Crafting Your Personal Operating Manual: A Guide for Women Leaders

A few years ago, I was introduced to the idea of creating a personal operating manual by one of my clients.

This client read an article and created her own manual with her team and then they all shared their manuals with each other. When my client landed in her new workplace, she shared her manual and quickly felt silly, because the idea was so foreign to her boss, peers and team. If she had to do it all over again, she would have created (or updated) her manual at the same time as her team created theirs.

The personal operating manual is similar to how a user’s manual guides the operation of a product. The personal operating manual provides insights into your working style, preferences, and values, helping colleagues understand how best to collaborate with you.

What is a Personal Operating Manual?

A Personal Operating Manual is a document that outlines key information about you as a professional. It includes details on your work habits, communication preferences, strengths, areas for improvement, and any specific protocols you adhere to. Think of it as a guide that helps others navigate working with you more efficiently and harmoniously.

Why Create a Personal Operating Manual?

  • Enhance Collaboration: By providing clear insights into your working style, colleagues can better align their approaches with yours, leading to smoother interactions.
  • Boost Productivity: Understanding each other’s preferences minimizes misunderstandings and helps teams work more efficiently.
  • Encourage Self-Discovery: The process of creating a manual requires introspection, helping you gain deeper insights into your own professional identity.
  • Promote Transparency: Sharing your manual fosters an open culture where everyone feels empowered to share their working styles and preferences.

Steps to Write Your Personal Operating Manual

  1. Self-Assessment
    Begin by reflecting on your professional self. Ask yourself questions like:
    What are my core values?
    How do I prefer to communicate (e.g., email, face-to-face, instant messaging)?
    What are my peak productivity times during the day?
    How do I handle feedback?
    What motivates me?
  2. Outline Key Sections
    Organize your manual into clear, concise sections. Here are some suggested categories:
    About Me: Brief introduction and professional background.
    Communication Style: Preferred methods and times for communication.
    Work Habits: Work routines, focus hours, and productivity tips.
    Strengths and Weaknesses: Areas where you excel and areas you’re working to improve.
    Feedback Preferences: How you like to receive and give feedback.
    Values and Motivators: Core values, what drives you, and how you celebrate successes.
  3. Keep It Concise

    Your manual should be succinct and to the point. Aim for clarity and simplicity to ensure your manual is easily digestible.

  4. Use a Friendly Tone
    Write in a conversational tone to make the document approachable. This is a tool to foster connection and understanding, not a formal report.

  5. Review and Revise
    Once you’ve drafted your manual, take time to review and refine it. Seek feedback from trusted colleagues to ensure it accurately represents you.

Sharing Your Personal Operating Manual

  1. Introduce the Concept
    Explain the purpose of a manual to your team or colleagues. Highlight its benefits and how it can enhance collaboration.
  2. Choose the Right Medium
    Decide on the best way to share your manual. This could be via email, during a team meeting, or through a shared drive where all team members’ manuals are accessible.
  3. Encourage Reciprocity
    Invite your colleagues to create and share their own manuals. This promotes a culture of mutual understanding and respect.
  4. Update Regularly
    Your manual is a living document. Update it periodically to reflect changes in your working style or new insights you’ve gained.

Work with me

I would love to help you not only create a manual – I would also love to help you ensure your actions are in line with your manual. If you would like to discuss further about how I can help you, click here and schedule a time for us to talk.

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