Aleksandra Mazur via Unsplash

Your Operators Manual: Craft Your User’s Guide

Do you ever wish you had a user’s guide for the folks in your life? Have you ever wished you could hand them your user’s guide?

When it comes to working well with others it can help to share with them a bit about us, such as who we are at our best, our personality, and our working style. Doing so can be a boon for the interpersonal work needed for great collaborations.

What you look like on a bad day or a good day is a good thing for others to know. How you are when you’re stressed, how you react, is also a good thing for others in your life to know. If you know what you need when you’re stressed, angry, or otherwise off-center, that can also be useful information for colleagues and key players in your life to have. For example, if I know that my friend Margaret gets quiet and when she’s stressed or angry, that gives me a window into what she might be experiencing. If I know that it helps her to talk about things when she’s in that state, I might ask her if she wants to talk it out and offer to be a listening ear.

Taking the time to reflect on who you are at your best, and what you need to be at your best, is the self-awareness needed to begin crafting your own user’s guide. Creating your user's guide can help you understand what you need to thrive personally and interpersonally. It is also a snapshot of where you are now, so creating a living document (one that you can keep updating as you learn and grow) allows you to see how you develop as a whole human over time.

What do you look like on your best day, and what do you need to show up as your best self? What are good interactions for you? What happens for you in bad interactions? What happened in communications that have gone poorly for you? What has been in place when conversations have gone incredibly well? What can you learn from each experience about what to ask for or create in future conversations?

Having an Operators Manual is particularly helpful in organizations and teams in the workplace. It’s an exercise that we encourage many of our clients to do not only for themselves but with their colleagues as well.


Below is a template for your own Operators Manual. Take time to respond to these questions until you feel complete. If your fellow teammates or colleagues or life partners or family members want to play along, that’s great. Once you each have an Operators Manual, take time with one another going through it until each section is understood. Leave room to ask questions for clarification of each other’s documents. As a final piece, reflect on what you learned about this person that was new? How did this information help you work differently or more optimally in the future?

*adapted from a framework used by our friends at Automattic, thought leaders in fully remote work.


Length of time at [ Company ]:

[ Company ] experience specific answers:

  • Why did you join [ Company ]?
  • What would you like to accomplish during your time here?
  • What would success look like for you?
  • What do you expect from your co-workers?
  • What should they expect from you?

My personal style questions:

  • In your life/work, what do you look like on your best day? How do you show up?
  • How would you describe your personality or working style? (For example, do you prefer to work independently or thrive in social settings? Do you prefer mornings or evenings?)
  • When things start to feel stressful, I look like this: (Describe your reactions. Do you go silent? Get more involved/dive-in? etc.)
  • When things start to feel stressful, I need this: (What might you need that you couldn’t possibly ask for in the moment? A short break to clear your head? Someone to ask you “How can I help?” A change of focus? etc.)
  • How can people earn extra points with you/build trust?
  • How do people lose points with you/break trust? What drives you nuts?
  • What qualities do you particularly value in people who work with you?
  • What is the best way to communicate with you?
  • How do you like to give feedback? How do you like to get feedback?
  • What is the best way to convince you of something? (Data, a framework for thinking about the problem, social proof from others, etc.)
  • Outside of work, what is most important to you?
  • What is most often misunderstood about you? What, if anything, would you like to clarify?
  • What would you like people to know about you or how you work?



Allison Schultz
Reboot: Better Humans Make Better Leaders & Better Leaders Create Humane Workplaces.

Co-founder and coach @RebootHQ. Lifting up the wisdom of the equines for leaders of today so we can return to our truest self.