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Written by Candor Team
December 08, 2022(edited on December 15, 2022)

Personal Readmes: The Complete Guide

How well do you know your team? And come to think of it, how well do they know you?


People work better together when they understand where everyone else is coming from. That’s a statement most managers would wholeheartedly agree with. Team members understanding each other is the basis for a great working relationship. And that sets the foundations for a thriving culture and a flourishing business.

New hires sometimes go through months of guesswork and conflict to drill down into the depths of what makes their colleagues tick. In short, it takes them too long to work out how their peers work best. And for those who’ve been working together for years, there are still chunky barriers to showing genuine vulnerability and flaws. It can be awkward to have a conversation about what you need from other people to be successful, it can feel vulnerable to ask ‘where am I falling short?’

The first iteration of readmes and user guides didn't really solve this problem. At times, they might even have exacerbated it. Team members were creating one-off word docs or PowerPoints and presenting them to the entire team. For many, this was a daunting task and led to readmes that came across as stiff, too polished, or even arrogant. 

In steps Candor readmes. Beautifully designed personal readmes crafted for the future of remote work, guiding team members to explore more complex and meaningful traits in a living breathing platform that grows with you. Candor readmes unlock richer, fuller, and more meaningful workplace relationships, with a deeper human connection.

Candor readmes are built for:

  • Helping remote teams get to know each other better
  • Sparking synchronous and asynchronous conversations
  • Improving team and company culture
  • Building and encouraging more authentic remote team relationships 
  • Framing personal development conversations between managers and teams, coaches, therapists and beyond. 

At Candor, we’ve built the world's-first dedicated personal readme platform, a beautifully designed hub where team members from all around the world create, share, and level up their personal user manuals.

If you want to learn more about personal readmes and how they can supercharge your team's performance, get this guide bookmarked and strap in for the ride.

What’s in this guide:
  • Personal Readmes and remote working
  • Organizations are working in a ‘black box’ 
  • Only managers are writing readmes
  • Once and done, used once and never used again
  • There’s fear around sharing personal readmes
  • Candor’s personal readmes features:
    • Intro Video
    • People who have impacted how I see the world
    • Best way to get me excited about something
    • I worry that my teammates might perceive me as…
    • How I try to show up at work
    • My biggest fear
    • Proud moment
    • You can ask me about
    • Something that drives me crazy
    • Personality type
    • I work best as a…
    • I'm energized at work by…
    • My core values
    • Things that deeply motivate me…
    • I learn best by… & Things I’d love to learn
    • I like to get feedback when it's given…
    • My areas for growth
    • I really admire teammates who are…
    • My Achilles Heel is…
    • Epic work fails
    • Your Candor Graph (explained)
  • Trust can’t be fast-tracked 
  • Claim your 100% free Candor Profile


Ok, what is a personal readme?  (and why is it useful for remote working)


The remote working world has delivered a tonne of positive change. People are working from where they can be at their best, bringing more of their whole selves to work and taking back control over their work-life balance. But this dramatic shift in working culture has also brought about challenges:
  • Managers and team members can find it harder to connect when the team is partially in the office and partially remote. 
  • Remote team members can be reduced to a ‘Slack’ name or Gmail address and lose an element of their whole personality. 
  • Onboarding has become significantly harder for managers and team members when conducted remotely. 
With remote work, businesses need to reach the same levels of collaboration but faster. People are now finding huge value in personal readmes and user guides, they’ve become increasingly important to express the invisible skills and invaluable interests that make a team function. This is much deeper than just listing your skills and places of work on LinkedIn (raise your hand if you’ve done the LinkedIn stalk for a new hire?).

If you’re in tech, the term README will already be familiar. A README is a document that explains step-by-step how to start using and understanding a new piece of software.  That’s where the term personal readme comes from. In an organization, a personal readme is a clear and explicit way of telling your coworkers how they can best communicate with you, work with you and understand you.


Organizations are working in a ‘black box’ 


Whilst some progressive companies are starting to adopt personal readmes, the vast majority aren’t aware of their benefits. They’re entrenched in traditional team building. Without personal readmes, companies and team dynamics are operating in a ‘black box’ world. 

Take the traditional onboarding model:
  • Talent is hired based on their CV, LinkedIn profile, and interview performance.
  • The new hire is given the company culture deck to review remotely. 
  • Virtual coffees are diarised with random team members for introductions. 
  • Project and team casting is based on past experience alone.

