Do you have a user guide for you?

zen banana

Maybe you should? “A User Guide for a Person creates clarity on how you work—what you value, how you look at problems, what your blind spots or areas of growth are, and how to build trust with you.”

I’m stealing saving this idea from Julie Zhuo, who wrote about it in A User Guide To Working With You and also in her book The Making of a Manager.

The key to a good User Guide is to make it as specific to you as possible […]. Leave out the generic fluff that everyone would agree with, like “I get motivated when my work has impact.” That doesn’t tell us anything, except that you’re not a cat. Can you be more specific and tell us what kind of impact is motivating to you (and what kind isn’t?) The most effective User Guides contain snippets that might make you feel vulnerable, like you’re letting the team see you unplugged, in your PJs with rumpled hair. But vulnerability is the secret ingredient to trust. When you acknowledge your imperfections, you will receive far more rewards in the form of support, mentorship, and empathy. And you invite others to be more open with you as well.

Creating a user guide for yourself seems like such a good idea, and it’s not dissimilar to the kind of work you do with a professional coach.

Here is a template they provide as an example:

Template: A User Guide To Working With <Your Name>


Why are you writing this user guide? What do you hope will be the result of writing and sharing this?

How I view success

What does being good at your job mean to you? What are your values that underpin your understanding of success?

How I communicate

How have other people described your communication style? What have you gotten feedback about in the past? How should others interpret what you do or say? What do you struggle to express? How do you like to stay in sync with others (email, chat, in-person)? What’s your availability outside of work hours?

Things I do that may annoy you

What’s the cause of misunderstandings that you’ve had in the past? What are some things about your style that other people have given you critical feedback on? What quirks or mannerisms might unintentionally annoy a different personality type?

What gains and loses my trust

What actions can a person take to gain your trust? Conversely, what triggers you?

My strengths

What do you love to do and are good at? What can you help others with?

My growth areas

What are your blind spots? What are you working on? What can others help you with?

Additional Optional Sections:

What I expect from people I manage

What do you consider a stellar job for someone who reports to you? What do you consider a mediocre or bad job? What’s unique about your expectations that may differ from other managers?

How I give and receive feedback

What is your philosophy around feedback? What can others expect in receiving feedback from you? How would you prefer to receive feedback from others?

Now, I could see how a user guide could be misunderstood and used as an excuse to be an asshole (”I told them how to work with me, and they didn’t listen!!!”), so it needs to be held lightly. After all, you still need to be a good person and pay attention (that’s your only real job).

Creating a user guide for myself is an exercise I want to try.

Maybe it’ll be just private, or maybe I’ll share it.

Of course, creating a guide like this isn’t really the hard part. Knowing yourself is.

Comments welcome!

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