Reduce conflict and increase collaboration

How personal user guides help teams perform

One tool to improve working relationships and reduce conflict
How personal user guides help teams perform
Photo: fizkes (Shutterstock)
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Banks is the founder of Smark Workweek, a company focused on helping businesses transition to the 4-day workweek and was the co-founder and CEO of Uncharted, an entrepreneurial accelerator

We often start projects and collaborations without understanding of our colleagues’ practices, expectations, habits, and routines. Yet, having a clear understanding of others can build healthy working relationships, increase the chances of effective collaboration, and decrease misunderstandings and performance issues in the future.

As a founder and leader, the personal user guide is one of my most used tools to build awareness of others while sharing and adjusting habits and expectations.

How to write a personal user guide

A personal user guide is a document that outlines a person’s working style:

  • Your preferred method of communication for different types of work
  • The way you best receive feedback (and approaches to feedback that you dislike)
  • How people can earn your trust
  • Your working hours and workweek cadences
  • Any working quirks or personality dimensions that might show up
  • Areas of weakness or current growth opportunities
  • Meetings and coordination norms
  • How you want to seen and acknowledged

I decided to build my own version for my fast-growing company, and soon everyone at our organization had developed their personal user guide. For new hires, one of their first tasks is to complete their guide and share it with their managers and peers. This acted as a conversation-starter for direct reports and their managers, and it provided a reference point to improve partnerships and outcomes at all levels.

Set yourself up for success

Unlike some personality tests that tend to be more interesting than useful and directly applicable, the personal user guide is practical and focuses on the specific conditions a person needs to thrive at work.

If you’re interested in creating your own user guide, feel free to make a copy of mine and make it your own. Then, after you’ve deleted, added, and reworked the document, share it with those you work closely with, internally or externally. Use the personal user guide to empower yourself and help others work with you better.