Archive for May, 2009

I’m a warrior

Agile & Lean, Coping and Communicating, Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
May 27 2009

A warrior acts as if he knows what he is doing, when in effect he knows nothing.

…Carlos Castaneda

I’m known as a man of confidence. In fact, my wife once said to me “You’re so self-confident, sometimes it’s hard to be confident around you!”

The thing is, I recognized a while back that I frequently sound far more assured and confident than I am. This – no doubt – came from years of actual insecurity in which it seemed effective to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

A warrior.

Of course, Castaneda is really talking about more than faking it.

I believe that Castaneda is talking about a real warrior recognizing that he has just scratched the surface of all that may be learned.  Like when my karate instructor said to me “the higher the mountain, the farther you can see.”

The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn.

A true warrior acts strong and confident and able and in control, while recognizing that the reality is something else.

I see this in meetings all the time. There’s a common behavior (a pattern, you might say 😉 ) in which the individual says everything as if it is so. This individual makes assertions in the face of disagreement and even hostility. And there are several possibilities “under the covers”:

  1. the speaker is completely convinced that she is right, regardless of what anyone else might think or feel
  2. the speaker speaks with conviction, in order to sway others, regardless of how the speaker actually feels, in order to achieve some goal (dominance, for instance)
  3. the speaker speaks with conviction knowing that she is not convinced of what she says, in order to provoke/elicit information from others

Warriors, all.

The Doer/Enabler Dichotomy

Agile & Lean | Posted by Doc
May 21 2009

I was talking with my fellow ThoughtWorker Saleem Siddiqui today. He used this phrase – the doer/enabler dichotomy – and I thought it quite apt.

We’re working on an “enablement” project – helping a client with their agile adoption.  Both of us have some expertise in their technical domain, as well as in agile.

We’re both recognizing and fighting the tempation to participate in their technical conversations.  After all, we were brought in to help them adopt agility – enable them – not to work on their technical team.

It’s a tough and ongoing internal battle. “But I know something about this subject!  Shouldn’t I contribute to the conversation? Aren’t I doing them a disservice by withholding my expertise?”

The problem I see, as an agile coach, is that when I cross that barrier from enabler to doer, I change the client’s perception of me. Then it’s possible that I lose my leverage/influence/credibility as an agile coach. It narrows the gap, and while I believe in being personable and friendly, I also believe that it’s important for there to be a perceived gap.

My karate instructor taught me his thoughts on this some years ago. Instructors aren’t the student’s friends, they’re their instructors and superiors (at least in the martial arts).

Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it definitely breeds familiarity. 😉

The power of a little kindness

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
May 02 2009

Today was a good day for reinforcement of what I believe and certain of my behaviors.  Serendipitously (there’s a word for you!), it all tied into what I’ve been reading and writing about.

Here’s the story: I’m in Atlanta, with a weekend to enjoy exploring and learning. I decided to go to the Atlanta History Center in lieu of a Segway tour, because of predictions of bad weather in the afternoon. I wandered in the museum, toured the Tullie Smith farm, and then toured the Swan House. As the tour of the Swan House was completing, the lovely guide said “If you’d like to see [the architect]’s collection, there’s a gallery downstairs and then you can let yourself out through the back door down there. Don’t worry, it will lock itself behind you.”

So I did.

As I walked away from the securely locked door, it started to rain.  Just a little bit at first, so I walked over to a nice big tree, with lovely branches and leaves for shelter. And the rain came down harder.

I saw a fellow in a white polo shirt dash by heading for the front of the house.

A little while later, an older woman with a pink umbrella and a little girl holding her hand came by, headed toward the back door.

“You can’t get in there,” I said.

She went and tried anyway. The little girl was crying and hunching and seeming miserable.

A couple of minutes later, they came back.  There was a door near me that said “Staff entrance” – it, too, was locked.

“The front door is just over that way,” I said. “I’ll walk over with you.”

You can’t imagine how grateful she was.  She thanked me several times.

I looked at the miserable little girl and said “What are you going to do?” I paused, she looked, and I said “I’m just going to drip!”

She smiled, giggled a little, and we kept going. The grandmother (that’s what she was) looked at me like I’d just started glowing with celestial radiance, and said “Thank you SO much!”

We walked to the front of Swan House, and found the little girl’s father. I kidded with her a little more, saw that the rain was letting up, and started to leave.

The woman thanked me three more times.

A few words of kindness, a simple act of kindness, and some distraction for a little girl of three or four years old. That’s all it took.

The cost to me was almost nothing. The value to that woman and child were huge.

Whether you’re working on influencing, or just being a part of someone’s life – for a minute or a lifetime – the little things make all the difference.

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“Influencer”, a must-read book

Coping and Communicating, Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
May 01 2009

I’m not finished with it yet, and yet I can tell you unreservedly that you must read Influencer by the authors of Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations.

While the first two books deal with holding conversations and dealing with issues, this third book addresses the challenges that are near and dear to my heart: how you get people to change their behavior. Thanks to my colleague Jason Yip, I started on this book, and haven’t been able to put it down (well, I do stop for things like work 😉 ).

I wanted to share some of this with you, because it relates so nicely to what I’ve been thinking and writing about for a while now.

It turns out the all influence geniuses focus on behaviors. They’re inflexible on this point. They don’t develop an influence strategy until they’ve carefully identified the specific behaviors they want to change. They start by asking: In order to improve our existing situation, what must people actually do?

I love this. It’s not about how they feel or about their motivation. First and foremost, it’s about how they behave.

This is true whether I’m dealing with my family, my co-workers, or a client. Whether I want them to change their behavior, or I just want to understand the situation, I start with their behavior.

One of the vital behaviors consists of the use of praise versus the use of punishment. Top performers reward positive performance far more frequently than their counterparts. Bottom performers quickly become discouraged and mutter things such as, “Didn’t I just teach you that two minutes ago?” The best consistently reinforce even moderately good performance,…

This goes as far back, for me, as Ken Blanchard’s original One-Minute Manager series of books. It ties into how we relate to and teach our children. Every little accomplishment, every move in the right direction, and they get tremendous reinforcement. Then, as the authors say, we start to grow up and everyone gets stingy with their praise as if it’s only to be delivered when we do something exceptional.

If you know anything about training dogs (no, I’m not equating co-workers and family to dogs, just learning where I can), you know that you do the same thing – reward them if they make a move in the right direction, and keep encouraging them until they get it.

It’s so easy to say “well done” or “good job” or even just “thanks”. These things provide reward way out of proportion to their cost.

And it’s so easy to do these things as a facilitator, which many folks don’t get. It’s not about being insincere or ingenuous. It’s about rewarding and encouraging the behaviors we want to develop, and finding ways to reduce or eliminate the behaviors we don’t want.

Read this book. If you are a parent, manager, facilitator, professional, consultant, teacher,… okay, if you’re a human being, read this book.

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