How to Create a Personal Users Manual

personal user manual
Build trust by letting people know how you work and being a good accountability partner

Struggling with remote collaboration?  You can help by letting people know how you like to work via a Personal Users Manual. This isn’t the same as a personal brand. It is a way to tell people about your behaviors and preferences at work so that they can maximize the success of your collaboration together.

Why Should I Create a Personal Users Manual?

The idea of a personal users manual is not a new concept; it’s based on a 2008 Business Week article by Ben Dattner that resurfaced a few years ago. This useful tool now holds additional currency because of remote work and distributed teams. The need to speed up the time it takes for teams to perform well together is key. It has also gained in appeal because of the Gig Economy and the need to work effectively with both freelance, company staff, and virtual teams.

A Personal Users Manual can be a huge boon to remote and flexible work because it is all about building trust and getting out into the open preferences around work that can derail otherwise great work relationships later on.

How Does the Personal Users Manual Work?

The idea of a personal user’s manual is surprisingly simple, yet powerfully effective. The manual reflects the style you have and how you like to work. You can think of it as all the questions you wish you knew about your boss before you started. We would all love it if life came with an instruction booklet. This is is an instruction booklet for others who want to understand the instructions for you!

Here are some examples (there is also a link at the end of the article to our free Personal User Manual template):

  • When you get stressed, what is your reaction?

Do you lash out and then forget about it, without holding a grudge?  Do you need for someone to politely suggest you take a walk around the

For instance, when I get stressed, I get very quiet and intense. I still want to work and collaborate with the people around me. I  prefer that we make a specific time and space for that so that I can concentrate without interruption on the task I need that needs to get done. Otherwise, you are not likely to get a kind response if you come up and ask for a 20-minute brainstorm.

  • Do you like to freestyle with your schedule or are you someone who needs more structure?

As work gets more flexible in terms of time, space and place this is a key question my corporate clients have been asking their staff. For me, I appreciate when someone sends an agenda prior to a meeting so we can maximize our time. Open-ended meetings with no clear agenda that go on for hours tend to annoy me.

Hang on a sec, Primadonna!

The Personal User Manual is not an opportunity for you to share that you require a specific type of bottled water in your meeting room and be a prima donna about how you want to be treated. It’s more about how people can best work with you, and for you to understand how others work, so you can make the most of those relationships.

Everyone in a group can create their own user’s manual and post it on a company’s internal website or collaboration channel.  I know of one startup that presents the CEO’s user’s manual in the interview process for new staff so that they see his good and bad sides and have a window into the culture of the company. His work style sets the tone for the entire organization. It’s an indication of their culture and transparency.

Ready to try your own Personal User Manual?
Check out our free template: How to Draft a Personal User’s Manual (PUM)