A user manual for me

The user manual for my boiler. A complicated machine, very unlike a complex human.

I’m collaborating with lot of different people and groups at the moment, from paid work with clients, to side projects with friends, to Covid-19 volunteering. I’m publishing my user manual as a way to give a quick intro when I start working with someone (thanks to caitlinconnors for the prompt). User manuals are really useful for developing your team culture and ways of working, particularly when working remotely.

A few caveats:

  • I don’t expect anyone to read to the end of this! For a team exercise, I’d create a much shorter version
  • Sharing my user manual doesn’t mean that I expect all of my individual needs and preferences to be met
  • I’m writing this in May 2020, when the UK is in Covid-19 lockdown, so I’m writing with our current work habits in mind

Read more about the origin of user manuals here, see other examples here and here from Cassie Robinson. and @jukesie. Hat tip to NOBL for some of the question prompts below.

Conditions I like to work in

  • For remote work: A two hour chunk each day with no Zoom calls
  • In co-located spaces: Natural light, and, while coffee shop-style hubbub is lovely, people having loud conversations right next to me is stressful. I also need time to recover after workshops.

The times/hours I like to work

  • For client project work, 10am — 6pm, four days per week. I don’t do client project work in the evenings or weekends, except for writing, which I find much easier in the evening. I frequently do freelance admin and side project work on weekends
  • For synchronous work, I’m better in the morning

The best ways to communicate with me

  • Slack for bigger group projects, WhatsApp for small, quick projects with fewer than five people
  • Email, Whatsapp or Twitter DM for general getting in touch. Call if it’s urgent (but please don’t leave a voicemail!). All my notifications are turned off and I don’t have Slack or Twitter on my phone. I find LinkedIn painful, and rarely check it

The ways I like to receive feedback

  • Tell me what was good or bad, how it affected you or the team, and what I could do differently
  • I will always ask for your permission to give you feedback, and it helps me if you do the same

Things I need

  • Accountability. I need to know when we’re going to speak next, so I have a deadline to work to and someone to avoid disappointing
  • Intentionality about asynchronous versus synchronous work. For example, for deeper design and content creation, I like to create a v1 and then come together as a group to iterate towards v2, rather than trying to create synchronously from scratch

Things I love

  • Connecting people to each other
  • Reading and sharing useful stuff
  • Amplifying great work, giving credit and attribution to individuals
  • Coaching and mentoring people to help them accomplish the things that matter to them
  • Working in the open

When working in a team, my real strength is

  • I can simultaneously hold the short and the long-term, the tactical and the strategic, and I’ll connect everything back to our intended impact

Things I struggle with

  • Waffle. Especially if I’m in delivery-mode, I find it excruciating when people don’t get to the point. I need to work on this
  • Imposter syndrome

Things I’m trying to get better at

  • Being a better ally and embedding anti-oppression in my work
  • Genuinely honest, assertive, authentic, non-violent communication (overcoming my conditioning, which is this)
  • Reducing my perfectionism
  • Coaching! I graduate from MOE Foundation’s course in July 2020

Other things to know about me

  • My biggest passion is food. I love thinking about it, planning meals, food shopping, cooking, eating and reading about ecology, the food system and different food cultures
  • I’m super interested in learning and adaptation, the role of identity in change, culture design, community design, systems design, ending things well, uncertainty, leadership and decentralisation
  • I get upset if I perceive that the people I’m working with don’t prioritise the people they serve and their employees, and aren’t aware of how societal dynamics show up in organisations (for example, heteronormativity, patriarchy and white supremacy)
  • I have a few chronic illnesses, which mean I have to manage my energy carefully and design how I work — I have strong boundaries and I will protect them, even over pleasing others. You can read more about my illness here. On a related note, for non-pandemic times, I don’t eat gluten or dairy or drink alcohol. I take my tea with almond or oat milk, order a lime soda at the pub, and probably won’t eat the office snacks…
  • My values are Care, Growth, Freedom, Courage, Purpose, Justice, Belonging, Flair, read more.
  • My strengths are: resilience, independence, curiosity, creativity, empathy, loyalty, focus, analysis

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