You see a meeting pop up on your calendar with someone you don’t exactly look forward to connecting with - and you groan. It’s not that you don’t like this teammate, but your interactions just never go as smoothly as you’d hoped. It feels like you’re speaking different languages, but if you’re each going to hit your success metrics, you have to work together.
Have you ever had that experience? Do you wish you could get some practical guidance on how to improve these collaborations?
If you ever get the sense that people just don’t “get you” or understand what makes you tick, especially at work - you’re not alone.
Believe it or not, this is a common problem. According to a recent State of Miscommunication report, a whopping 81% of employees say workplace miscommunication occurs very frequently, frequently, or occasionally.
The good news is, there’s a solution:
It’s called a Personal User Guide - and you already have one started with your HBDI® profile.
What’s a Personal User Guide?
A Personal User Guide is essentially a manual to help people work more effectively with you. It’s a concise collection of key information that explains what other people should know - including your working style, thinking style, and key preferences for communication, decision-making, and relationship-building.
I first heard about Personal User Guides from an article by Julie Zhuo. Julie wrote her “How to Work with Julie” guide to improve the relationship with her team when she led design at Facebook.
She later changed the name to “User Guide” after hearing about others who had created similar resources for their teams and created a template with guiding questions people could use to create their own:
- Why are you writing this user guide?
- What do you hope will result from writing and sharing this?
How I view success
- What does being good at your job mean to you?
- What are the values that underpin your understanding of success?
How I communicate
- How have other people described your communication style?
- What have you gotten feedback about in the past?
- How should others interpret what you do or say?
Things I do that may annoy you
- What causes misunderstandings you’ve had in the past?
- What are some things about your style that other people have given you critical feedback on?
- What quirks or mannerisms might unintentionally annoy a different personality type?
What gains and loses my trust
- What actions can a person take to gain your trust? Conversely, what triggers you?
- What do you love to do and are good at? What can you help others with?
My growth areas
- What are your blind spots? What are you working on? What can others help you with? You can see an example of what these sections may look like in Julie’s post.
Why you may want a Personal User Guide
Julie Zhao and many others use the exercise of creating a Personal User Guide to improve their relationships with their team, their managers, their direct reports, and basically anyone that they need to collaborate with in order to accomplish their goals.
As a result, the contents of most Personal User Guides focus on information that other people would find helpful when they need to interact with you. As Julie points out, a Personal User Guide “creates clarity on how you work - what you value, how you look at problems, what your blind spots or areas of growth are, and how to build trust with you.”
Creating your Personal User Guide with your HBDI® Profile
Does a Personal User Guide sound like a good idea? Does the idea of going through the work to create one seem a little daunting?
It turns out that your HBDI® profile provides a ready-made Personal User Guide. To give you an idea of how you can use the Whole Brain® Thinking information in your profile to act as a Personal Use Guide, here are the sections from my shared HBDI® profile:
The information in the “General Description” section provides some insight into my communication, problem-solving, and decision-making preferences based on my HBDI® results and Whole Brain® Thinking preferences. While you can’t personalize the information in the section, it provides good insights into what you’re likely to do, and what you’re likely to overlook.
The “About Me” section is customizable and aligns with the Personal User Guide template. The “I typically have more energy and interest in…” section correlates to your strengths. The “I typically have less energy and interest in…” section relates to growth areas or activities that would have the potential to drain you or stretch your natural preferences.
The “Introversion/Extroversion” section focuses specifically on your interactions with others through the lens of what energizes you and what drains energy from you. It adds some information relating to how you communicate and may provide some perspective into things that you do that may annoy others. It also helps your team know what to expect when interacting with you.
The “Communication” section is a direct correlation to the “How I Communicate” section from the Personal User Guide template. This information can be especially helpful when you’re trying to work out with others the best way to interact - whether it’s via email, text message, or phone call.
This is another section that I’m inclined to go back and edit as I look at it through the lens of creating a Personal User Guide.
The “Frustrations” section takes a bit of a twist on the things I do that may annoy you and is probably better described as “things you may do that annoy me.” Ideally, someone looking at your Personal User Guide would look at this section and adjust their behavior accordingly. At the very least, it explains why someone reacts the way they do in certain instances. For example, after my team members read through this, hopefully, they’ll be less likely to interrupt me during meetings. Or at least they’ll know why I sometimes get irritated when I’m interrupted.
The “Building Trust” section explains how my teammates can earn my trust, and outlines specific actions that gain my trust. It also implies things that will lose my trust if you consider the inverse of these actions.
As you prepare your HBDI® profile to share it with others as your Personal User Guide, here are some things to consider to make sure it's as useful as possible.
When you write your answers to each section, keep in mind the people who are going to read it, and think about how you can make it the most helpful for them. If you’re not sure if your responses are helpful, ask people who know you well for their input.
Be as honest as possible about your own personality and preferences when customizing your HBDI® profile and creating your Personal User Guide. Make sure what you write in your profile is consistent with how you act. Stay away from absolutes - avoid phrases like “I always” or “I never” because it’s tough to be that consistent.
Personal User Guides are most effective when a large majority of people who work together create and share them. Having a critical mass of collaborators personalize and share their HBDI® profiles can go a long way toward building stronger teams and accelerating effectiveness.
If you need a refresher on how to personalize and share your profile, check out an earlier post on this topic.