A user manual for Dan
I was inspired by Richard’s post ‘Helping other people get to know you’. Richard includes a great list of examples of ‘user manuals’ people have written to help others get the best from them at work. I have used the headings from Cassie Robinson.’s template, and referred to @jukesie’s own effort so that I don’t ramble on too much.
My organisation has really grown in the past couple of years, and given the nature of the work that I do there is a fairly high turnaround of people¹. This applies in my own team too. Also as I ease into middle age, I think I might be getting a bit eccentric. So, anything to help new people understand ‘me at work’ sounds like a good thing.
This is a tough exercise, and I expect I’ll revisit it. Here’s the first attempt.
Conditions I like to work in
- I can manage in an open plan office, but I need variety. I also need a quiet place to go to, preferably a small office².
- My tolerance for noise is pretty high, but I don’t like harsh lighting.
- In the past couple of years I’ve really cut down on accumulated office stuff and can manage hot-desking.
- I quite like a workshop now and then.
- My favourite environment is sat just on the edge of a team who are working well together to solve problems and build something good.
The times / hours I like to work
- I start late due to a combination of circumstance and preference. It is rare for me to be in the office or available before 10.00, but I do tend to check messages and Slack in the morning before my commute.
- I will work late (until 20.00) two or three days a week.
- One or two days a week I will stop work mid-afternoon to be with my children.
- I don’t read or respond to emails if I’m not ‘in the office’.
- I have most energy in the early evening.
The best ways to communicate with me
- I respond to Slack, WhatsApp and text messages.
- Twitter DMs are ok but I don’t always keep on top of them.
- I don’t like answering the phone.
- I don’t like email, particularly long threads with loads of people in them. My email management in general is a definite area for personal development.
- I like it when people come to me informally and ask to talk. I much prefer this to people booking meetings for something that could be resolved sooner, in a fraction of the time. If I’m in an open plan office I’m always interruptible, even if I’ve got headphones on.
The ways I like to receive feedback
- I prefer feedback in person, with a further preference for one to one rather than in a group. Either way, if it’s positive feedback I will be embarrassed and downplay it. If it’s more constructive or critical feedback I will tend to reflect on it rather than react in the moment. Or at least, I think that’s what I do.
- I do like written feedback too. If it’s something constructive or critical then it’s helpful to have something to refer to, and if it’s something positive I put it in my scrapbook of wins³.
Things I need
- I really need to feel trusted, and to be given autonomy.
- I need to have open conversations, one to one and in a group.
- I need to be given time to think. Having said that, when I’m working in a domain that I have worked through and understand well then I can be very quick and decisive, with confidence.
- I need to have opportunities to coach people and help them develop. I think this is because I am removed from the practical aspects of my team’s work, so it’s a good way for me to feel like I’m making a difference despite that.
- I need big, messy problems to solve.
- I need to be running a few off-beat schemes on the side.
Things I struggle with
- It can take me a while to build up momentum. Once I’ve got it, I can find it hard to stop⁴.
- I could be more direct in situations that call for it.
- I find conflict really draining. I try to resolve it and achieve consensus, but it can take me a while and it really brings me down when it isn’t working.
- I have a lot going on in my head, with an epic list of ‘things to do’ with only a fraction getting done each day. I can forget things from the list, so I appreciate being reminded. It is good to hassle me rather than leaving me alone on the assumption I’m very busy.
- I have a really low tolerance for gossip, rumour and melodrama. I don’t like theatrical meetings when people aren’t being open and honest. I particularly dislike grand workplace schemes where people are playing for position, because if I’ve noticed then it means it’s not clever enough.
- I struggle with unnecessary process and waste. I also struggle when things get too tribal or dogmatic.
- I struggle when people won’t engage in the whole problem. I also assume that people understand things that I do, which is something I need to work at. I find it frustrating to explain the same things over and over again.
- I am shy in environments like meetups, conferences and parties. I am bad at initiating conversations and I can’t do smalltalk⁵. I’m happy to get into more meaningful subjects straight away though.
Things I love
- I love coming up with ideas and solving problems.
- I like making people laugh.
- Hugs are good, but I won’t initiate them unless I know you well.
- I really like being on stage, despite some recent problems with anxiety.
- I love building teams, especially that moment when everything starts to click.
- I really like writing and making things.
- I love work that is top to bottom good. Well thought-through, well-executed, sustainable, that can be learned from, and with a journey that’s been eventful.
Other things to know about me
- I have a low tolerance when people haven’t done the absolute basics. In particular I will pick weak or flawed plans and processes to bits.
- I don’t panic. At least, not on the outside.
- I am good at listening. I am good at reading people and picking up on group dynamics.
- I am good at keeping things in confidence.
- My resting face is a rather serious-looking frown. Underneath I’m pretty goofy.
- With the off-beat schemes and making people laugh, I think people might think I don’t take work entirely seriously, which isn’t the case. I’m very committed and will take on the toughest situations.
- I. Talk. Very. Slowly.
¹ A high turnaround just because people tend to move on every few years (or less) in the public service digital world, just in case I gave the wrong impression that I work in a punishing hell world
² I’ve never had an office of my own. Maybe one day
³ I do not have a scrapbook of wins
⁴ Such is the nature of physics
⁵ An awesome barber is really helping me with my smalltalk though