Heidi Connal
Creating Your Personal Leadership User Manual

Years ago, I was invited to the All-Hands meeting of a CTO I greatly respected and admired. One of his agenda items was to review the “About Me” slide deck he’d created. I watched, fascinated, as he shared with his rapidly-growing team the keys to understanding his leadership style, his values, his motivations, his approaches to conflict and resolution, and his strengths and weaknesses. The impact on the room was immediate: attention perked up, heads nodded, shoulders relaxed, eyebrows raised in “ah-hahs”, and you could almost hear the gears turning in the minds of his teams.

Imagine having the answer keys to your leaders and peers. Actually, imagine having leaders who are so self-aware and deeply communicative that they can articulate themselves in a “What Makes Me Tick” user manual. Image that this is YOU who’s created this personal user manual.

When you empower your colleagues and teams with this information, you’ll see immediate behavior changes as they have:

  • Greater understanding of your how your mind works
  • Accurate anticipation of your thought process and priorities
  • Effective adaptation of their own leadership styles to mesh with and supplement yours (a yin to your yang!)
  • Dynamic adjustment of expectations from what should happen to what will happen
  • Internal dialogue about their own “What Makes Me Tick” user manual

Honestly, the main benefit is the insight. They’re no longer guessing what might be successful or not – because they know.

During my coaching engagements, I encourage most of my leaders to put themselves down “on paper” for themselves and their teams. It’s an organic document, naturally, as we change and grow and experience additional self-awarenesses. As a start, here are some helpful elements to include in your What Makes Me Tick User Manual - and if you’re looking for a readily-formatted document, make an editable copy of this Google Doc or Google Slide preso!

  • Leadership Vision: From Harvard Business Review, a leadership vision shares “what you want to accomplish in your life and what kind of leader you wish to be. A useful vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you, and the people whose commitment you need, to act to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see.”
  • Personal Values: Our values serve as a compass pointing out what it means to be true to ourself. These values are our most meaningful ideals that inspire us to keep going when the going gets tough. Excellent exercise here!
  • Strengths: What are your superpowers and the things you do easily and successfully? We define these because they’re the areas we instinctively gravitate towards. If you have a hard time defining them, head on over to Clifton Strengths and take their Top 5 Strengths assessment.
  • Career Development Plan: What are you consciously looking to stretch and improve for yourself? These should be defined so that your team and colleagues feel part of your journey (and, indirectly, so they start to think of their own development areas).
  • Introvert / Extrovert / Ambivert: Help your teams understand how you classify yourself and why.
  • Assessment Type: If you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs or DISC or Enneagram or Personality Index (or any of the hundreds of others) and you found the results compelling and validating, then share your type and explain why it’s spot-on.
  • Leadership Philosophies: What leadership traits do you admire and why? What leadership traits do you intentionally avoid and why? What authors / quotes / methodologies do connect with or find particularly inspiring?
  • Personal / Honest / Unfiltered Things About You: Personal insights make people feel more connected with you as a human. Share about your family, your background, your personal story - as much as you feel comfortable.

Additional elements to consider:

You can expand or edit this user manual as much as you’d like - it’s yours, after all! Here are some other “about me” items I’ve seen in leader’s user manuals through the years:

  • Things that Impress You: What makes you perk up and get excited? What do you hear or see in the workplace that gives you energy? It could be data, or reason, or specific customer stories.
  • Things that Test Your Patience: These are the your triggers and annoyances. It could be anything from people who interrupt others to people who chew with their mouths open. An executive I worked for years ago said he couldn’t stand when people took out their phones in front of him, and of course - after hearing that - we all put our phones away when we came into the room.
  • Recognition Style: Think of how you like to be recognized, as well as how you prefer to recognize others. Or, if you’re someone who forgets to recognize all together - be honest so your team knows to step up and fill in that gap.
  • Communication Style: Are you a verbose writer or talker? Or are you a person of few words? One of my less expressive executive clients learned to tell his team “I’m not an effusive person, so you won’t hear me express deep excitement or energy. But know that I’m listening and engaged and - unless I tell you otherwise - I’m definitely pleased.”
  • How To Best Communicate With You: What are the best ways you consume information? Are you data-driven or theoretical? Do you like charts? Are you more of a brainstormer?
  • How Can People Help You? What kind of feedback do you like? What support do you need? What are the tips and tricks to you, here?  
  • Career Development Style: Some leaders believe career development should be a monthly discussion between leader and employee. Others believe it’s up to the employee to take initiative. Others fall somewhere in between. Help your team understand your stance and mindset on career development and what they should and shouldn’t expect from you.

Creating a What Makes Me Tick user manual does require a thoughtful, insightful approach - and therefore time. But the responses you see as a result make the effort worthwhile. Once you’ve created it, make it visible by sharing it it early and often:

  • Via all-hands meetings
  • In your direct report leadership team meetings
  • On the profile of whatever communication platform your company uses most (Slack, Chatter, MS Teams, Yammer, Workplace, etc)
  • Hanging on the wall of your office
  • Revising and re-sharing it often so it reflects additional realizations you’ve had about yourself

Let us know what yours looks like!

Better Leaders, Better Culture
Elevate your culture from the top down. Let’s connect and work toward a positive transformation.
contact us