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Make a management style user manual
photo by Andrew Malone

Your longtime employees understand your peeves and preferences so acutely that pleasing or annoying you is rarely done by accident. But what about new hires? How can they quickly learn what it’s like to work for you and your organization?

One zero-cost, highly replicable solution is to create a “user’s manual” for your leadership style and distribute it to your incoming employees. Think of this manual as a one-page “cheat sheet” to intra-team transparency.

Recently, Adam Bryant of the New York Times described the user’s manuals of TravelPod founder Luc Levesque (@luclevesque) and QuestBack strategist Ivar Kroghrud, who worked with Build to craft a set of seven questions designed to pattern clear, tactical guidelines for the care and feeding of your CEO. And see the user manuals in question under the list.

Questions to Ask (and Answer) For Your User’s Manual

1. Which do I value more, speedy work or deliberate work?
2. What are my expectations for commitment to the job beyond conventional work hours?
3. What are my idiosyncrasies—that is, what are the individual quirks that anyone working with me should know about?
4. How will I help my employees get better at their jobs?
5. What weaknesses of mine should the team know about—and how can they help me improve?
6. What is my process for handling conflicts?
7. When it comes to mistakes, what’s the best way for employees to come forward?



Creating a user’s manual is one thing; distributing it is another. “A few people have asked if I just e-mail the blueprint to people,” writes Levesque on his blog. “No I don’t. I sit down with everyone on my team, one on one, and talk through the blueprint. This is a subtle difference but [a] hugely important [one]. By talking through the blueprint, face to face, it gives me the chance to answer questions, add context, and refine the message specifically for that individual. I find it’s the discussion that the blueprint facilitates that’s most valuable. In fact, simply e-mailing the blueprint to your team might actually cause more harm than good because it’s possible that the intent [will be] misinterpreted. As we all know, tone and body language communicate 80 percent of the message. The written blueprint just makes it easy to have that discussion.”


  1. This is a great idea as long as it’s not rooted in hubris. Too often managers have an idea of their own management style that is more ambition rather than actuality. Of these examples Kroghrud’s manual is more realistic although perhaps the second page of Levesque’s manual and his in-person orientation on it reveal more of his occasional weaknesses as a manager.

  2. This idea can go both ways. Why not ask employees to develop one and present it to their managers. Perhaps they could develop one and take turns presenting it to the rest of the group as a way to get to know each other.

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To Make Your Management Style Clear, Create a User’s Manual

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