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Published 08 February 2013 07:51, Updated 11 February 2013 07:32
A CEO manual may not be as easy to follow as Ikea’s famously word-free assembly instructions . Image: ikea.com.au
The founder of a pro bono service has taken it upon himself to write a users’ manual to help his staff understand his own “flavour of craziness”.
Possibly, we could all do with one of those. People do the weirdest things.
But, given that psychological research shows that people are their own worst judges (which makes self-reporting quite dodgy), perhaps he should have got his PA to write the manual.
Aaron Hurst (founder of the US-based Taproot Foundation) explains:
“When to Approach Me: I like to solve problems and remove barriers. I love being able to help others move the ball forward. Approach me just about any time – I’ll let you know if I’m busy.”
Maybe the person who fields his phone calls may write: “When to approach Aaron: Only when he is sitting back in his chair and best when he is eating chocolate or in the tea room. Never when he is on the phone or has a bit of spittle on his upper lip.”
Hurst writes: “Communicating with Me: Be crisp about what you need and articulate whether you are looking for my input or a decision. If I say something you disagree with – tell me! I do not like second guessing.”
But his PA may advise: “Communicating with Aaron: Put it in an email, in point form. Never phone. If he says something you disagree with, change your mind.”
As a boss, telling people how to get the best response from you has some merit, but it also doesn’t hurt to find out what your people want from you. A leader may find that his or her personal style is detrimental to other people’s performance and it is their own behaviour that has to change.
Hurst was inspired to write his own users’ manual after reading an article by Ben Dattner, organisational psychologist and principal of Dattner Consulting.
In a presentation, Dattner says it takes an estimated six months for people to develop comfortable working relationships with their co-workers and even longer to develop comfortable working relationships with their bosses.
“During the first six months there is a high risk of preventable misunderstandings, leading to resentment and mistrust. Even after the first six months, there is still a high incidence of preventable communication breakdowns,” he says.
“Writing a user’s manual not only accelerates the getting-to know one other process, it also sets a positive precedent for open dialogue and a framework for ongoing clear and candid communication.”