User manual of me

This is inspired mainly by the Rands “how to” post about his work and management style. I’ve been enjoying his writing for over a decade, so his is one of my favourites. The purpose of a user manual is to take the opportunity to share our preferences and working style, and also provide a few spoilers about our quirks.

I’ve wanted to write my own User Manual of Me for years now, and now that I’m working with a client to design theirs, I filled mine out for fun.

Note that this is a living document and will be updated as I continue to evolve towards total perfection.

Why I’m in this job.

What motivates me to come into work each day is that I’m doing my own thing. I approve my own clients and work on projects that inspire me and challenge me to grow personally and professionally.

The conditions I like to work in are:
Quiet with little distraction. I find it tough to focus on one conversation when there are several that I can hear. This is why you’ll often see me working with noise cancelling headphones. I am social and like people, so that coupled with the difficulty focusing means that the open office format is the Anti-Jessica.

In times of stress I prefer support to look like a simple “how are you”. I’ve found that if stress is acknowledged, it can be moved through. I’ve gotten pretty good at delegating so I’ll let you know if there’s something that needs delegating, and if I think you can help.

My best working patterns look like …
(what hours you like to be at the office, do you check anything from home outside of these hours, do you need to leave at a specific time, do you have a remote work arrangement)

I like to start early and take breaks throughout the day. I work on personal things, like my creative writing, before I start work for the day and I always make a day’s to-do list. I work remote FT and prefer video meetings to voice only. I only have one Vancouver-based client at the moment so I am not often in Vancouver. 

I add value to teams by…
(what role do you fill historically with the most success?)

I’m an executor. I often won’t get hung up in the creative details, I have a deep desire to get sh*t done and celebrate that sense of accomplishment with you. Give me clear goals and a good team and I’m excited. A decent team and draft goals will do as well. Just give me something to lead, please!

People often say I’m brilliant at….
(think of compliments you’ve received either at or outside of the office)

 running meetings! I wish this were something with more brilliance to it. I do love a well formatted meeting with clear roles, defined agenda that finishes 5 minutes early

Things I struggle with are ….
(What really grinds your gears, or irritates/annoys you?)

People who complain. I am working to be more patient with this, however as someone who has been through many challenges and created the life I want to have, I forget sometimes how overwhelming it was for me before I was empowered to make the changes. I’m sorry if I’m hard on you, and I’m working to instead figure out how to empower you. Come to me with solutions to go with the problems. Chances are, you’re closer to the situation and already know the best path through! Perhaps we’ll come up with something together, but I bet you already know what changes are needed.

Handling feedback

My thoughts on feedback are….
Feedback is important. I feel that we can explain ourselves to each other and save each other from guessing what’s going on. The closer to the moment that feedback can be given, the better, but it should be delivered as privately as possible. 

My preferred way to give feedback is….
It’s the same way that I like to receive feedback, privately, as soon as we can and face to face. Feedback in writing tends to sound significantly more serious than it is. If something needs to be on the record, let’s talk first and then write down our shared understanding and agree on outcomes and next steps.

How I like to receive feedback
E.g. immediately, 1:1, casually, over coffee, in writing, later on, collected together
I like to receive feedback as soon as possible, 1:1 if we can. In person would be great, but see above with working FT remote so a video call. Feedback can be moved through via talking faster than writing emails back and forth.

Communicating with me

(What’s your preferred medium for work related communications? How do you handle email, phone, IM, in person?)

This may sound old school but I prefer email. My personal phone is the same as my work phone, so it’s often out of sight when I’m focused on work. That’s why you may get an email response faster than a text or phone call.

I rarely answer my phone, but if I see it’s ringing and I see that it’s you, I’ll pick up. Please don’t leave  voicemail though, please email.

I have skype and I’m on numerous slack boards, but I check them sporadically. Even text is better than slack or skype, unless we’ve worked out a specific arrangement for your specific project.

I check email at least once an hour during business hours – 8-4pm. You can expect a response within a business day, unless it’s clear that the email was for informational purposes only – i.e. there’s no action on my part needed.

A meeting is required when there’s a group discussion and/or decision. If you’re on my team, you can see my calendar and please book what’s needed. If you’re a client, let me know a few times that work, or give me access to your calendar to book a time. I prefer meetings that have a specific agenda, and for any information related to the meeting to be circulated in advance. Not everyone will have a chance to review in advance, but I’ll certainly do my best. This saves time in the actual meeting so we can get to the point.

People might misunderstand me when I …
(Have you ever found yourself explaining a quirk or nuance of your personality that you wish someone knew before working with you?)

I’m funny by nature, though I recognize that some of my humour is poorly timed. I’m sorry if I do this to you and it’s something I’m working on. I’m learning that just because my brain points out a joke that’s Monty Python worthy, it doesn’t need to be made. I derail myself with this sometimes too and I’m really working on balancing this out without turning into a humourless robot.

I have learned how to compartmentalize at work and it’s served me well. That’s why if you talk about something that isn’t on topic for a meeting, you may get a puzzled look. I haven’t forgotten who you are, what you’re witnessing is me actively context switching. This varies based on my workload (how many clients and projects I have active, is this my third back to back meeting, etc)

I’m excited you’re here and by reading this I feel you’re giving me permission to be me. I really appreciate that.

That was a lot of reading! Here is a picture of a kitten gazing off into the distance at its bright future.