Back in my banking days, I joined a team in which I was given a one-page document by a very senior leader, entitled “how to get the best out of me”. The document included a list of ways in which he worked, what he expected from his team members and how he would support me and my team. It was a bold move. Some people might even call it arrogant if they didn’t take it for what it was, which was simply giving me a tool which took the personality guesswork out of a new environment. I thought it was brilliant! It immediately gave me crystal clarity on how I could work with him. That simple one-page document gave me a whole new perspective on effectively managing teams and the Leadership User Manual is something I work on developing with many of my clients.
What are the benefits of the manual? How can it actually help leaders?
The first benefit is that in creating it you have to reflect deeply on how you work, what lifts and drops your energy, what you support in others, what makes you angry etc. It’s a wonderful opportunity to become conscious of your work habits and impact on others. I love this quote from Pema Chodron
“lean into the sharp points….and fully experience them. The essence of bravery is being without self-deception”.
The second benefit is that it helps your team to know right away, how you like to work. This stops guesswork and saves time in how you receive information and t demonstrates your values and insight to the team, which again saves time and energy. If I know you prefer me to talk through an issue with you rather send a long email, I’m more likely to do this.
When one of my clients implemented a leadership user manual with her team, they found it so useful that they volunteered to do the same with their teams.
Most people approach others with the belief that they are the same as me. That what energises me will also energise them, this is simply not true. It, therefore, avoids confusion and values difference in the workplace.
How long does it need to be?
Short sentences in bullet points are best with a few headings, making it easy to use (it is a user manual after all). You should be able to distil the key aspects in one page or less.
How flexible can it be?
You can be as flexible as you like. This is about you, your work and behaviour styles and preferences and appreciating differences in the workplace. It should reflect your personality. I don’t encourage my clients to use a template, rather I help them to create one that is unique to them.
Who should it involve? Can it be something that everyone can do or just senior management?
It’s great for leaders, individual experts that work with others (works wonderfully for lawyers, accountants and other professionals) and each individual team member. It’s also a wonderful way for the team to build self-awareness and deep understanding of differences from which you can leverage strengths.
What are at least three to five things it should include?
Here’s an example of one from Ivor Kroghrud, Lead Strategist for QuestBack.
- How you like to operate.
- Your strengths and blind spots (where the team can help you).
- Your expectations of your team. My boss in the example above had a wonderful statement that went something like this: “I will be your biggest advocate and I will let you get on with delivering your goals with your team. To enable me to do this you need to keep me informed so that I can run air cover for you when required.” I love the 50:50 expectation of responsibility in this statement and clear demonstration of support.