Or the traditional team-building approach:
  • Teams are formed based on immediate resource needs and not cast on their whole person.
  • Team building happens online or offsite through social gatherings or icebreakers.

And the traditional approach to appraisals:
  • Appraisal cadence is determined by the company, as are the goals and the areas of development. 
  • Personal development goals aren’t co-created and they’re often built on career experience alone, rather than personality traits. 

In short, traditional organizations are about the company first and the person second. 

This issue of the ‘black box’ is really aggravated with new hires who join a company remotely. Without a user manual, managers are taking a real hit-and-hope approach with new hires and new teams. These organizations take the long, slow and painful road where learnings about team dynamics come through weeks, months, and even years of tense encounters, flare-ups or even dismissals. 

When a teammate’s lack of organization annoys us, we vent to others. When a boss says “this is fine” (not “this is great”), we wallow in anxiety. Many of us figure out our colleagues’ personalities, preferences, and dislikes through trial and error over long periods of time, not through explicit conversation.


Readmes are for building trust not breaking it 


Readmes are for building trust not breaking it. There’s a big difference between inviting your team to create and share how they do their best work versus telling people how they need to work with you. Managers who try and weaponize readmes as passive-aggressive substitutes for “My way or the high way” conversations don’t build trust, they break it.

Look, fellow managers: there is no way to write these and not be self-serving. You are writing them presumably to shortcut problems that arise when people misunderstand your behavior or when they act in a way you don’t like or otherwise violate some expectations that you believe are within your rights to set. 

We agree with Camille. We also think having a readme where you are the sole author is kind of flawed. How can that possibly be an authentic representation of you? How can you see all of your perfect imperfections? You can’t. That’s why instead of the traditional one-dimensional readme written just by you, we’ve made it possible for your peers to co-author it with you. More on that later! By enabling people who work with you to give their Take on your perfect imperfections you create an utterly authentic representation of how you show up and what kind of manager/teammate you are. 


Once and done - readmes used once and never again


Personal readmes are a living, breathing profile. As you develop and change, so should your personal readme. Too many organizations that use personal readmes or user guides, ask their team members to fill it in once, everyone reads it and then they’re never updated or reflected upon again. This is such a waste!

As team members build out personal development goals, get guidance from their peers on growth opportunities and understand more about themselves there is a great opportunity to both reflect and update their personal readme. Team members can think about their readme like a journal or scrapbook of personal development.

“The points are not an exhaustive list, but should save you some time figuring out how I work and behave. Please make me aware of additional points you think I should put on a revised version of this ‘user’s manual.” Leah Fessle discussing her own personal readme.

Team members should be co-creating personal readmes, offering reflection and input. Most organizations don’t give their team a structure or space to update personal readmes, so they always get deprioritized.

Read more: How to set great personal development goals for your team


The fear factor with personal readmes


On the surface, it can seem daunting to reveal your deepest values, motivations, and flaws and offer them for others to see. Some teams share their personal readmes in big presentations or on crowded zoom calls whereas most remote teams lean towards more asynchronous rituals.  

In our experience, teams mostly have a myriad of different personality types. At the very basic level, there will be a split between introverts and extroverts. The ‘write and present’ personal readme approach won’t work for the introverts amongst your team and will elicit a feeling of terror for some. With Candor, everyone is invited to complete their readme async (which is more wholesome and expressive than just words on a page). We’d recommend asking your team how they want to share readmes and try and create as much psychological safety as possible: 

Psychological safety—the ability to share your thoughts and ideas openly, honestly, and without fear of judgment—has been repeatedly proven the key to innovative, happy teams. Whether you’re a manager or young employee, writing and sharing a user manual has a clear business payoff. The better a team knows one other, the easier it will be for them to navigate conflict, empathize with one another, and feel comfortable sharing, critiquing, and building upon one another’s ideas.
- New York Times

It's only when we have this atmosphere of psychology that safety has been established can managers and their teams can get into the conversations that matter:

“These insecurities—the ones we’re good at hiding, and hesitate to probe in others—are the root of most workplace and personal struggles. While somewhat uncomfortable to document, sharing these descriptions was the most relieving and rewarding aspect of writing the manual.”
Leah Fessler


Your team co-author your Candor readme


Candor's platform helps you invite your team to co-author your personal readme, which in itself is a meaningful trust-building activity but has the added bonus of helping you improve your self-awareness and authenticity. 

