Every Leader Needs a User’s Manual

Chances are, if you are lucky, you will receive a gift or two over the holidays.  Maybe a new phone, a kitchen blender, or one of those robot vacuums you’ve been longing for.  Along with each of those items, you’ll also receive a user’s manual – either in the packaging or online.  That manual will give you everything you need to know about how to get the most out of your new gift.

These were more or less the introductory remarks I received from Martin NG, SVP, Construction at Caplink LTD and FGF Brands in Toronto, Ontario, during a recent conversation.  Martin then proceeded to explain that leaders also need a user’s manual.  I was intrigued.

He then presented to me a simple three-ring binder with color-coded tabs that he had personally created and that included sections titled:

  • My Development Plan
  • Leadership 360
  • Leadership Philosophies
  • The Team
  • EQ Assessment
  • And more…

Martin explained that his company had provided him with the opportunity to participate in a variety of learning and development opportunities.   Those opportunities included training, coaching, and assessments.  All were eye-opening to Martin and he did not want to bury the learning experiences in his desk drawer only to collect dust and end up as a distant memory.  He was committed to keeping them top of mind and activating them on a daily basis.  What better way than to distill the learnings in one place and carry it with him as a constant reminder about his evolution and goals as a leader.  “The manual re-enforces how I want to operate in the workplace, ” says Martin.

Another interesting outcome of this effort is that Martin is an open book.  He is more than happy to share his user’s manual with his team and other interested colleagues as a way of saying “here’s what I am working on, please hold me accountable.” That authenticity and transparency has driven many meaningful conversations with colleagues and has proven to be an inspiration to others.

As we look towards a new year and stand committed to continuing to grow and learn, I encourage you to take a cue from Martin NG and look back over the year and review what you’ve learned and what you want to integrate into your personal development plan for 2020.   Determine what your top priorities are and what shifts or changes you want to fully integrate into the way you lead.  Create your own version of a User’s Manual to get the most out of the gifts you bring to your workplace.