My user manual for me

7 min readOct 20, 2019
Manual of Me, Leapers
Manual of Me, Leapers

In a previous post, I talked about what I’d learnt about what to do in a new job since starting at Camden: start with the culture & relationships around you, clarify objectives to prioritise what matters, build support to create opportunities for change, develop the performance of your service and drive & embed change both inside and outside the organisation.

In the year that I’ve been at Camden, I’ve tried to lead teams in ways which start with relationships and create the spaces for others to support that change, as well as open up opportunities to others to get stuck in and bring their skills to the table. I’ve written about how we need to start with what matters to people in their everyday lives, how we need to challenge ourselves and others to be brave & radical and work out in the open to develop creative ways to tackle the issues.

We recognise that to anticipate and influence radical change, we need to rethink what we do — what we know about the world, how we work or how we shape the place around us. I’ve written about how we need to think about defining the boundaries of our work, to understand what we’re best placed at doing and who else we should collaborate with.

That discovery of what makes people and the organisation tick is critical, and I’ve shared how I’ve tried to better understand the people around me. However, I thought, maybe I need to take a step back and reflect on what makes me tick and share it with other people. So that they understand who I am and how I work and so that I can model the values of openness, generosity and curiosity that I preach! In particular for people looking to apply for new roles in my team. Or for people who want to swap jobs for a day or a week!

I’ve been particular inspired by fellow bloggers Cassie Robinson.’s user manual, Alex Gadsby’s manual, @jukesie’s manual, @curiousc’s manual, Neil Tamplin’s manual and in particular the person who initiated this, Abby Falik. I love the guide that Matthew Knight created, particular how you’ve got guides for each question that help you think them through.

Manual for Me, Leapers

I’d definitely recommend people creating a user manual for them, it’s great if you’re joining or managing a new team. It helps you reflect yourself on how you work and helps others see why you act the way you do, whether that’s you love to constantly surrounded by people or need peace and quiet to concentrate. And what’s great is that what you put into the manual of me is entirely up to you! My next step is working with my team to help them create one for themselves and inspired by Emily Webber doing a team one!

My user manual for me

I add value to teams by …

What is it that you bring to the team which is the most useful?

I add value to teams by

  • Understanding the values, motivations & skills of people around me to provide them with opportunities to develop their skills, show leadership and take ownership
  • Help people make sense of the key challenges & opportunities and resources within and between complex issues
  • Joining up the dots between people’s different priorities & skills to create opportunities for people to collaborate around a common purpose
  • Curating the environments for people to collaborate in ways that balance sustainable change and practical impact
  • Coach people to learn new ways of working creatively & strategically that can help them and their service work more collaboratively with others

The sort of projects which really excite me have …

Give people a sense of the sort of work which really lights you up

The opportunity for me to lead & influence, to develop & stretch not only my skills but those of others. Projects which excite me are those there is space & legitimacy to test, accelerate & embed new ways of working across the organisation or area, even if the issue the project is focusing on is the initial priority. Finally, it’s projects where I can build strong relationships with people who have a similar passion and complementary (but not identical) skills.

The teams in which I thrive in have …

What are the personalities and skills you need along side you in your team?

I love working with people who are good at mobilising people — their passions, their energy and their confidence in tackling something they might think impossible. They extend what I offer which is more about developing the frameworks & opportunities that tap into people’s motivations & skills.

I love working with people who’s good at looking out for other people when they’re finding it difficult to cope with the change. They extend what I offer which is more about making sense of how the team are developing and working out what’s needed to sustain cohesion.

I love working with people who are good at managing & tracking delivery of activities & tasks. They extend what I offer which is more about developing the frameworks for programme management & assurance.

The brief I can work best from includes …

What detail and description do you need to get started?

I love understanding the motivations & values of the people commissioning the brief and the future outcomes & vision they have in mind.

I really like understanding the power dynamics of the system the brief is trying to influence and the motivations & values & needs of the players involved.

I also like understanding the lessons learned from what’s been tried before to tackle the challenges in the brief and the nature of the challenges themselves

The sorts of outcomes I create include …

What is that you create and influence?

The outcomes for people I work I like achieve include people being able to apply their skills & motivations to work with others to tackle common challenges, people being able to better understand each other and the skills they can help them with and people being able to try new things with others to build outcomes they wouldn’t have expected.

The stages of a project I work best at include …

Where in the process do you fit best or want to be involved?

The stage at which I find myself most commonly involved in a project are at the start in developing the framework, objectives & principles and to identify & build relationships with people who can influence the issue. I think that’s where I add the most value, as well as providing constructive challenge throughout Increasingly, I often also involved at all stage in managing the programmes.

People often say I’m brilliant at …

What do others say that you’re great at?

This is difficult! Maybe making sense of issues below the radar, creating connections between different issues & people and curating spaces for people to collaborate?

I work brilliantly together with …

Who, or what, is your perfect partner when it comes to work?

People who are passionate, who are open to new ways of working and want to try them out.

People who are curious about how other people feel, who have got skills in influencing people and specialist expertise I don’t have.

People who have strong & interesting networks, particular in areas I don’t know so well. I would turn to them for trying out new ways of working either that I initiate or they do, discovering new people and building movements.

Some nice things others have said about me are …

What are the things that leave a positive impression upon others?

Difficult again! I try and be very conscientious and hardworking. I think I’m good at making sense of complex issues, bringing together people to tackle common challenges, identifying resources that can help drive a project and I try and empathise with other people’s needs & motivations.

I’m really looking for …

What is it that you really are trying to do in and at work?

The opportunity I’m honestly trying to find is one where I can work in an environment with shared values of creativity, solidarity and openness, which gives me confidence to make the best use of my skills to design, curate & facilitate collaborative ways of working between people from different backgrounds.

Beyond work, I’m really passionate about …

What drives you and excites you when you’re not working?

What drives me and excites me when I’m not working is challenging myself by learning new skills which use my creativity and ideally with other people who are also experiencing a new way of doing something, be it learning how to make sourdough bread, how to write creatively or how to invent a new alphabet. I love hacking different recipes to cook, discovering new nooks and crannies and walking in the nature with my girlfriend and facilitating creative activities that get people trying something new with others.

How about you? What’s your user manual for you? What excites you about writing one, what would you hold you back?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese