Thoughts on How to Collaborate More Effectively with One Simple Exercise 🤝

Mia Wähälä
4 min readMar 25, 2021


This ten minute exercise is like a five bullet-point guide of who you are and how you like to show up for your team and the workplace. I’ll refer to this as a “Personal User Manual”. So essentially all this Personal User Manual does is to help your team navigate a more effective collaboration, making your strengths and quirks visible in one snappy overview.

Here’s my download on how best to make use of this simple exercise for both new and existing teams.

Why Use a “Personal User Manual”

Especially if you are onboarding a new team member, or you are an existing team coming together in a new way, it’s easy to oversee how much energy you spend on trying to figure out why your team mate is behaving, in what to your view looks like, an unexpected, pointless way.

You might have spotted the right problems, but being right and alone doesn’t help. How often have you done something to help your team mate see a better way? Or how often do you wish your team understood your quirks better, or that the situation had nothing to do with them but just a “silly thing you do”.

Nor does it help that we so often jump into the “so busy need to get things done” mode straight away. We forget to take a moment and look at each other for who we are — as people with our own set of baggage and story. The Personal User Manual is here to the rescue.

How to Set It Up in 4-ish Steps 🖖

Step 1. Set Context for Your Team Before 👀

  • Explain the purpose and desired outcome of using a Personal User Manual in an all hands or team daily. This is as a tool to collaborate better, whilst learn something new about each other.
  • You can use the User Manual as an integral part of onboarding a new team member too.
  • A neat angle is to tie this exercise in as a way to live out one of the working principles/ traits/core values of the company.
  • Setting context and purpose can be announced by anyone leading a group session, as long as it’s clear that everyone, leaders included, is due to do it and share.

Step 2. Review the Questions

  • You’re best off sharing the template questions with each team member before you kick off a new collaboration setup.
  • You can pick a 1:1 to discuss the questions, or fill out the form async, as long as you agree on a deadline to complete the User Manual before the collaboration starts.
  • If you get an answer like “not know” you can try probing “What would it be if you knew” or replace the specific question with something else.
  • I like to use 5–6 questions as a Personal User Manual, an example of it in Step 3. Filling out the questions themselves won’t take more than ca. 10 minutes for each team member.

Step 3. Fill out the Template Async ✍️

  • To show you an example of what the Personal User Manual could look like, filled out one for myself below:

Personal User Manual | Example Template

1. My style of working / being productive / What I value and care about deeply at work

2. What I don’t have patience for (“pet peeves”)

3. How to best communicate with me is through

4. Where I can go wrong at times / How to help me if I’m struggling

5. What people often misunderstand about me

An example template of the Personal User Manual filled out.

Step 4. Share with the Team & Discuss

  • Once everyone has filled out their 5 bullet points, you can share the User Manuals together over a breakfast, lunch or team event.
  • If you are using the User Manual as part of onboarding, I like to ask the questions to be filled out by each team member and shared before the newbie starts or has their first meetings with their manager.
  • The most important part is really about the discussion that follows sharing the Manual. It’s about learning to understand each other better. You can build on the questions with some of the examples below.

Step 5. Optional questions for discussion 🤙

  1. Describe yourself in 2 words, two first things that pop up in your head
  2. What do you do naturally?
  3. How do you learn best?
  4. What is the best way to convince you to do something?
  5. What is the best praise you ever received?
  6. How do you like to give and receive feedback?
  7. What is the best way to recognize your efforts/celebrate your success?
  8. What are the 3 things that motivate you the most?
  9. What do you do to stay sane?
  10. What drives you nuts?
  11. What are some honest/unfiltered things about you?
  12. What is your best method for building relationships?
  13. How often do you like to check in with your manager?
  14. What qualities do you particularly value in people who work with you?
  15. In times of conflict, how do you prefer dealing with the situation?
  16. How do you like to coach/support people to do best work & develop talents?
  17. What willing to give up to get to goal of team, or what not willing to give up long term

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That’s a quick run through. Hope you find it useful!

Thanks for reading!