Archive for the ‘Coping and Communicating’ Category

It’s All About Me!™ in Orlando

Coping and Communicating, Musings, Social Networking | Posted by Doc List
Nov 13 2014

I just did my first half-day tutorial on my favorite topic, It’s All About Me!™. You’d think after talking and writing about it for years, I might have done something sooner.


In reflecting on it, I conclude that I’ve been afraid that I’d put it out there and someone would call bullshit on me.

Happily, that didn’t happen. The feedback was excellent. My favorite was “Great session! Included original material rather than just rehashing existing stuff.”

I’ll be doing more sessions, and maybe sometime soon I’ll finish the book I’ve been working on.

Channel Yourself

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
May 12 2012

For a time, I was a coach. A personal / life / business coach. I loved the work. Well, it didn’t feel like work. It was joyful and amazing.

It was not uncommon for a client to tell me that they felt that they were not yet what / who they wanted to be. When this came up, we’d discuss the question of who or what they wanted to be. We’d create an image of that future self, including the way they’d talk, the way they’d walk, how they’d hold themselves, their posture, their gestures, the presence they’d create when they entered a room, and so on. A rich, full vision of the future self.


“Wow! That’s who I want to be. How do I get there?”

Sounds tricky, right? I mean, if it were easy, wouldn’t we all be powerful or leaders or loved or in the job we want or…

Here’s the technique I shared with my clients.

I get that you’re not yet that person. You have a clear picture of that version of you, who seems like a different person right now. You have a clear picture of how that person would speak, what they’d say, how they’d stand, how they’d move, and the gestures they’d use, right?

Channel that person. Don’t try to be that person. Act like that person.

What would that person say in this situation? Say that.

What would that person do in this situation? Do that.

It has been successfully demonstrated repeatedly that we can change our feelings by changing our words. We can change our behavior by choice, repeating the changes until they become our real selves.

So rather than wondering what I need to do to become the person I am visualizing, I choose to act like that person until I become that person.

Take it on like a persona, until it “takes”.

As it settles in, my feelings will change to reflect the confidence I begin to feel. The behavior will become natural and mine.

One day, I will wake up and discover that I have become the person I was visualizing.

Keynote @ ACCU2011: Simplicity

Coping and Communicating | Posted by Doc
Apr 13 2011

The keynote speaker at this conference, Giles Colborne, is talking about “Advanced Simplicity”. What’s fascinating to me is that he’s talking about some of the same stuff I’ve been talking about for 25 years or more.

He showed an example of a bank website that offered a way to select a statement: two drop down boxes for month and year, plus a “go” button. The problem was that you could select a future date, and get an error, or select a date more than twelve months in the past, and get an error. The simple solution was to provide a single drop down that only offered the users the months for which they could get statements. Simple.

Here are my design constraints:

  • Make it as easy as possible for the user to get it right.
  • Make it as hard as possible for the user to get it wrong.

Presentation Tip: Make a long story short

Coping and Communicating, Musings, Presentation | Posted by Doc
Mar 29 2011

Stories are powerful. If you are going to be an effective presenter, it seems clear that you must incorporate stories.

A mistake that many of us make is to think that every little detail is important. It might be important to you. Ask yourself whether all of those details are important to achieve your purpose.

Here are some questions for you:

  • What is it that you want your listeners to learn from the story?
  • How much context do you need to create?
  • Are the details contributing to either the cognitive or emotional impact of your story?
  • How does the story contribute to the larger talk/presentation?
  • Is it more important to include more of this story, or to include other stuff?

It’s not as simple as saying “Every story should be <so long>!” I have stories that take 30 seconds to tell, and others that take ten minutes.  I include more shorter stories in training and in short presentations.  That said, I include my ten minute “signature story” in my one hour keynote talk (a motivational talk, from my earlier professional speaking days).  It’s a matter of your goal.

