Create your own leader user manual

In the New York Times this year, Ivar Kroghrud, CEO of management consulting company QuestBack, tells how his one page user manual helps people get the best from him.   Kroghrud developed the practice as an officer in the Norwegian Navy.

“Part of my leadership training was about getting to know yourself and how you react under different conditions. So if you understand yourself, you can start learning more about your team. So my question was: “How can I shorten this cycle? What simple things can I do to make these people work more effectively with me?”.

The result was a one-page user guide that lets people quickly appreciate how Kroghrud ticks. Here’s an example of what’s in his user manual:

“I am patient, even-tempered and easygoing. I appreciate straight, direct communication. Say what you are thinking, and say it without wrapping your message.  I am goal-oriented but have a high tolerance for diversity and openness to different viewpoints. Say what you think and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.”

I am attracted to this idea, especially when it comes to accelerating a team through the forming and storming stages of team development.  In these stages, team members are learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and working styles.  This learning is often done on the job and can be fraught with tension and misunderstanding.

If each team member develops and shares their user guide early on in the team’s development the learning curve and angst could be substantially shortened.

I do have some caveats though. The first being that the accuracy of a person’s user manual is going to be dependent on their level of self-awareness and candid disclosure.   When teams are forming there is the temptation to present our best side to the camera and hide the warts. Worse case scenario might be that a person’s user manual is based on delusion – their self-perception is not accurate!

So the practice would require wisdom and humility but would also benefit from people applying learning from 360-degree feedback and profiling tools such as DISC behavioural styles or Myers Briggs.

When asked how people have responded to his user manual Kroghrud says there has been a 100 percent positive response.

“I think it just makes them open up. And there’s no point in not opening up, since you get to know people over time anyway. That’s a given, so why not try to be up front and avoid a lot of the conflict?”

Interested in creating your own user manual? These questions might help:

  1. What I value most (for example, speedy work or deliberate work)
  2. My preferred communication style is (e.g. bit of chit chat or straight into it)
  3. What gives me the greatest enjoyment at work is …
  4. What frustrates me most at work is…
  5. How I prefer to deal with conflict is…
  6. If I haven’t delivered to your expectation , the best thing to do is…
  7. The relevant experience I bring to this team is…
  8. My strengths are…
  9. My weaknesses are…

As a team leader, go first and encourage others in the team to answer and share their responses.

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