Lisette Sutherland’s

Personal User Manual

Knowing what we need to be productive can help us do our best work and to design our lifestyles around the things we love the most.

The purpose of a personal user manual is to help others understand us better so that we can collaborate more effectively. The idea behind this concept came from my highly sought-after Collaboration Superpowers TEAM Agreement.

Plus, read our HOW-TO GUIDE to create your own team agreements.


  • English is my native language
  • I speak Dutch better than a beginner, but am not yet fluent (I am level “B2”)
  • I understand German but don’t speak it well.

I was born in Germany and spent the first 10 years of my life in Frankfurt. I spoke German fluently as a child, but after living in the US for 25 years, that skill faded. I moved to The Netherlands in 2009 and have been working on my Dutch ever since (I have both American and Dutch citizenship.)

Time zone & working hours

  • I live in The Hague, The Netherlands.
  • I work between 8:00 – 18:00 CET / CEST on weekdays.
  • I don’t check email, work, or respond to work-related messages on the weekends.

Social media

LinkedIn is is the only social media platform I actively use.

Communication preferences

  • I prefer asynchronous to synchronous. I love talking to people – especially when we have a reason/purpose, but I like the logistics and chatter to be async. And I still prefer email: I speak with hundreds of people a year, and it’s difficult for me to remember conversation details. Email helps me to keep track of things.
  • I prefer video calls over voice-only calls. It’s just a personal preference. I like seeing the person that I’m speaking with. I recognize that many others feel differently and I am fine adapting to your style.


Book a meeting if you want to “pick my brain,” get product feedback, ask for advice, or get help finding a remote job.

€95 per 1-hour, online session.

Personal values

  • Freedom: I love designing my schedule:
    • I start my Mondays by planning what I need to do that week, and then I time-box my calendar so that I follow the schedule for the rest of the week.
    • My ideal day starts with a latte and the news (I don’t eat breakfast…just not hungry in the morning), followed by a short walk to get some daylight into my eyes and to say hello to all the neighborhood animals 😻 .
    • I do a few hours of focused work at my home office. Then I take a break, do some workout or errand, and finally eat something. And I finish the day with another few hours of focused work.
    • I’m done around 18:00 and spend the rest of the evening with family or friends doing fun things.
  • Order: I come from a military family. The need for order is baked into me. I don’t like or do well with chaos.
  • Relatedness: Who I work with is more important than what I am working on. And I am grateful for the team I work with daily.

My quirks

Note: Explaining one’s “quirks” is not an excuse for bad or rude behavior (as Camille passionately writes about here). Also, be sure to pair any vulnerable statements with an accountability statement. For example: if you are “x,” how do you take responsibility for that?

  • I am sensitive to noise and can feel unfocused when many things are happening simultaneously. This is why I started working remotely to begin with. I simply can’t focus when a lot is going on around me. The way I take responsibility for this is by wearing a noise-canceling headset in loud environments and by using checklists to keep me on track.
  • I am both introverted and extroverted, but I am solitary by nature. I love a good party; I can be alone for weeks without issue. My primary social priority is my family.
  • I am a slow writer. I take responsibility for this by taking on only a few writing projects at a time and by giving myself plenty of time to complete a project.
  • I get stressed when I travel. This is why my speaker fees go up when people ask me to leave the country. I take responsibility for this by giving myself plenty of time to get places and booking comfortable travel arrangements.

My home office setup

I have the luxury of having an entire attic to myself. My equipment includes:


Express your personality & quirks in a professional setting with my how-to guide to create your personal user manual.

I’m inspired by

  • Volodymyr Zelensky – I mean, WOW. What a truly inspiring leader he is! An example to the world.
  • Jerry Seinfeld – I love his work ethic and his methodology for work: work on your craft every single day, wait 24 hours before showing anyone, and get regular feedback.
  • Depeche Mode – I’ve loved this band since I was 12 years old.
  • Erasure – Vince Clarke had real courage leaving Depeche Mode and forming his own band that suited his style/values better (despite DM becoming one of the most popular bands in history). And the combination of his keyboard genius with the voice, style, and lyrics of Andy Bell is just magical. 
  • Bill Watterson – I love Calvin and Hobbes. Countless hours of joy. 
  • Fred Rogers – A rare, genuinely good person who wanted to make the world a better place – and did. What a treasure for children and humanity! 
  • Terry Gross – The host and co-producer of Fresh Air. And one of the best interviewers of all time.
  • Debbie Millman – Debbie researches her podcast guests better than any interviewer I’ve ever heard. Every podcast, a guest will say “how did you know that?”. I know very little about “design” (the subject of Debbie’s podcast), but I am hooked by her style.
  • Rachel Maddow – I love how Rachel covers the news – and I find her storytelling particularly creative and compelling. I love her style, humor, and immense vocabulary! 
  • Ira Glass – This American Life has been one of my favorite radio shows since I was in my 20s. I used to set my alarm clock on Saturday mornings to make sure I was up in time to hear it. Needless to say, I love podcasts!
  • Amanda Gorman – Amanda’s poem at Biden’s inauguration captured the spirit of the moment so powerfully. I hope she’s right.


  • SewingSince the pandemic, I’ve started sewing. I needed to do something that didn’t involve a screen; I’ve fallen in love with the craft.
  • RunningAs I run, the universe is running with me.
  • Virtual strength trainingFor some reason, I’m not motivated to do strength training on my own. So I found CoPilot, an awesome app the pairs you with a personal trainer. My trainer, Cody, assigns me workouts every week based on my goals – and then monitors my progress via my apple watch. Brilliant!! I’m one of the few people who lost weight during the pandemic 🙂
  • CampingMy husband and I are avid campers. As soon as the temperatures go up, you will find us outdoors with friends: biking, hiking, running, climbing, mountaineering, and swimming. 
  • US politicsI only talk politics if you ask me to. I wish more leaders & politicians had ethical principles.
  • MusicMusic used to be a big part of my life. I’ve seen hundreds of live shows (80’s goth is my guilty pleasure). I was a promoter and tour manager for numerous bands (testing the concept of remote working to the limit while I worked and traveled the world in a tour van for many years).  Fun fact: I played flute and trombone all throughout high school and college (even got a scholarship for it). These days, I happily reminisce while listening to tunes from my extremely comfortable home office.
  • Podcasts & audiobooksI’ve always loved listening to the radio. Now with podcasts and audiobooks, you will rarely find me without airpods in my ears.
  • Board gamesMy husband’s most recent obsession is board games – and I love it. Our current favorites are: Innovation and Mr. Jack.
  • CatsI love cats. I mean, I LOVE cats. I used to have 3 of my own, but now I just take care of all the neighborhood cats instead. We have 8 neighborhood cats that visit regularly, which allows me to be a “crazy cat lady” part-time. Good enough for me!

Things I might want to add in the future

  • I do my best work when…
  • Favorite quote
  • You know I’m stressed when..
  • Strengths/weaknesses (things I love/things I struggle with)
  • Conditions I like to work in
  • The best way to communicate with me
  • The ways I like to receive feedback

Other examples of personal user manuals

In no particular order: