A User Manual To Working With Me

Jon Hallett, a prolific angel investor and successful entrepreneur who I’ve gotten to know over the past few years, dropped a major knowledge bomb on me yesterday afternoon when he sent me a post from David Politis titled This is How You Revolutionize the Way Your Team Works Together… And All It Takes is 15 Minutes.

I remember having a meal in December 2011 with David at the Plaza Food Hall in New York and talking about BetterCloud which we foolishly passed on investing in. So I wasn’t surprised to have the reaction I had after reading the post, which I said out loud to myself.

“Fucking brilliant!”

The simple idea is to write a user manual about how to work with you. My partner Seth has an email he sends out to companies he joins the board of titled Welcome to Foundry which is a roadmap for working with him, but also reflects how to work with all of us. It’s similar and touches on some of the questions that David addresses in his article, which he based on a presentation from Adam Bryant, a columnist for The New York Times, titled “The CEO’s User Manual.”

In this presentation Adam gave there were two sets of questions to answer to sketch out the User Manual. The first set, focused on the individual person, were:

  • What are some honest, unfiltered things about you?
  • What drives you nuts?
  • What are your quirks?
  • How can people earn an extra gold star with you?
  • What qualities do you particularly value in people who work with you?
  • What are some things that people might misunderstand about you that you should clarify?

The second set are focused on how the individual acts with others.

  • How do you coach people to do their best work and develop their talents?
  • What’s the best way to communicate with you?
  • What’s the best way to convince you to do something?
  • How do you like to give feedback?
  • How do you like to get feedback?

I’m going to do this exercise over the weekend and share with my partners and all of the CEOs I work with to get their feedback on whether (a) it’s helpful and (b) it’s truthful. I’m going to let them give me feedback (which will help me learn myself better). As I iterate through it, I’ll eventually publish it on this blog. And, if the exercise works, I’m going to encourage every leader I work with to consider doing it.

  • This is so awesome, Brad. Management is almost entirely about setting expectations.. and this is key to good management.

    Looking forward to what you share.

  • luclevesque

    Hey Brad – glad you like the user manual idea. It’s my favorite leadership hack.

    Here’s the template I use for mine, feel free to re-use it for yours: http://luclevesque.com/post/15881999207/how-to-help-new-employees-be-rockstars-a-new-approach

  • I’m a big Adam Bryant fan – he’s very thoughtful about management and I enjoyed seeing him present this concept at the NYTimes conference recently. I believe it’s a useful tool. My one concern is that if not used with sensitivity it could come across very “top down” or “one way” e.g. how you need to accommodate me whereas I believe the best working relationships have mutual accommodation and flexibility. In fact I believe the managers take the onus on them to manage using the style that optimizes the employee’s contribution/performance.

    • In his post he says he has everyone at the company do it. I agree if you do it alone it could come across wrong.

  • I loved Seth’s letter and created one for myself. I think it is very critical for everyone to understand that the investor-entrepreneur relationship is mostly about relationship. The more you focus on relationship, the better the numbers usually become.

  • This is super useful. I will plan it for me particularly when I pitch as an independent contractor. Thanks for the useful post. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing Brad. This is an awesome concept — can’t wait to try it ou

  • Andy Waldeck

    Brad – this process is a great one. We use it across the firm at Innosight. Not only does it create needed transparency about work practices across a team – it also drives great accountability. Each individual defines how they work best – and the group can then hold that individual accountable to that specific set of criteria. Really helpful tool to create the right environment to drive upward feedback as well.

  • Scott Thomas

    Brad, what I like about this post is your drive to get feedback. Speaks volumes about you and is a refreshing take on how to best interact with others- nicely done!

  • I read Seth’s letter a couple months ago and have shamelessly plagiarized it in concept if not in exact form. It says all the things I always thought and just sort of assumed founders realized.I’ve already found that it has improved communication and is a great way to kick off a new relationship.

  • I love it. Thanks for sharing. Will be trying this out too.

    Brad, what has the reception been so far from your partners & CEOs?