The 5-Minute / 10-Question User Guide

  • Jeff Gibbard
  • 10 min read

Everyone thinks, works, and manages their time and energy exactly as I do. Don’t they?

Of course they don’t but that doesn’t stop managers everywhere from having those unspoken expectations. Unfortunately, they also inevitably get upset when those expectations aren’t met.

I talk to managers…it’s kind of my thing.

I wrote a book based on many of those conversations. What I’ve discovered more than anything else in dysfunctional teams or relationships, is a mismatch of expectations and reality. The easiest way to deal with this is through communication, as early as possible.

If you can gather information before someone joins your team, that is ideal. This way, you don’t set someone up for failure by neglecting to understand where they would best fit.

If you can’t, the next best thing is to do it soon after someone joins the team.

Creating User Guides

white labeled book

Whether you’re putting together a piece of IKEA furniture, trying to figure out a new piece of software, or setting up some new piece of technology, instruction manuals are often your best friend. But unlike so many of the products we buy, people don’t come with instruction manuals. That is, not unless we create them for ourselves.

Everyone is a little different and no one is a mind reader. That is why I recommend all teams create user guides for one another. Every member of the team should do this. This helps to create transparency across the team so each member of the team knows what to expect from each other. These user guides are self-assessed operating manuals for how we like to be treated and how we work best.

For myself, I’ve created an extensive user guide for my peers and team members based on my enneagram profile, my DISC profile, my Myers-Briggs profile, feedback from my peers, and my own descriptions and explanations about my preferences.

Today, I’m going to give you a quick and useful template for each member of your team to create their own user guide. This way, everyone can be on the same page about communication and working styles.

10-Question User Guide

I recommend using the form I’ve created. It will take roughly 6-10 minutes for each person to fill out and will format the answers into a user guide.

Below, I’m going to give you the 10 questions, a brief explanation of why these questions are useful, and then I will share my own answer to these questions to illustrate the point.

1. Are you more Introverted or Extroverted?

Having each member of your team answer this question provides useful insight. In particular, this is short-hand for the rest of the team to immediately assume two things based on common usage of the terms.

  1. In general, is this person high energy or low energy?
  2. How does this person process information?

While introversion and extroversion are not measures of actual energy level, people often associate extroverts with high energy social people and introverts with being quiet and more reluctant to socialize. At the extremes, this is often the case but on the spectrum it can vary greatly.

Extroverts tend to be people who like to work things out in the moment, in groups. Introverts tend to want time to go off and process information, on their own, in order to come back with a carefully considered solution.

By using “more introverted” rather than “an introvert” this question is used as a way to get a sense of the direction rather than an absolute measure.

Neither is better, and neither of these labels are set in stone or every particularly scientific. However, it does give you a glimpse into someone’s self perception.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
I am more extroverted. I am energized by brainstorming sessions with people. I process information in the moment.

2. How much detail do you want in your communication?

This helps to understand each team members’ style so everyone can craft their communication style to best fit each other’s needs. Some people like a lot of detail, some people want high level, some are kind of in-between. It’s just a personal preference.

Again, neither is better.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
I tend to like high level information because my brain automatically and immediately fills in the details. I find it hard to follow along with granular details and it can even make me anxious. I have friends and peers who are the exact opposite, where a lack of granular detail leaves them feeling ill-equipped.

3. What time of day do you feel the best?

If you give me an important task first thing in the morning, you are not getting the best version of me, and it’s important that you know that. But if I’m free to work on it at night, I’ll have it done and perfect by morning. Understanding people’s chronotype, will help you better take advantage of their energy and simultaneously help them do work in line with their natural rhythms.

None of these answers are better. I’ll say that again: None of these answers are better.

It’s just helping you understand one another.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
I am work best late night between 10pm and 2am. It’s quiet and no one interrupts my momentum. I hate doing anything else but drinking coffee and slowly starting my day any time between 6:00am and 9:00am

4. What is your time management style?

How does this person approach their work? Do they methodically and carefully plan it out or rush to get it all done right before it’s due? Understanding how people process work, will help you plan your resources more accordingly.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
Like many people with ADHD, my brain craves urgency to function. Therefore, anyone expecting me to complete 20% of a project every day for the next 5 days needs to know: That’s NOT gonna happen. But I can do 100% of that project the day or night before it’s due. Now that you know this information, if you move the due date up, you can have it early…just so long as I don’t catch on to your due date moving game.