At Candor, we’ve created the means for you to invite your peers to co-author a personal readme that’s beautiful, easy to use and free to join. You can share with team members to spark better conversations, stop workplace conflict before it happens and accelerate through that awkward ‘get to know’ phase in a matter of asynchronous moments not months. 

Read more: How to set great personal development goals for your team

Let's walk through the core Candor personal readme features 

Self-Take Video


The self-Take intro video adds a personal touch and sits atop your Candor profile. It helps people who haven’t worked with you before get to know you, rather than a 140-character bio. Don’t be shy and don’t feel it needs to be polished. Don’t worry about your background, this is not Instagram or Linkedin!


People who have impacted how I see the world

This self-Take serves as a great ice-breaker with new joiners or remote workers. It gives teammates and managers an idea of who inspires you and who has informed your belief system. Within the Candor profile, you can list singular names but a great offline chat is discussing why you picked who you picked. 


Best way to get me excited about something


Imagine if everyone on the team understood each other’s source of excitement and how to unlock that. This is gold dust for managers and teammates seeking to get the best from one another. If you notice someone on the team who is stuck in a rut or seems to be struggling with motivation then a quick check-in with a conversation informed by this Take is going to work wonders. 


I worry that my teammates might perceive me as…

This is a perfect self-Take to share with remote teammates to accelerate through the traditionally slow period of team forming and norming. This kind of vulnerability can be hard to share naturally in a conversation so providing a space for it on your readme is a great way to help your team empathize with each other. 


How I try to show up at work

‘Try’ is the keyword here. Nobody is on their A-game 365 days a year, but this self-Take lets team members express their identity. It’s sometimes hard to get this across on Slack so having this on your Candor readme is a great way to share more of who you are at work. It’s great for avoiding any accidental misunderstanding and helping teammates figure each other out.


My biggest fear

Imagine the depth of relationship and chemistry within your team if everyone understood what each other’s fears were. This is so important for understanding conflict management, it helps you ask the right question. If someone is behaving in an unusual way, being combative or acting defensive then understanding this Take helps you get to the bottom of what’s going on.  In short, being open about fears makes team members more empathetic during pressured situations. 

Proud moment

This Take helps you share more about the source of your pride and what really gets you going. It’s valuable for team members to understand this in order to look for opportunities to praise and celebrate success. For managers this is great to know as it can provide a great foundation for personal development conversations - i.e. how can that proud moment be repeated? What projects and skills could lead to more proud moments?

 

You can ask me about

A powerful self-Take that will spark conversations between team-members about more than just the weather. This unlocks the hidden skills in your team and invites people to see people for their holistic set of skills as opposed to just their job description or title. It’s also a great opportunity to establish mentor and mentee conversations.

Read more: A Guide For Managers: Level-up Your Team By Nurturing Unseen Skills


Something that drives me crazy

Best to know now rather than find out the hard way! This is another way personal readmes jumpstart working relationships, they uncover what irritates and frustrates team members so these scenarios can be avoided or reduced. You’ll also find team members jumping at the chance to fill this one in, it's cathartic to get it out there!


Personality type

Personality tests are widespread, organizations have been encouraging their team members to take these for decades. They definitely require a bit of a shared understanding amongst the team before they really add value but it can be a great team-building exercise on its own to run and then capture the results here in the readme. 


I work best as a…


With a blank page, these kinds of self-Takes can be hard to provide. But with the Candor personal readme, you get prompts like ‘I love execution’, ‘I love strategy’, and ‘a blend of execution and strategy’. Assign the one that feels closest to your work needs and check in with teammates on theirs for a rich discussion. 


I'm energized at work by…

This is your team member's rocket fuel and in traditional team building, this is so often overlooked. Knowing what your team members are good at, excel at, or struggle at is one thing but knowing what gets them out of bed in the morning is arguably more important. 

We help with prompts here like ‘getting sh*t done’, ‘helping others succeed’, and ‘solving problems’. For a manager, this gives valuable insight into what their team members should be managing upwards e.g. should they start mentoring new joiners or junior team members?


