Team building is a crucial element of creating a strong team culture. Understanding each other’s differences and preferences is a vital step in becoming a high-performing team. But many leaders struggle to find and deliver effective team building exercises. There are many too choose from, and many fall short. So many exercises focus solely on getting teammates to understand each other’s differences—often expressed as personality, identity, or experiences.
But for team building exercises to work, teams can’t just understand each other. They need to understand each other’s behavior.
And that’s what makes the “Manual of Me” activity the single best team building exercise. Instead of assigning different letters or numbers to different team members based on personality. It focuses on having teammates share their different work preferences. This tool allows team members to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, preferred environments, and working preferences. And over time, teams become be able to coordinate and even predict each other’s behavior.
In this article, we will delve into the concept of a Manual of Me, how to construct one, and the benefits of sharing and collecting these manuals within the team.
The “Manual of Me”
The Manual of Me is a powerful tool that enables team members to gain insights into each other’s behavior and preferences. It consists of a core of four, fill-in-the-blank questions: “I’m at my best when _____,” “I’m at my worst when _____,” “You can count on me to _____,” and “What I need from you is _____.”
By discussing these questions, team members can understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, preferred environments, and working preferences. This understanding is crucial for creating a harmonious and productive team culture.
Constructing a Manual of Me
Constructing a Manual of Me involves a conversation within the team where each member shares their answers to the four core questions. Before starting the activity, it is important to inform the team about the purpose and provide them with the template and questions ahead of time.
The first question, “I’m at my best when _____,” focuses on identifying individual strengths, preferred activities, and environments for optimal performance. This question allows team members to understand how they can bring their best selves to the team.
The second question, “I’m at my worst when _____,” helps identify tasks and environments where individuals may struggle or underperform. By understanding these limitations, team members can provide support and create an environment that minimizes challenges.
The third question, “You can count on me to _____,” highlights each person’s contributions and areas where they can provide help to the team. This question promotes collaboration and allows team members to leverage each other’s strengths.
The fourth question, “What I need from you is _____,” identifies areas where individuals need support or assistance from others. This question fosters open communication and helps team members understand how they can best support each other.
Additional questions can be added to the Manual of Me based on the team’s industry and level of familiarity with each other. These questions can delve deeper into specific aspects of work or personal preferences that are relevant to the team’s dynamics.
Sharing and Collecting Manuals of Me
Once each team member has shared their answers, there should be time for discussion and clarification. This allows team members to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives and preferences.
The completed Manuals of Me can be in various formats such as PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoints, or videos. It is important to choose a format that is easily accessible and can be stored in a shared folder or platform where the team can easily access them.
The ongoing conversation and understanding fostered by the Manuals of Me can lead to improved collaboration and performance within the team. By referring back to these manuals, team members can ensure that they are effectively supporting each other and leveraging their strengths.
When new team members join, they can be introduced to the Manuals of Me and encouraged to share their own once they feel comfortable. This helps integrate new members into the team and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
The Manual of Me is a powerful team building exercise that promotes understanding and collaboration within a team. By discussing strengths, weaknesses, preferred environments, and working preferences, team members can create a strong team culture and enhance their performance. The ongoing conversation and understanding fostered by the Manuals of Me can lead to improved collaboration and performance within the team.
About the author
David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.