Me-Manuals: An Experiment in Over-sharing
It started with a conversation between co-founders. Earlier this year we were reminiscing about how over the past few years of working together we now had a really good understanding of how each other thinks and works, and how we can now communicate effectively and efficiently. “Wouldn’t it be great if we knew all of that when we first started?”, we asked.
A few days later we came across an article on personal READMEs. Great timing. We thought we could put our own spin on this concept to fast track how our whole team could get to know each other and to work more effectively together. Rather than a new team member spending years trying to understand how others in the team operate, people could get up to speed quickly and not second guess others’ communication preferences.
While it only started with the founders writing their Manuals, we’ve had over half the team decide to also write their own and share with everyone. So after experimenting with our “Me-Manuals” over the last six months and seeing positive outcomes, we wanted to share the learnings we’ve had.
What is a Me-Manual?
Typically it takes months and years of trial and error to learn how others work, what they like and what annoys them. A Me-Manual is a document that you write to make it easier for others to understand your subtleties, the way you operate, and provides a way for people to get the most out of you and interactions with you. There is no set structure for how you write your Manual and so far everyone’s Manuals at Auror have been very different in terms of content and length (many are just one page).
It is NOT a prescriptive document outlining how you are going to manage others or demands for how people interact with you. If you get this wrong, it can have negative impacts on your team. It is meant to be insightful and is merely a starting point for further conversations between people.
What do we think makes a good Me-Manual?
Before you start writing, you should first spend some quality time dedicated to better understanding yourself. Write down particular quirks or traits you know you have, ask for feedback from people you work with or know you well, and do some online tests to find the things that resonate best with you (such as Myers-Briggs, Harrison Assessment, or Gallup StrengthFinders).
Here are some areas that we have found useful to cover in your Manual:
- Your personal mission statement: share what drives you and how you see the world.
- How you think and make decisions: Are you a fast thinker or a “gradual processor”? Do you prefer to share your immediate thoughts out loud, or do you consider everyone else’s points of view before making a decision or speaking?
- How you prefer to communicate and get feedback: Do you like working at night or on the weekend?
- Your areas of weakness: What things are you actively working on (and that you want people to provide feedback on or help you improve)?
- Personal details: Anything that will help people to get to know you better. This could be hobbies, kids, your love of donuts, what you are currently learning about etc. This makes you more personable and interest people can talk to you about when getting to know everyone.
What have we learned so far?
1. It requires intense introspection prior to writing and candid feedback from those close to you. This process can also positively change how you see yourself and how you act towards others.
2. You need to continually update your Manual. If something no longer holds true, change it. If you are getting consistent feedback on a particular point, add it in. If possible, also record what you’ve changed and the date it was last updated.
3. Don’t be rigid on how you operate.
As a leader you need to adapt to how others work and the environment you are in. The benefit in everyone sharing Manuals, is it gives you a chance to adapt to the particular person you’re working with.
4. You need to have a strong desire to improve your known weaknesses. Encourage people to call you out and take time to better yourself.
5. It has resulted in positive outcomes: Having a better understanding and appreciation for others has reduced friction in meetings and decision-making processes.
Over the last 9 months, we have doubled the size of our team. With this many new faces, it is imperative people get up to speed as fast as possible.
We have found that Me-Manuals have:
- created a better understanding of how everyone operates;
- assisted with how the team collaborates and works effectively together; and
- been great conversation starters with new team members.
We will continue to refine our Me-Manuals and encourage our team to share theirs when they are ready. Our next challenge is to see how we can help people work on their highlighted areas of weakness that they want to improve. Watch this space.
P.S. Here is a link to some other companies Me-Manuals we found while writing our own.