My core values


Core values are an essential piece of info for managers to know about their team and for the team to know about each other. Getting ahead of those difficult conversations is important and avoids tension with project casting, team dynamics, and even meetings. 

This self-Take gives you the cheat codes to be able to spot problems before they happen in your team. Understanding someone's core values helps you help them operate in their zone of genius. This unlocks raw potential and is a massive level up for helping to coach and inspire your team to new levels of performance and happiness at work. 


Things that deeply motivate me…

Closely related to core values, these are things that get your team members bouncing out of bed. Get these factored into their daily workflow and you’re directly contributing to an uptick in job and life satisfaction. 


I learn best by…and things I’d love to learn

This self-Take is particularly helpful to understand different teammates’ learning styles and personal development goals. Perfect for a meaningful 1 on 1 meeting about personal growth.  


I like to get feedback when it's given…


Feedback loops are what keeps a team ticking over. Understanding the team's preferred feedback format upfront allows you to plan a framework well ahead of time and ensure you know how best to deliver the right message. We provide prompts here like 1:1, video, and quarterly - we cover preferred cadence and format. 

 


My areas for growth

These will underpin personal development goals and give managers and team-mates visibility on what someone is actively trying to work on. This kind of insight is great for building empathy and for signaling things you’d love support and guidance on. It’s a perfect conversation starter for personal development conversations or inter-team feedback. 

 

I really admire teammates who are…

Understanding the qualities and traits someone admires in their peers is a great way to spot complementary partnerships and overlaps with peers. This kind of nuance is perfect for informing project casting and team structures.

 


My Achilles Heel is…

We are all perfectly imperfect. Weaknesses are important to know because they show team members how they can support each other. This self-Take also invites you to share what others can do to help you with your ‘Achilles’ Heel’. Vulnerability like this may feel difficult to write but they help build the foundations for healthy remote team culture: empathy, self-awareness, and ultimately trust. 


Epic work fails

A surefire icebreaker and another brilliant way personal readmes move away from ‘the brave face’ methods of traditional management and team dynamics. This self-take encourages team members to share their epic fails and bring their whole authentic selves to work. If you can talk about these openly and share with your teammates at this level, it’s a great indicator that you operate in a healthy psychologically safe culture. 


Your Candor Graph.


This will shift and change over time as your readme evolves but the Candor graph is a way for teammates to get a summary of your working style at a glance.

Candor’s Take prompts are co-designed with Leadership & Development professionals to explore how you uniquely show up at work across 5 core competencies: achievement, working with others, team player, authenticity, and self-awareness. These competencies show a rounded picture of you as a contributor at work. They convey how you achieve results and bring out the best in others.


Trust can’t be hacked

There is no replacement for a human-to-human conversation. Trust can’t be hacked. But you can accelerate the time it takes to understand what makes your teammates tick and how to help them get the best out of you and them to get the best out of you. Getting to grips with team dynamics early doors will have huge benefits for team performance. It creates deeper empathy, faster team norming, better relationships, and deeper connections. This unlocks one of the most fundamental human needs: belonging.

Candor provides the basis for honest and transparent team dynamics, which build trust in the long run and empathy in the short term. This makes for a happier, healthier team. 

Key Takeaways


  • People work better together when they understand where everyone else is coming from. That’s a statement most managers would wholeheartedly agree with.
  • The first iteration of readmes and user guides didn't solve this problem. They exacerbated it. 
  • With remote work, businesses need to reach the same levels of collaboration but faster. People are now finding huge value in personal readmes and user guides, they’ve become increasingly important to express invisible skills.
  • Without personal readmes, companies, and team dynamics are operating in a ‘black box’ environment. 
  • Personal readmes are a living, breathing journal of personal development and learning. As you develop and change, so should the personal readme. Too many organizations that use personal readmes or user guides only leverage them during onboarding.
  • At Candor, we’ve built the world's-first dedicated personal readme platform. We’ve seen all the issues out there with personal user manuals and created a personal readme that’s beautiful, easy to use, free to join, and instantly shareable with team members to foster trust and connection.
  • Candor provides the basis for honest and transparent team dynamics, which build trust in the long run and empathy in the short term. This helps you build and scale happier, healthier teams.

Increase your team's trust and performance with shareable personal readmes that express each other's needs. Claim your free Candor readme today. 



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