Tell People How to Work with You

I recently listened to an entrepreneur, let's call him Bob, share an interesting management approach. He created a document called What It’s Like to Work with Bob. The document, a few pages long, is essentially his operating manual—it helps people understand how he operates.

Usually, it takes time to figure out how to work effectively with someone. It’s a process of trial and error that could take months or years. In extreme cases, people never figure it out. Minor examples are preferred communication methods and meeting times. Maybe you like texting, but your team is used to Slack. When subordinates Slack you, you’re annoyed. Or they’re annoyed because you never respond (because you don’t check Slack). Maybe you like to focus in the morning and keep your calendar open for meetings between 2:00 and 5:00. It annoys you to be interrupted during your focus time. Or maybe you annoy your subordinates by declining their a.m. invites.

Bob aims to avoid the adjustment period altogether. His objective is to use the document, on day 1, to set clear expectations and tell people who he is and how he operates. His subordinates will understand how to work with him after a few minutes of reading his document (and maybe a clarifying conversation) instead of months or years of trial and error.

I really like Bob’s approach. Setting clear expectations early can save lots of time and prevent unnecessary friction and frustration during the getting-to-know-your-work-style period. I can see this approach leading to healthier, deeper, and more productive work relationships from the start. It no doubt also helps in quickly recognizing working relationships that aren’t likely to work (which is OK too).

I like the operating manual approach and plan to create one!