How Manual of Me helped us discover and share how we work best

Catherine Raboteur

By Catherine Raboteur

In Diversity & Inclusion

Reading Time: 5 minutes

One of Empower’s core values is that we are people-centred, and by that we mean that we are kind, generous, inclusive and human.

In the last 15 months we have taken on lots of new team members, both employees and consultants.

Taking on so many members in such a short space of time has not been without its challenges, not least finding the most effective way for people to connect and get to know each other and the way we work most effectively.

Being a remote-first team, we don’t have the same opportunities that a team in the office together might have. We don’t have coffee together in the morning when we first roll in, we don’t have watercooler chats or nip out to grab some lunch together.

Whilst we are great at remote-working at Empower (we do it really well) and we love working from home as a lifestyle choice, we are acutely aware of the need to consciously create opportunities to get to know each other. 

So we were over the moon when, earlier in the year, we were introduced to the concept of Manual of Me: 

What are Manuals of Me?

A Manual of Me is a simple, yet extremely powerful document which helps you to share insights about how you work.

It is a very personal tool which can very quickly help people to understand how best to work with you.

We come in all different shapes and sizes and we all think differently. And it’s so important that we recognise and celebrate that. As I tell my kids, life would be very boring if we were all the same!

By describing our differences, and sharing these with our team, we can build up a better understanding of what motivates us, where and when we work best, how we engage best with others, and much much more.

How we created our Manuals of Me

We explained the reasoning behind the process and talked everyone through how to create a Manual of Me and then asked them to give it a go, including our Founders, Ben and Jaz.

We provided a template as a starting point because we know only too well that staring at a blank piece of paper / screen can be very uninspiring and very daunting at times but we stressed there was no obligation to use the template should people prefer not to.

Some people used the template, while others designed their own using Powerpoint and Mural, personalising with photos of things / people / places that were important to them. The important thing is to remember that it’s a very personal document, there is no right or wrong…oh, and anything goes!

After the team had had time to create their own version, we asked them to do a simple 10-minute presentation of their Manual back to the group. They could present whatever information they wanted from it. They could read the whole thing or they could cherry-pick what they felt was the most pertinent information. They could stand up at the front and present or they could do it from their seats.

The emphasis was on whatever felt most comfortable to the individual.

The impact of Manuals of Me

The results have been incredible!

The process enabled the team to open up about themselves in ways that might have felt awkward otherwise and gave individuals the opportunity to broach subjects that might not necessarily have come up in conversations with people naturally.

Now you may look at our team page and possibly make the assumption that we are not a very diverse group of individuals at Empower but Manuals of Me helped us recognise the unseen diversity within our team. Factors that may have taken longer to surface, or never have come to the fore were shared, such as mental health struggles, disabilities, neurodiverse traits (including pending diagnoses) and caring responsibilities, to name but a few.

Not only has the process created an awareness amongst each other, it has also been an incredibly valuable self-reflection tool for all of us individually and has really helped deepen our understanding of ourselves and our needs. How often do you take a step back and really reflect on what makes you tick, what really doesn’t help and what you need to be able to be the best version of you?

In sharing our manuals, we have been able to identify with the traits of others that are similar to our own, and likewise acknowledge that other people might be completely different from us. And that is absolutely awesome. We have been able to better understand each other’s behaviours and identify ways in which we can support each other. 

We value the Manual of Me activity and the insights it provides so much that, when new starters join Empower, we have asked them to complete one as part of their onboarding which has provided us with a really quick understanding of how they work. Likewise, as they have gotten to know the team on a 1:1 basis, the Manuals have offered them valuable insight into their new colleagues. 

Our Manuals of Me are living, breathing manuals that we will require the team to revisit and update at regular points throughout the year. It is important to remember that they are not static one-off documents, they will evolve with us as we do.

Creating a company-wide “Manual of We”

After all of our team had completed their Manual of Me, we looked at them all collectively and picked out the commonalities, compiling them into an Empower Manual of We. It was fascinating to see the recurring themes that popped up across the team.

What it also helped to do was to highlight the areas where we are very different as individuals, which is equally as important. Nowhere was this more evident than when we looked at what our best time of day is!

Creating the Manuals of Me and the Empower Manual of We has provided us with a greater understanding of ourselves and each other, has helped us to celebrate our strengths and our differences and communicate what we need in order to be able to bring our best selves to work.

This whole process has been a really transformative experience for us at Empower and one that we are permanently adopting. We would highly recommend everyone do one. Give it a go and discover all the amazing things you will learn about yourself and each other!

Find out more about Empower’s culture.