Teamwork building has been a challenge from the start, particularly in work environments. Start with yourself when improving your teamwork by creating a personal user manual. What are personal user manuals and how do they contribute to your team?
Contribute to the Team by Starting With Yourself: a Guide to Personal User Manuals
Businesses invest in group training sessions, team-building away days, and team ice breakers at the start of meetings. Some of these work depending on your team and how you go about them.
Yet many leave your team feeling the same as before while also knowing random information about each other, which doesn’t benefit your collaboration efforts. However, the reason that team building exercises work or not is that they’re getting to know the individuals within the team.
When you learn more about the different personalities in the room and how best to work with each of them, you can include this in your day-to-day work practice. Instead of trying to fish this out of your department or project team, asking for and creating personal user manuals can get to the heart of the challenge without asking for another fun fact.
What Is a Personal User Manual?
Like user manuals for anything else, a personal user manual tells the reader everything they need to know about you. Employers or other team members can get this to read and learn more about how to work with you in a way that suits you both.
It should tell them about your personality and working habits so that, together, you can discuss ways of collaborating on projects or tasks while considering the project management triangle. Creating a personal user manual can come across as putting the responsibility on others to adapt to how you work.
However, if as a team, everyone produces a personal user manual, this can start conversations and recognize the different ways of working that suit different individuals. The idea is for the personal user manual to prompt further discussions and changes, not to avoid integrating with the rest of your team.
Benefits of Personal User Manuals
For those who don’t like writing about themselves, making a personal user manual might sound like a bad idea. Personal user manuals rely heavily on the writer being honest about themselves and who they are rather than who they aspire to be, which can feel vulnerable, particularly with members of a work team.
Nonetheless, personal user manuals can provide your team with many benefits when done well. Here are some of the benefits of using them in the workplace and what to include.
When new hires join your team, it can be challenging to adjust to the team’s existing habits and fit yourself into their work patterns. Having a user manual for those they work with, along with supervisors or managers, can help new hires to find their workflow easier by knowing who they can ask for help and how.
Asking the new hire to create a personal user manual can also help the team make them feel welcome and create an effective onboarding process.
We don’t always take the time to stop and reflect on our work practices, even though this could improve our teamwork skills and work efficiency. Creating a personal user manual demands that each team member takes time to identify their strengths and weaknesses, what helps them to work, and what makes them lose patience. As a personal exercise, this can highlight areas of your workflow that you can improve and resolve workplace tensions.
Recognizes Key Traits
Every person in your team has a unique personality that responds differently to similar situations. Identifying these can explain why one person may react differently to another in various situations, which can be helpful for managers when assigning tasks within the team.
This can also help highlight similar personalities or those that clash most, suggesting pairings that will work and those which will create more tension in the group.
Finds Team Strengths
Although your team members may work on the same projects and perform similar tasks, some may suit using the virtual phone better than scheduling team meetings due to their personal strengths.
While these can be noted when working together, recognizing these in a personal user manual allows managers and team leaders to use these individual strengths within the team. It can boost morale and help your team effectively use their skills.
What to Include in Your Personal User Manual
A personal user manual needs to not only tell people about you but provide them with relevant and helpful information. It needs to focus on your work practices and character traits that relate to that, although there is flexibility in what you choose to include.
Even so, starting from scratch can be difficult. Ensure your personal user manual covers the following topics to provide your team with a rounded and applicable guide.
Online you can find various quizzes and tests to identify what sort of worker you are. If these are useful to you, they can be a great foundation for finding your work style and writing about it in your personal user manual.
Likewise, if you use a workflow documentation template, specify how this helps you and what its purpose is. Throughout this, beware of using terminology that others in your team won’t understand without explaining it to avoid misinterpretation.
On a basic level, this should include whether you work independently, in pairs with others, or as a group and the environment you need to be productive. You might include the hours where you are most focused or how you find new ideas.
Also, whether you process ideas through writing, talking about them, thinking individually, or some other method. If you’re unsure of your work style, pay attention to your productivity throughout different tasks.
It can be easy to assume everyone in a team shares the same values. This may be true, but different members will have their priorities within these. Looking at values can often explain why people work the way they do and how they order their tasks within the workday.
They can also suggest what actions frustrate you, when you would expect an apology from a team member, and what you interpret as workplace manners. Try identifying at least five values you hold and prioritize them according to what matters most to you.
This can include punctuality, honesty, interpersonal communication, or encouragement. It’s also helpful to explain what you mean by your values and how these can be seen in a workplace using an example. By over-explaining, your team can be clear on how they can show these values in a way that you appreciate and avoid confusion.
Teamwork relies on communicating well, but how that presents itself differs from person to person. What you see as sufficient communication may be the minimum to someone else.
Likewise, your team members may be interested in different information regarding projects, the business, and individual tasks. Your personal user manual can outline your preferences and expectations here.
Your communication style needs to acknowledge the frequency of messages that you appreciate, along with how detailed these are, and your preferred communication channels.
You may use different channels for different types of messages, so ensure you clarify these. This can start discussions about using the best instant messaging for business and other communication systems in the same way as a team.
Areas of Growth
Everyone faces challenges at work and has their shortcomings. Likely, we already know what these are and don’t need other members of the team constantly pointing them out.
Your areas of growth recognize where you are improving yourself, whether in learning a new skill, adapting your approach, or seeking mentoring. Highlighting this can allow your team to encourage you in your growth and celebrate your progress through checking-in emails.
Similarly, knowing your growth areas can show where you need help at work. It can be difficult to ask others for help, so including it in your personal user manual can address this in a less confrontational way. These may be simple things, such as using the photocopier or an application.
Alternatively, you may want help with your organizational skills or feeling overworked. Your personal user manual can start conversations and get you the help you need.
Personal User Manuals Improve Your Contribution to Your Team
Often, we think of teamwork as something that has to be built and done together. However, by taking the time for self-reflection and creating personal user manuals, your team can better understand the individuals within it.
This recognizes the differences between people, starting conversations about how teamwork can support and empower you, adapting usage of business continuity plan software and team processes to the individuals.
Create your personal user manual today and understand why you work the way you do. Also, read your team member’s user manuals and talk about what you can do to adapt to their work styles better.
This shouldn’t happen once but should be an ongoing discussion recognizing how people change over time and adjust to new situations. The key to more productive collaborations and better teamwork starts with yourself.
Author Bio: Jenna Bunnell – Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad
Jenna Bunnell is Dialpad’s Senior Manager for Content Marketing. Dialpad is a team communication tool and AI-incorporated unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Jenna has also written for other domains such as Codemotion and VMblog. Here is her LinkedIn.