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The dynamics of working with others can be complex. Communication can be murky, things can be taken out of context and expectations can be misunderstood. It can get even worse when you are running a team. Years ago, I had an intern tell me that she learned very quickly that if she needed something from me – email was the way to do it. If she asked me verbally, chances are, with all of the other things I had to be responsible for I’d forget.
And she was right.
I didn’t realize that was true until she pointed it out. From then on, I made it a point to let anyone on my team or just joining my team know that the best way to communicate with me was via email.
My good friend, Liam Martin, co-founder and CMO of Time Doctor and Staff.com created an Operations Manual on himself. When I saw the document and the corresponding video to it – it immediately brought me back to this exchange I had with my intern. Liam outlines a lot of different ways that he prefers to be communicated with, as well as how he likes his team to work, how he likes decisions to be made, etc. Brilliant.
The biggest use case is for communication, as that’s the number one reason things fall apart. Relationships, expectations, projects, plans – they all can fall apart due to communication. Other use cases include procedures, organization, procurement, and project management. When you can get super clear on the best way for people to communicate with you, you’ve just given them weeks if not months of brain space back. They no longer need to try and figure out the best way to work with you – you’ve just solved that intangible and inevitable problem that everyone has when working with a new team member. They can now use that mental energy for their job and other key decisions they need to make. If you’ve outlined how you want them to make decisions – parameters, budgets and speed you expect, this frees up even more time that would be spent “figuring it out.”
So here’s what a sample Self Operation Manual might include:
1. My first preference is email. The reason being is that I can’t keep everything in my head. It’s just too much. When you’ve sent me an email, I now have a written record of your request, update or question. It’s easier for me to keep track and get you what you need.
2. Text Message. If it’s extremely urgent, shoot me a quick text so that I can address what you need. Please don’t use this for random questions – please still use email. If you need me to read an email urgently, feel free to text me asking me to read the email. This is for urgent issues only.
1. I want you to make decisions in your position. I do not want to micromanage you. So please make decisions that you think are best with the information that you have. When you make this decision, I will ask you why you made it and I want to see data or your supported line of thinking in getting there. I don’t want you to be afraid of making decisions – but I do want you to be able to defend them smartly.
2. Please do not make any decisions that would be on my behalf. If it is committing my time, energy or the company’s resources, please do ask me first.
1. I default to nice. I want you to do the same. With as much electronic communication happening in our company, things can be taken out of context. I will always assume that any communication sent electronically is sent with the best of intentions and tone. We don’t have to overuse emojis and exclamation points. Company wide, I expect that every piece of communication is sent with good intentions unless explicitly stated otherwise. Please always read company/team communication as if it were written with a smile.
1. If you have a problem that you need to address with me, I am very happy to help and listen. I do request that you always come with your own solution or two. I want to know that you’ve thought through the problem and can provide me with some insight on why we are having this problem and what some outcomes might be with solutions you’ve thought through.
1. If you have a problem that requires money to solve it, you have $200 per quarter to spend with out my prior approval. If you need to overnight something to a client, you need a piece of software, you want to take a small course, you have permission to do so without needing approval. If it’s above that amount, please email me what you need, why you need it and how much. We’ll discuss.
The goal of having an operations manual on you, is to make it easier for your team to do their job. You’ve taken away a major roadblock (you) and greased the wheels so they can focus on doing their job and innovating their processes. I would love to hear what you’d add to your own Self Operation Manual!
July 1, 2019 at 08:58AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs