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  • Writer's pictureacoachsdiary


How do you consistently meet people where they are so you can get the most out of them?

When we ask teachers and coaches, “What are some of the differences between school and sports today versus when we were students and athletes?” one of the common responses is how we hold our students and athletes accountable.

When I was growing up, the philosophy of accountability was, “Whatever your teacher or coach says, goes.”

There was no innocent until proven guilty; if my parents got a call from my school, teachers, or coaches I was guilty until I could prove my innocence, and that rarely happened. Even if I could prove my innocence, I was still blamed for being around the wrong people, being in the wrong place, or being around the wrong situation.

If they got a call, on some level, I got in trouble.

Today’s world of education and youth sports is a little different. In my experience, educators and coaches don’t have the blind support of our parents like we used to. In a lot of ways, that is a good thing; our parents are holding our teachers and coaches accountable at a different level than maybe ever before. But this does make holding our students and athletes accountable more difficult.

It is harder to use Power Tools like compliance and punishment to motivate people and drive performance, so we have to learn how to use Pro Tools like relationships and influence to do so.

So, how do we create the kind of culture that outperforms the norm?


Workhuman is a company that has spent decades teaching organizations how to harness the power of their most important assets - their people. They believe that when people feel seen, they do their best work. Workhuman has over 20 years of research and 20 million data points that have led them to report that the best teams, companies, and organizations in the world do three things regularly to develop the kind of trust that drives performance and keeps engagement high - they thank, talk, and celebrate.

Creating Personal User Manuals and having conversations around them help you meaningfully and intentionally do those three things.

If you buy pretty much anything, a User Manual that teaches you how to use the product or service. We get a quick-start User Manual with our TV; why not create one for yourself and your team?

Daniel Coyle has written one of my favorite books on building a championship culture called The Culture Code. He says a lot of teams User Manuals to create environments where people can do their best work.  

He says it's easy to create your own User Manual. Start by using four prompts:

I’m at my best when…

I’m at my worst when …

What I need from you is …

What I don’t need from you is …

British podcaster and author Jay Shetty says he is implementing something new with his team he calls Teach Me How to Treat You.

He says this is an opportunity for teammates to communicate how they want to be treated in certain situations. Here are some prompts he uses:

Here is how I like to be treated when I am doing well …

Here is how I like to be treated when I am struggling ...

Here is how I like to be treated when I have great energy …

Here is how I like to be treated when I have low energy …

Here is how I like to be treated when I am having a great day …

Here is how I like to be treated when I am having a bad day …

Here is how I like to be praised …

Here is how I like to receive coaching, feedback, or constructive criticism …

Creating User Manuals helps people better understand you, when and how you do your best work and when and how you don’t, and helps you communicate to them what your greatest struggles or opportunities for growth are.

Doing this gives us the opportunity and responsibility of explaining to others how we work. If you don’t know what that looks like, you get an opportunity to figure it out, and now you don’t have to come into the locker room, classroom, or office worried about how people will treat you and why because you have clearly communicated to them what you need.


People in every industry today feel more stressed, overworked, and burned out than ever, so there is a strong business case for driving performance by building a strong culture of engagement through the use of User Guides.

The Gallup Organization is a workplace consulting and global research organization that leverages an understanding of the human experience to help teams, businesses, and cultures blow the roof off performance goals, and they have conducted surveys and polls to help us understand how engaged, or unengaged, we are at work.

They say only 29% of employees are actively engaged, which means only about 1 out of 4 team members are truly invested in and care about the work they do.

54% of our workers are not engaged, meaning about half of the team members we work with and lead don’t really care about the level or quality of their work.

17% are actively disengaged with their work, meaning they really don’t care, they spread their lack of care, and they thrive on getting in the way of making good things happen.

Sam Parker, the author of Lead Simply, calls the first group of engaged employees wonderful, the second group of non-engaged workers Gomos who go through the motions, and the third group of disengaged employees D-grunts who are disgruntled.

When you add the group of Gomos and Domos together, you realize that on average, 71 out of 100 of your team members are going through the motions or worse.

  • Produce substantially better outcomes at work

  • Deliver better service to customers and help attract new ones

  • Remain with their organization longer than their less-engaged colleagues

  • Experience less burnout in their roles

How can we use this information to drive performance? We can learn how to connect with the people we work with and lead so that they are locked in and engaged, and then grow the number of engaged team members on our team.

A User Manual can help us effectively communicate that we value, appreciate, and take pride in our diversity, build empathy, and embrace our differences. This can be a simple team-building exercise that can help us drive engagement and performance by putting people first and becoming more service-focused.

This is also an effective Onboarding tool. When people join a new team, their first thoughts are often, “Will they like me? Will I belong? How will I fit in? How will I know if I am doing a good job?”

Giving a new team member a User Manual can help you communicate what your expectations are, your leadership style and philosophy, and how you like to communicate, hold people accountable, and give praise, and it gives the new team member the same opportunity.


There are many different ways to create a User Manual. The most important part of the process is thinking about what you need to be successful, and what keeps you from being successful, and proactively having conversations about those things.

Here is a PDF version of a Personal Manual that you can use:

Here are some additional User Manual templates:

Additional Resources:

2 - Book - The Culture Code

4 - Book - Lead Simply

For a printable version of this post, click here: Differentiated Leadership | Personal User Manuals


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