I was running a retrospective with a team I am working with recently, and we stumbled on a genuinely fun exercise called ‘a user manual for me’. I was delighted with just how successful the session was and how useful the experience was for the whole team — we learned more about each other in this 90 minutes than we had in the months I had worked with them.

After the session, I went online and had a look to see if sharing the session output was a common practice and was so impressed with what others were sharing that I thought I’d share my manual here …

Conditions I like to work in

  • I work best in a fun and bustling environment; it makes me feel like I am part of something important.
  • A working environment with design assets hanging on the walls makes me smile — I want transparency and conversations on design intent and solutions for user jobs in the team when we are working together.
  • I like having desk space with my team so that discussions can flow as we work together.
  • I prefer working in light, airy rooms with fresh air (windows open etc.) — I like to have access to go outside when I want.
  • I need to have a quieter space to mull over complex issues or problems, but that typically makes up about 10% of my time.

The times/Hours I like to work

  • I typically start my workday at 8 am and often work until 6 pm — I’m better when I have a full hour for lunch; I’ll want to get away from my workspace and grab a coffee and some fresh air.
  • I do my best work in the afternoons and early evenings when the meetings and workshops are done, and I’m in a more contemplative mindset.
  • I don’t mind being contacted at any time and I will likely respond pretty much at all times of the day during the week and evenings.
  • My calendar is open and accessible so everyone can see my availability. I don’t mind people slotting in time with me if I am free.
  • If I am working away from home, then I’ll probably be working into the late evening to get a jump on the following day’s tasks, or I’ll be working on some side project and learning something new so expect emails from me in the small hours.

The best ways to communicate with me

  • Email is the quickest way to get a response from me although I will probably be lurking on Slack and possibly Skype.
  • I will rarely answer my phone and not if the number is unknown, but I will read text messages.
  • I keep on top of my emails each day, and you can expect a response from me within an hour if I am working and within a few hours at the latest. People who take days to respond to emails drive me mad!
  • I’m dyslexic, so conversation face-to-face is always going to be better than written communication. I am a very visual thinker, reams of copy mean I’ll probably miss part of your message.

The ways I like to receive feedback

  • I’d rather have difficult conversations than having things be unspoken or inauthentic, so just be straight with me.
  • Give me feedback face-to-face.
  • I truly believe that feedback is a learning opportunity so I like it to include examples and also suggestions on how I/it can be better/different.
  • Challenge me — I know that diversity in opinion often drives better outcomes. When I am wrong, I’ll hold my hands up!

Things I need

  • I love ideas sessions with people, where we can freely think about what is possible without the if’s and but’s.
  • I like time to question everything and reflect — having said that I am driven to make progress so reflection will lead to decisions.
  • Authenticity — I find it hard to be around bullshit, inconsistency or incongruence. I actively avoid politics and posturing — I much prefer to work with people without ego.
  • I’m very comfortable working “in the open” and need whiteboards and people to kick ideas around. I’m a shocking drawer, but I love visualising ideas and things I am working up.
  • I like to feel like I am out of my comfort zone, it makes me focus on my message and leads to exceptional experiential learnings.
  • I need to feel like I am working on something that truly matters and I need to feel like I have made progress every day.

Things I struggle with

  • I struggle with people whose attitude is ‘that will not work here’ and ‘that didn’t work last time.’
  • If I don’t understand the big picture behind ‘why’ we are doing something, I find it hard to engage — don’t skip the why with me.
  • People who don’t think about the user and who can’t or won’t take the time to empathise or are not adaptive to context — often they have only one way of working, and I find that frustrating.
  • I choose agile and design-lead process because I believe they drive transparency, surface assumptions and create a profound learning culture. Sometimes experimentation is a better fit for resolving uncertainty and so a ‘by the book’ Agile person (with a capital ‘A’), and I can clash.

Things I love

  • I like hearing what others are working on and connecting up the dots of what we are doing.
  • I love workshops and facilitating co-creation and design sessions. Huge fan of Lego.
  • A generative, risk-taking culture that knows what it stands for.
  • A strong sense of direction — if I don’t have it I will create it.
  • I believe that creating shared understanding is fundamental to making progress in a high performing team — I am often the catalyst for that.
  • Beautiful and smart design and solutions to wicked problems.
  • Tinkering with technologies and learning new things. My Udemy account is crammed with new stuff ‘to play with.’
  • Working with people who are curious about everything. I am always asking questions, and I find all subjects and topics fascinating. I love exploration and discovery.

Other things to know about me

  • I like to be data-informed when I am making decisions and take every opportunity to see how users experience my team’s products and services.
  • I bring my whole self to work (and we should chat about what this means to me).
  • Actions speak way more than words in my book.
  • I always speak up for what is right even if there is opposition and I don’t shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain. I act on my convictions.
  • I’m perfectly happy being the one who points out the elephant in the room or asks the tough questions nobody else does because authenticity matters so much to me it is almost like a reflex.
  • Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who I am, and I am never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.
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