originally published January 20, 2020
If we understand how our teammates communicate, work, and learn best, we’ll be more happy and effective as a team. Maintaining a User Guide allows people to understand how to work with you. That’s why I have every member of our team at Retriever build and maintain their own User Guide.
And there are substantial side benefits. It prompts introspection and fosters self awareness.
Below is the exact User Guide that I share w/ my team at Retriever. It’s tremendously helpful in quickly acquainting new colleagues with me and my working style — including my habits, quirks, and gotchas.
Note: this User Guide is very targeted to my role and my team at Retriever. Likewise, you should consider your context and audience, and target your User Guide accordingly.
Stedman’s User Guide, as Retriever CEO
- I process things visually. I need to see written notes to get my bearings, maintain attention, and keep track of where we’re going.
- I am a direct communicator. Please let me know if this style does not work for you and I will modulate it.
- Please explain things to me on a call, not on Slack.
- I LOVE feedback. Critical feedback is great. There are things I’m messing up every day and if you don’t tell me, I probably won’t improve.
Things that you should know about me:
- ⚠️ Communication style
I’ve been told that I can be “intense”. If you feel I’m too direct, or intimidated, please let me know, and I will try to modulate during our discussions! That said, I am probably best suited to work directly with folks who respond well to my intensity. Please understand that even if I come off that way, it is coming from a place of enthusiasm and energy rather than aggression.
- ⚠️ Take notes during our meetings
I don’t trust my memory — or yours. So I want a written record of the important stuff. This means, if we’re having a meeting, I want notes taken. If I can trust you to take good notes, I will be much more at ease, and you will get more out of me in meetings.
- ⚠️ Context switching
I’m bad at it. If you need something from me that’s urgent, ask to get on a quick call to explain it (not on Slack). Otherwise, make a task in Asana with a due date of Today and rest assured that I will look at it.
- Convince me with data
I make complex decisions with data. e.g.) If we’re trying to decide how many people to hire next month, I need to see 1. a forecast of our growth, and 2. a forecast of our current team’s capacity to absorb that growth. The answer (how many people to hire) should be in line with those two things. The reason is that – when we’re making decisions under uncertainty – it’s important to articulate what we don’t know, and to try to be as precise as possible in the face of that uncertainty. When you start to layer uncertainty on top of uncertainty, it only takes small errors in each forecast to yield huge errors in the overall output. Back to the hiring example, if we’re a little over on our growth forecast, and a little under on our capacity forecast, then we can easily end up hiring too many people, which is very costly to us. Before making long-term strategic decisions, I need to see a model that justifies our decision.
I’m conservative in the sense that I prefer to “stay the course”, and tend to be pessimistic about exciting new endeavors. I will often try to pick apart an idea even if I’m excited about it. Don’t let that discourage you; on the contrary! A good idea will stand up to the scrutiny.