When we think of a playbook, we think of a strategy or plan used in a team sport. In this post and podcast, we're talking about how you can create your own personal playbook. It's a useful tool that helps purposeful leaders focus their efforts when they’re going into or have come out of a project or task. It prompts you to address the who, what, where, when and how of your development.

Team members can create their own playbooks too and they can also be useful in sharing your priorities and commitments with others.

At the bottom of this page you’ll also find a link to a template you can download to answer the questions.

#1: Who?

‘Who are the people that rely on me?’

The answer to this prompt might be team members, your manager or key stakeholders. Whoever they are, the intention is for you to check that you’re keeping them updated and in the loop. If you’re unsure, ask them. Get their feedback on how you’re supporting them or what it is they want more of or less of.

‘Who are the people I rely on?’

Again, these might be team members, your manager or stakeholders. Check whether you’re creating opportunities for interaction and how they can be more effective. As part of this question you might also ask yourself, ‘How can I help them help me?’

#2: What

‘What are my top 3 priorities for this quarter/year?’

If you’ve worked with us here at People Leaders or followed us a while, you’ll know we believe strongly in the importance of knowing your top three priorities. Your priority might be an activity, like completing a project. Or it could be a high-level, like developing your people or even your career.

‘What are my manager’s top 3 priorities for this quarter/year?’

It’s useful to know what your manager's top three priorities are and if you don’t, then why not have the conversation in your one-on-one catch-up? When you know your manager’s priorities, you’ll understand what their hotspots are and how you can support them towards their goal.

‘What are my organisation’s top 3 priorities for this quarter/year?’

Knowing your organisation's top three priorities is important too. Being aware of these provides a common focus and focus is great way of managing your energy. When you have a clear focus, you have direction, and you can take actions that are more effective.

‘What are the projects I’m responsible for?’

What are the projects you know you need to deliver and what are you doing about them? They might be relatively small projects, but the fact is, delivering them is your responsibility.

‘What are the processes I’m responsible for?’

Here, list the processes that are unique to your team. (A process is something that happens regularly to keep things moving forward – a series of actions or steps that achieve a particular end.) We’re always responsible for certain processes and articulating them brings a level of understanding to where you and your team fit into the organisation.

#3: When

When are the milestones for each of my priorities and projects?

We've split this out into a separate area to help you see whether your milestones are all bunched up together (not ideal) or are spread out evenly (better, because you can manage your resources more effectively). We usually have a specific date for completion and a specific deliverable, such as a report. Remember, it's really important to celebrate your milestones. Even if it's an email, a pat on the back, or some greater recognition, there’s something that happens to your mental psyche when you tick something off in a phased or step-by-step approach and receive due acknowledgment.

#4: How

How am I reporting key measures?

A measure is a specific number, reported on a specific recurring date, which usually includes a report, a comparison against a target or an opinion and positive action. The trick to measurement is to agree what the measure is and then to be consistent about the tool you're using to measure it. If you don't have any key measures, then put some in. How else will you know if you're improving?

#5: Why

Why do I want to lead?

This question is essentially a personal leadership purpose statement. You might want to be an authentic leader who develops people and has a reputation for getting things done on time. Your purpose might be to be seen as a productive, cooperative, confident contributor to the team. Or a great problem-solver and trouble-shooter. If you’re unsure of your leadership purpose, ask yourself what you’d like people to say about you. You can also refer to this post where we covered purpose and vision in more detail.

Setting up criteria will allow you to know when you're on or off track on this. For example, if criteria for you is to be a leader who develops other people, ask yourself what you’re actively doing in that space and how it can be measured. It could be measured by the development plans you create with/for your people; or by the fact that at the end of 12 months each person in your team has increased their competency by a certain percentage.

My team's purpose statement

You can also look at your team’s purpose statement which is something we’ve talked about in a previous podcast episode and post. This is about what you do, for whom, and why; what the value of your contribution is, and what the benefits are for the people in your team and organisation. This, in itself, is a great team-building activity. It’s also useful for new people coming into the team who get a really clear indication of the team’s what, who and why.

It can be an interesting exercise if people differ in their understanding of the team’s purpose. In such cases, a conversation is necessary to figure out why there’s a disconnect. A statement like this helps people clarify priorities, so everyone knows what they’re here to do and for whose benefit. Essentially, your team purpose statement is your compass and your guide.

(When you think about it, even outside of work, knowing what’s important to us helps us make better decisions and moves us towards our purpose. It helps us to be more fully engaged.)

Some additional questions you could incorporate into your playbook are...

What are my two top priorities and what actions will I take for my emotional, mental and physical health?


Here we prompt you to think about a strategy you could take to build your mental resilience which would have the biggest impact on your performance. Perhaps it’s commitment to a daily mindfulness activity. Maybe it’s reading something you enjoy or keeping a journal.

What causes me the greatest challenges at work?


With many of our clients, we’re finding this is workload, technology or people who have different personality styles taking things personally. What are your greatest challenges at work?

What will I plan to do moving forward to support my wellbeing


This could include preventative things you can do straight away and those that are longer-term. Also consider what you can do in situ to support your wellbeing while challenging situations are in full swing. This could be positive self-talk or diaphragmatic breathing for example.

What key personality strength can I plan to leverage


Isolate one of your personality strengths and think about how you could use it more often and more consciously. For example, if you’re a ‘connector’, who are you connecting with and who are you connecting together? If your strength is your ability to evaluate or critique, you could support a graduate or newbie who’s learning the ropes.

Take the path of least resistance


Before we wrap up, ask yourself what’s just one thing you could make real progress on. Remember, when we talk about change and creating growth in your life, it’s really important to take it just to the next most logical step, or the path of least resistance. 

If you haven’t thought about creating your own personal playbook before, we encourage you to try. Unless you try something different, you’ll always get the same result. So take this template or even just some of the questions, have a good think, and then do something with it.

Good luck and let us know how you go.

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