You like to think that you know a lot about the people you work with. You know that your deskmate takes her coffee black and that your boss chews his thumb nail when he’s thinking about something intently. But how much do you really know about your team members? Do you know what motivates them at work? Or how they prefer to receive feedback? Or when they feel their most focused and productive? If you’re drawing a blank, we have your back. Use this user manual template with your team to get the lowdown on what makes everybody tick.
How to use the my user manual template
Step 1. Assign your team some homework
To make the most of this exercise, provide each of your team members with this template and give them ample time to fill it out independently. They’ll have a way easier time building a more accurate representation of their preferences when they can fill this out over the course of a week or so – rather than trying to crank through all 11 rows of the template (which ask about everything from favorite sayings to biggest challenges) in one quick sitting.
When you distribute the template to your team members, make sure to provide some context as to why you’re doing this activity. This isn’t about highlighting people’s flaws or inspiring self-doubt. Instead, it’s a way for you all to get to know each other better and improve collaboration.
Step 2. Gather your team together
It’s time to get a team meeting on the calendar. Remind everybody that they should bring their own filled out user manual template to this get together, as that will be your main topic of conversation.
The goal of this meeting is to give everybody a chance to share what they filled out in their own template. If you have a large team, you might want to save time by splitting into smaller groups. But if your team is on the smaller side, a team-wide conversation can help get everybody on the same page. Everybody – even the people who wouldn’t normally be inclined to assert their preferences or expectations – is required to walk through what they filled out in their user manual.
This should be an open conversation. Encourage your team members to ask each other clarifying questions and offer insights and observations (provided they’re polite and professional, of course) about their own experiences working with that person.
Step 3. Make the information accessible
User manuals only serve their purpose when your team uses them. They’re not something that you should discuss once in a well-intentioned meeting, before letting them collect digital cobwebs.
Store them somewhere safe and accessible where your entire team can easily refer to them. Perhaps link to them from your team homepage or other internal team page. These manuals contain tons of valuable information that will help your team work together more effectively, so make it easy for them to get their hands on those details when they need them.
Step 4. Make this a recurring activity
Not only will your team continue to evolve, but so will their preferences. You don’t want people to feel locked into the information they listed two or three years ago.
Whenever you bring on a new team member, provide them with this template and ask them to share their details with the team. You can give your existing team members a chance to discuss any recent updates to their own user manual at that same time, so that people always have the most up-to-date information about how to communicate and collaborate.
Atlassian is an enterprise software company that develops products for software developers, project managers, and content management.
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