may never meet all your colleagues in person, this can be a real concern so there’s no better time than right now to start getting to know each other better. This is where the “Manual of Me” can help.
What is a Manual of Me?
Think of it as an instruction manual for people.
It might sound counter-intuitive to imagine yourself as a piece of machinery, but we’re all important cogs within our organisations, families, friendship groups, etc. If we better understand how to ‘operate’ each other, we get the best out of each other – and ourselves.
Essentially, your ‘user manual’ lays out the ways in which you like to work, to make it easier for people to understand your motivations, preferences, and frustrations.
By using these manuals, we can more easily meet each other’s needs, better empathise with different perspectives, and respect people’s boundaries.
Using the Manual of Me
I’ve now used this tool at three different workplaces (a charity, an arts organisation, and a private healthcare company) and find it invaluable. Here are some pros:
- They’re quick and easy to complete
- They’re a great team-building exercise
- They’re a much faster way of understanding the basics of how someone works
- They make people’s preferences really clear, so you don’t have to guess
- They can be flexed to suit you and your team: people can keep it strictly work-related or be as personal as they like
And a few things to bear in mind:
- Be clear about the purpose of the exercise
- Make sure people understand that it doesn’t necessarily mean preferences can be met, but there’s still a benefit to sharing them
- People might have a different Manual for when they’re in the office and if/when they work remotely
- Let people complete theirs however they’d like — this will also tell you a lot about them!
- If someone doesn’t want to do it, or share it, that’s their choice (you can always revisit the idea once they’ve seen how it works for others)
What it could look like
You can use whatever format works for your team. And it doesn’t have to be the same for everyone.
For example, in my current role, I’m expanding and embedding a new team and the Manual of Me has been a great way for us to get to know each other. I shared some prompts and gave everyone space to reflect and complete it on their own, or meet up if that’s what they wanted.
It was interesting to see the variety of approaches – there were lists, tables, and Figma boards complete with images. The format said almost as much about each person as the contents of their Manual.
Alternatively, you could get together to discuss each section as a group, like in a team meeting or at an away day. Just give people space to think things through. When we have time to think about why we are the way we are, we can surprise ourselves. And hopefully, the reflection process is interesting, useful, and enjoyable.
Common topics to cover
- Conditions I like to work in…
- The times/hours I like to work…
- The best ways to communicate with me…
- The ways I like to receive feedback…
- Things I need…
- Things I struggle with…
- Things I love…
- Other things to know about me…
The Manual should add value to your team and organisation, so change it as you need to in order to get the best out of it.
As an example, here’s my own Manual of Me. I wrote this alone, during my allocated learning and development time, and have shared it since.
Putting it into practice
Once your Manuals are complete and shared, your team will have a better understanding of how to get the best out of themselves and their colleagues.
For example, now that Jude knows Ashley prefers a phone or video call to a long email, they can contact them in a way that’s more efficient for them both and shows their colleague that they respect their wishes and boundaries.
Another example is a manager needing to delegate a challenging project. They know which of their team will enjoy this work because someone’s shared that they like being trusted to take risks as it helps them to learn.
A Manual helps with seemingly small things too. Imagine you can tell that a colleague is having a bad day, but you know a packet of crisps will cheer them up because they mentioned loving savoury snacks.
New people should be encouraged to create and share their own Manual of Me. And it’s useful to revisit everyone’s once in a while, as lives and circumstances change.
Manual of Me benefits
As you can see, the Manual of Me is a shortcut to:
- Better empathy
- Stronger teams
- Open communication
- Psychological safety
- Increased trust
- Improved wellbeing
- More efficient delivery
Give it a go and let me know how it goes!
This article is part of CharityComms’ Wellbeing guide for comms professionals.
Banner Image: Ylanite Koppens on Pexels