Reality Check: If only you had come with an instruction manual…

You know those instruction manuals that come with electronics, appliances, and other complicated products? Even though they are friendlier than they used to be, many people ignore the manuals and just push buttons till the thing does what you want it to do. Sometimes swearing is involved, which may or may not help.

However, if you do choose to take some time to read a manual or watch an instructional video, it’s amazing what you can learn.

If you’re one of those special individuals who reads instructions, consider this: Wouldn’t it be awesome if people came with instruction manuals?! 

Sadly, they don’t. But that idea isn’t completely off-the-wall. No, really, it isn’t.

Dan Pink writes about motivation, persuasion, and careers. His work led me to a software leader who had written a one-page “user manual” that he gave to workers in his company so they would know how to work with him.

Is this mind-bogglingly egotistical? Or is it brilliantly effective?

While you’re pondering that, let’s say there’s a need in your workplace to come up with new, creative ideas. If you are introverted, then being put on the spot in a big meeting with lots of attendees and no prior warning won’t bring out your best.

However, if you’re someone who thrives in groups and prefers to do your thinking out loud, that big-meeting scenario presents the perfect opportunity to shine.

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to know and work with people’s traits, rather than against them?

Different people have different preferences. Some like direct, blunt communication; others prefer more gentle interactions. Some care very much about social chit-chat; that drives others round the bend. Some love a challenge; others are horrified by a whiff of conflict. What one person finds amusing; another may find tiring, hurtful or just not funny.

People get to know each other as they work together, thus we can learn to interact in positive ways. In some cases though, we either never learn how to interact effectively, or we choose not to, making for an unhappy, inefficient workplace.

An instruction manual cuts through inefficiency. You don’t need to spend a lot of time figuring out how to work with someone if it’s in their manual! The concept is similar to establishing ground rules in a team to save time, aggravation and reduce misunderstandings.

How would you write your manual?

Keep it short. Some of us could fill a book, but if you want anyone to read it, you’d best limit it to a page or two.

Include what you value, how to communicate with you, what bugs you, and what people might misunderstand about you.

If you value humour, say so. If you’d rather have discussions in person than by email, put that in. If being interrupted first thing in the morning bugs you, say so. If people might misunderstand you to be aggressive, but you view yourself as valuing competition to get to the best solutions, write that down.

You may as well let people know who you are, rather than have them try to figure it out through unhappy interactions.

Are you thinking, “This idea is ridiculous”? Well, you’re probably not alone. However, if you have that special type of personality that can see its value, it may be worth taking half an hour to write your manual. You don’t have to give it to anyone unless you want to. You could use it as a helpful way to learn about yourself.

The instruction manual idea was originally intended for the workplace. But, why stop there? Wouldn’t this be handy for relationships? How about a manual for your spouse? Is that going too far?

This entry was posted in Develop Understanding and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.