Communicating to yourself and others — Your Personal User Manual and other great tools

Tom Connor
10x Curiosity
Published in
6 min readJun 17, 2019


Why not simply tell people directly how you would like them to interact with you?

A key to successful teaming is being able to quickly learn how best to work with other team members. This starts with the onboarding process of new hires which provides many opportunities to make an impression about company culture and the way things are done around here. A great idea from Noel Brier, CEO of Percolate is the “introduce yourself” email which is an email send out by new hires to the team on their first day. It includes a photo (which is encouraged to be silly) and some brief information about their interests and quirks and any personal history they are happy to share.

[these] emails live on as an archive of — and inspiration for — every introduction sent by a new hire. “People go back and read them, for guidance, perspective or pure entertainment,”

Taking this idea a step further and not just for new employees it the idea of your own user manual, aimed at providing other people with an insight into your character, how you would like to deal with them and how they should deal with you. It makes so much sense rather than taking an extended time to learn the quirks of your work associates, to simply have them tell you off the bat.

Writes Abbi Falick:

My User Manual is one of the ways I practice leading out loud. It’s a living document that describes my innate wiring and my growing edge, while putting it out to the world that I know I am — and aim to always be — a work-in-progress.

Adam Bryant suggests a 6 section manual:

  • My style
  • What I value
  • What I don’t have patience for
  • How to best communicate with me
  • How to help me
  • What people misunderstand about me

This is also echoed by Aaron Hirst. Julie Zhuo has a slightly different take with her User Guide

  • Introduction- 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?

If you are having trouble articulating your Personal User Manual, it can help to ask other what they see once you have produced a first draft. Also tools such as Myers Briggs, Kolby Profile or Strength Finders can be very useful at broadly identifying your personality type.

My user manual (First draft so feedback welcome!)

(I am an INTP)

1. My style

  • I am laid back and avoid confrontation.
  • I tend to assume the best in people and that they know what they are doing. I do not like to intervene and tell someone they are wrong — unless they ask for help.
  • I love to be challenged — especially with different or counter intuitive points of view
  • I like to be right! But happy to change my mind if with a compelling argument — I am fairly easily swayed.

2. What I value

  • Enthusiasm and curiosity
  • Hard work ethic and just getting down to business
  • Creativity and playing the long game
  • Intellectual humility — recognising you don’t know it all and looking to learn
  • Flexibility
  • Spending time with my family

3. What I don’t have patience for

  • Being micromanaged and told how to suck eggs
  • Bigotry; intolerance of others; cliques and backdoor agreements
  • Sitting around doing nothing
  • Attributing to good management what is most likely good luck
  • Not responding or acknowledging hard work
  • People who are not looking to improve / People who don’t have a go
  • Talking too much

4. How to best communicate with me

  • Email — I like time to think it over your request and my response
  • In person or phone call — don’t leave a message I never check
  • Collaboratively — I get pig headed when people tell me what to do, or arrogantly assert they know best (although I realise the people that do this probably don’t realise it themselves…!)

5. How to help me

  • Send me anything interesting- links, books, Ted talks
  • Give me time and space, I like to think things through
  • Don’t expect me to be very perceptive at responding to emotions. I do not do that well. But keen to work on it :)
  • Give me a nudge if my directions aren’t clear — challenge me to be direct
  • Let me know when I have done a good job or need to course correct track. I enjoy feedback.

6. What people misunderstand about me

  • How introverted I am
  • When I say something in a round about way — more often than not that is my way of being direct and suggesting a better way.

In a similar vein to the personal user manual which is for communicating about yourself to others, the concept of a personal manifesto is a way to set up a framework which you can refer back to when making important decision.

Todd Henry writes about this in his book Louder Than Words,

the value of having a personal manifesto (or team manifesto) that can guide your work and help you do work that is personally meaningful and uniquely valuable. It’s not supposed to be an in-depth playbook, but is more of a set of guiding principles by which you make decisions and invest yourself in your work. It helps you in three ways:

  1. It reminds you of your core values, and what you’re unwilling to compromise for short-term gain.
  2. In a complex world, it gives you a simple set of rules by which to live.
  3. It shows others what matters to you, and helps you be more consistent in how you approach your work.

There are no shortage of personal manifesto examples online for inspiration.

Communicating expectations to subordinates often involves performance reviews or tasks assignments which are lengthy and generally outdated well before the annual review comes around. A neat alternative to the annual expectations report is a tool developed by Dan Sullivan he calls the 4x4 . The tool has a 2x2 grid, with the headings

  • Perfomance
  • Results
  • Being a hero
  • Drives me Crazy

Under each heading are four key items to be executed over the next quarter. It spells out exactly what you are looking for out of your people, without overly constraining them or being too prescriptive about how they achieve it. Especially the last grid articulating what drives you crazy makes it clear what they need to look out for to avoid pushing your buttons — similar in concept to the personal manifesto.

Continuing the theme of communicating to your team, a personal favourite post of mine is this one from Abhijit Bhaduri — 4 questions of a Leader. Bhaduri explores the key questions a leader should be asking in supporting his team. Flipping these questions around they provide an excellent frame for communicating up to your boss where you might need support.

  • Am I a barrier buster? What roadblocks can I remove to make them better and their jobs easier
  • Am I a bouncing board? Can they come to me with their ideas?
  • Am I providing air cover? Do I have their back?
  • How can I run with the troops to make them more effective?

Whilst communicating up, why not take the bull by the horns and write your own self evaluation to present to you manager:

Try answering three questions:

  • What have I done for the company lately?
  • What have I done for myself?
  • What do I want to be when I grow up? (And what do I need to get there?)



Tom Connor
10x Curiosity

Always curious - curating knowledge to solve problems and create change