5. When you get stuck, what is the best way to help you?

Some people have a hard time even asking for help. In any event, when someone does get stuck, or requires help, there are ways that empower them, and ways that shut them down. Give people on the team the respect of letting them share the conditions for the type of help they need to thrive.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
When I’m stuck, more than anything, I need someone to listen and be there with me as I work it out. I am very self aware about what I need for different scenarios and I will be very clear about that. If I need someone to show me how something is done, I will say so. If I just need to vent, I’ll say that. The key for me is that the type of help I need at any given time has to be on my terms or I will resist. Unsolicited advice is almost never well received.

6. I think my top 2-3 strengths are…

What does this person think are their strengths? As a manager or as a peer, try to leverage these strengths to put the team in a position to win. Also, use the responses to help this individual see strengths they have that they may not even realize.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
My #1 superpower is self-improvement. I am a sponge when it comes to learning new things. I also process information very quickly and I’m able to recognize patterns and design simple solutions to complex problems. Lastly, I am calm under pressure. In situations where leadership under stress is required, I thrive.

7. What’s your Rocket fuel?

Rocket fuel is the ultimate motivator. These are the activities, environments, or situations that make this person come alive and bring out the best in them. Rocket fuel are the conditions that lead to flow state, and a feeling of being completely dialed into the mission and objectives.

Look for every possible way to incorporate Rocket Fuel into this person’s work.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
When I have the opportunity to overcome challenges and solve problems in service of making a positive impact in someone’s life or in the world at large, especially if it involves protecting people or creating justice in the world, I will be bursting with energy.

8. I think my top 2-3 weaknesses are…

When people freely admit their weaknesses to you, it is a gift. They may be willing to work on that weakness, or they may want to avoid it entirely. Your job as a leader is to know which path to take. What you don’t want to do is judge your team members based on their weaknesses. If you do, shame on you for putting them in a position to fail.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
I have poor attention to detail and difficulty following through without the right environment or support. I also am a bit of a control freak and have trouble not steamrolling projects and people on my way to trying to accomplish my goals.

9. What are your Triggers?

We all have past experiences. Some of us have past trauma. Some situations, words, tones, or micro-aggressions can set people off in a really bad way, both for their own mental health, but also for the health of the team.

It is important to navigate these aspects of people’s lives carefully in order to create the best team culture.

Think of this question as getting a map of the landmines you have all around the office.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
I have a massive issue with hierarchy and authority. I am particularly unpleasant when I sense condescension or any attempt to control me. These are the fastest way to shut me down or bring out the worst side of me. Hence why I’m an entrepreneur.

10. What do you do that annoys people?

This is a vulnerability question even more than the weakness question. Everyone has weaknesses, but no one wants to think they are annoying.

Being annoying is just having an aspect of your personality come into conflict with someone elses’ preferences or expectations. In this question, the individual needs to be self-aware enough to know where their behaviors have been a problem in the past.

Asking people to identify what they do that annoys other people is asking them to reflect on a weakness in a way that has even greater self-awareness.

FOR EXAMPLE: ME
I’m…A LOT to handle sometimes. I’m fast, I’m loud, and I am operating at a very high level (meaning strategic not granular). I talk a big game because I can see how an entire project can play out almost instantly in my mind. However, because my follow through is reliant on a number of factors including the team that surrounds me, it can sound like I’m “all bark, no bite” or “all talk, no action.” I get people very excited but they can feel very let down once I’m gone and the project needs to actually get done.

Do this with your team now.

A group of friends at a coffee shop

These user guides followed by a meeting to discuss the results are a great way to create greater understanding and empathy on the team. It forces us to remember that we’re all different and that different isn’t wrong, just different.

You can use the questions above, or use the form I put together. After filling out the form, it will email you the results formatted as a user guide to be shared among the team.

Becoming Superhuman
Becoming Superhuman
The 5-Minute / 10-Question User Guide
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