A Manual of Me is a user guide for you, to help others get the very best from you in a working environment.
So often, when new people join a team, it takes months to understand how they thrive professionally, the way in which they prefer to communicate, engage and collaborate ( or not ). The Manual of Me attempts to accelerate that process.
The Manual of Me isn't just useful for when you join a new team though - by creating it, you'll also be discovering more about yourself, and taking the time to understand how you unlock the best version of you.
In the Summer of 2017, Matthew Knight founded a small community of people who wanted to take an active control over the future of their work. This group called itself Leapers, and part of its goal is to support anyone who is making an active move within their career.
One of the ways we plan on doing this is by creating tools and products which help people look at how they work, and build upon it - the first of which is the Manual of Me.
The Manual of Me was an idea suggested to the community by Simon White, in this article he posted on the slack and medium blog, which resonated with the group, and it was decided that we'd try and create a tool which helped people to create their own. This is the result of that project.
After a few chats online and a technically less than perfect conference call, the project started with a handful of the group feeding in their ideas of how the platform could be created and be useful.
The idea of a Manual of Me is far from original. Based upon my own research, it seems to have been popularised by Adam Bryant, through his series of interviews with business leaders for his Corner Office column in the New York Times. An interview with Ivar Kroghrud, CEO of Questback back in 2013, outlines how the founder created a User Manual for working with him.
"I tried to think of a way to shorten the learning curve when you build new teams and bring new people on board. The worst way of doing it — which is, regrettably, the normal way — is that people just go into a new team and start working on the task at hand, and then spend so much time battling different personalities without really being aware of it. Instead, you should stop and get to know people before you move forward." -- Ivar Kroghrud
This concept traces back though, to an earlier Business Week article from 2008 by Ben Dattner, which has now been taken offline, but outlined the idea of creating a simple guide to getting the best out of you as a manager. Many comments drew parallels to profiling tests such as DISC or MBTI, which aim to create a simplified view of an individual's traits, i.e. working styles, introversion/extroversion, whether they're a certain colour of personality type. The difference between Dattner's model and these other models, though, was the authorship. Where MBTI and similar tools try and put you in a box which describes you best, Dattner's User Manual gave the author the opportunity to write their own definitions, and highlight the things which mattered to them.
The idea was accelerated by Bryant's 2013 article, and coming back closer to the present day, where the demand for emotional intelligence in the workplace has again risen its oh-so-important head, a report from the World Economic Forum stating that emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills in the changing landscape of work, and a greater awareness of the importance of emotional wellbeing, autonomy and more empathetic management styles, the time feels right for a smarter way of getting to know new colleagues.
In addition to new management styles brought about by recognition of the human and emotional need, the physical manifestation of work is changing dramatically too, with increased flexibility around when and where someone works. Changing legislation around parental leave, flexible working hours, improvement in the technologies which enable remote and distributed working, often pioneered and championed by start-up culture in Silicon Valley and similar pockets of entrepreneurial culture across the globe, we are increasingly seeing the erosion of the the 9-5 office, populated by faceless 'resources' to get a job done, and a shift towards dynamic and agile teams, inclusive and diverse groups of people, from a wide range of backgrounds, and bringing a broad range of skillsets, some in the office, others working remotely; some in full-time employment, others on contract.
Add to this, the 'millennial' attitude towards work, perhaps driven by two global recessions and the seeming impossibility of ever having enough money to own a home, a significant rise in the notion of 'purpose-driven work has appeared, along with 'side hustles' and the almost exponential growth in small and medium businesses, over 76% up in the past five years in the UK alone - the notion of workplace culture, and how important it is to people's happiness, engagement and motivation at work, as well as success, has never been more visible.
It isn't just about results and getting your job done - its about how you interact with others and how they interact with you: relationships.
No small amount of focus has been placed on 'workplace culture' recently, and an increase in specialists who do nothing but help organisations design themselves better, businesses like Undercurrent, and more recently NOBL and August to name just a couple, are helping teams to work better together, to create better behaviours and better internal cultures, and the Manual of Me continues to be used by these sorts of organisations when they help their clients get to know each other better, as well as onboarding tools for their own people.
Tools like the Manual of Me are just one in a potential arsenal of many to help the individual work better with the rest of a team, but also as a way to explore your own ways of working and understand more about yourself.
A group of leapers have also been committed to the project from the outset, Simon White for initiating the idea, Phee Waterfield, Beenish Cheema, Christian Burne, Mat Dobson and Martin Rowlatt to name a few from the working group, and to all of our beta testers, who provided invaluable feedback on the early stages of the project.
The teams at NOBL and August are hugely open in what they do, sharing resources, tools and guides for how they approach their work, and we've proudly borrowed some of their work to inspire our own tool, in particular, Bree Groff at NOBL has been incredibly supportive and helpful in the development of Manual of Me. Charles Rowat's post on Ways of Working, and also the TeamCanvas project have both informed the design of MOM.
And not least, to everyone in the Leapers community - for supporting each other and being a group of wonderful explorers.