Creating your own personal user guide
It was great to talk with Scott Miller, host of the FranklinCovey “On Leadership” podcast, about my book GRIP.
You can listen to our conversation here.
Why make a user manual for yourself?
A few years back, my colleague Roland pointed me to a post: It’s a deep dive into Jay Desai’s User Guide, written for the people he works with. And it’s still a great idea.
At the time, Jay was running a healthcare startup with a team of 100+ people. And just as you have a user manual for things, Jay believed he could get more done, and done well, by giving his reports an instruction manual for himself. His user guide helps him build a solid relationship with the people he works with.
Jay: “People always harp on the importance of building trust and communicating — but they rarely say how. Write your user guide.”
You can download the full guide to Jay, and there’s some good stuff in there. Here are some of the highlights.
I encourage you to write your own User Guide so your team and I can learn how to work best with you.
I have to say, when I first read this, I thought “Ugh. Here we go again. Yet another assignment I really don’t have the time for.” You know the drill: you’re expected to take the time to set priorities, time to write a mission, time to set goals at work, and so on. The result? Although we hear lots of useful tips, we only truly apply a select few. And that’s a shame. What are we leaving on the table?
Deciding to be that person (plus a two-minute tip that helps)
This is what helps me:
Very few people devote time on a regular basis to this sort of thing. You can decide today to be one of them. From now on, whenever you get this kind of suggestion—whether it’s creating a user manual or anything else—write down your thoughts on the matter. That’s it. You’ll soon see that it doesn’t have to take long at all.
Take two minutes today and write a quick and dirty user manual for yourself—just a couple of bullet points to get started. Everyone has two minutes, and the impact of what you come up with in that super-short timespan may surprise you.
Add an item to your to-do list sometime in the next week or two: a two-minute window where you’ll again take a look at what you wrote and add to it or go ahead and share it.
OK, back to Jay’s user guide
I like quick “got it” or “on it” type acknowledgment notes so I know things that we’re discussing are moving.
As far as I know, I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate this. A good reminder this week: share what you’re working on—better too often than too little—and keep it short and sweet.
I am always interested in the reason WHY you believe what you believe. All of us have a calculus by which we take in information and output a decision or position. Share your logic.
We’ve all experienced something like this: We present our plan, but it doesn’t really come across. And so what we want to make happen doesn’t happen at all. It’s often the case that we don’t do a great job of communicating what our idea is and why we believe in it. Next time, back up your ideas with data and facts, and provide a clear scenario of what it can do. That boosts your odds of getting it off the ground.
Ask plenty of questions. If you stop asking questions, I will see that as a red flag.
There are always things you don’t know, whoever you are and whatever you’re doing.
Time your goals in shorter increments early on so I can see you ramping up.
I mention this in How to get your manager to work for you: earning trust by making promises you can stick to. The more results you can show, and the sooner you can do that, the sooner you’ll start building trust. Short timeframes are key.
Keep your calendar current, make your calendar responses status accurate.
This is a different category of rule, but one that rings true. I’ve noticed that in nearly all instances of double bookings or missed appointments, it’s because calendars aren’t up to date.
But enough about me. And enough about Jay. What’s at the top of your list when putting together a user guide?
Take two minutes to write it down and start your own.
Have a good week,
PS Want more on user guides? Check out this piece on the nuts and bolts of making your own user manual. It includes a clip from Adam Bryant that provides some background on the idea he first wrote about in the New York Times in 2013, and gives you some prompts for making your own.