I’m a frequent reader of Anne-Laure Nesslabs’ articles, and a few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article titled Fostering psychological safety with a personal user manual which immediately caught my attention. A «personal user manual»? What the heck is that?
I couldn’t explain it better than Anne-Laure in her article, so I’ll quote her:
When you buy a new product, it usually comes with a user manual. It’s a document designed to help you make the best use of that particular product, with detailed instructions. It’s a guide to using a specific system. But when we meet a new person, we need to figure things out through trial and error. […] Why does it have to be this way? Why don’t we all have a personal user manual?
A product leader personal user manual
We, product people, live in the intersection between business, technology, and user experience. This means we are constantly interacting with people from different backgrounds, expertise and ways of working.
In this context, collaboration is key. But reaching the peak point of effective collaboration in a group of people may take several months and navigate through different stages (see Tuckman Model). So, whatever accelerates to know each other better and learning what every person is best at, how to interact with her and, even what are her personal hobbies, seems worth giving it a try.
Imagine if, before your new boss or co-worker joins the company, you could quickly read her personal user manual full of instructions, tips and warnings for interacting with her. As a manager or product leader, it’s something you can give to every new report who joins your team.
My personal user manual
After seeing some great examples of personal user manuals on the Internet (see the References and links section below), I decided to create my own and make it available online for everyone who wanted to know more about me. And I decided to build it as an e-commerce product page, where you can read the general description of the product, the detailed specs, the usage guide and the troubleshooting section too! 🙂
Are we done?
No, definitely not. This personal user manual should be a live document that I’ll revisit and update every now and then, in order to reflect the changes on myself and my professional career while maintaining its relevance.
So, if you have any suggestion, feedback or comment about it that you would like to let me know, feel free to reach me by email at
hi <at> gabi <dot> cat.
References and links
- Fostering psychological safety with a personal user manual by Anne-Laure Nesslabs
- Julie Zhuo’s A User Guide To Working With You
- GitLab’s CEO Handbook
- Chris Blachut’s Human User Manual
- Credits to Martin Eriksson’s venn diagram image