Short stories include brief anecdotes, and stories that are there to make a point or give a brief example.

Longer stories are there to totally captivate and engage your audience.

If I say “In 1996, thinking I was perfectly healthy, I had a heart attack. It changed my life.” I’ll get a gasp and immediate attention. If I’m making a point about a healthy lifestyle or diet, this is all that’s needed (well, I don’t think I can actually leave it at that :)).

In my keynote, on the other hand, the ten minute version was designed to get people to think and reflect and leads up several key points that I want to be the last thing that the audience hears and thinks about.

Do you tell stories? Could they be shorter, and still have the same impact? Are you telling them for your own pleasure, or to make a point? What’s the point?

Driven by Desire

Agile & Lean, Coping and Communicating, Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Oct 07 2010

one_angry_man_facing right-flippedChange. It’s what I spend my time thinking and talking about. Whether it’s coaching or training or organizational or individual, change.

And change is hard.

Thinking back to the Plow, there will be varying amounts and degrees of resistance whenever change is occurring. It doesn’t matter whether the change is initiated internally or externally.

The challenge when you’re an agent of change, therefore, is to reduce the amount and degree of resistance. Of course, if you know my IAAM philosophy, then you know that I believe that you can’t cause change or change resistance. Rather you can offer others the information and perspective that you bring to the table, perhaps couched in such a way as to be most influential or persuasive. But when you get right down to it, change must come from within: within the individual and within the organization.

There’s an implication here for those of us who are, in fact, agents of change. The implication is this: our job is not to change people or organizations.

Our job, then, is to help individuals and organizations desire change.

Whoa. That’s a challenge. How do you guide/help/lead one person, much less an organization, to want change, when change is threatening, frightening, intimidating?

Start by understanding the pain points that they live with today. I know this seems simple and obvious, and to a certain extent it is.

Sadly, too often we go in with the attitude “change is coming, so toughen up, and let’s go!”

That doesn’t work.

Think about yourself. When have you been successful in making a change in yourself? For me, I know it’s only when I want to, not when I think I should. Even when I need to, I still have to want to or the change will fail.

Just look at my waistline. 😉 I’m working on it. Ignoring traveling, I’m actually achieving change.  Change in my eating habits and exercise habits and attitude toward food.  Not because someone told me I should.  Not because someone else cares (although they might). It’s because *I* want to change.

So the next time you are sitting in the change agent’s seat, stop and ask the first question: “Why should they care?”

I&I over P&T

Agile & Lean, Coping and Communicating | Posted by Doc
Aug 16 2010

One of the value statements from A Manifesto for Agile Software Development is:

Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools

For those who are not familiar with the Manifesto, what it says about the value statements is: “…while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

So this bit says “while there is value in Processes and Tools, we value Individuals and Interactions more.”

I always enjoy this one, when presenting or sharing it. First, because I work for ThoughtWorks, where we are experts on processes and tools. 😉 Beyond that, though, is the relevance and power in this value statement.

Why do we have processes and tools? I’d argue it’s in service of having to think about those things – the mechanisms and details – less, so that we are free to be creative, productive, and do things other than thinking about the processes and tools.

It’s like my “shower principle”: I wash myself the same way every day. The process is the same every day. As a result, I don’t have to think about the process, and am free to think about other things.

So from this perspective, processes and tools are enablers. They should free us to do the things only we can do, and save us from spending a lot of time thinking about the processes or tools. Developers will frequently tell you that they have strong attachments to their tools-of-choice. Why? Because they know how to use them and don’t have to think about the tools. As a result, they spend most of the time thinking about their code – how to make it better, how to make it satisfy its goals, how to be more creative,…

One of the many things I like about “Agile” and the Agile Manifesto is that they apply to far more than software development. That’s part of what I liked about my exchange with my brother the other day (see “Family Self-organization“). As a brief follow-up, when my brother said to his daughters “I’m offering my iPhone to one of you and $XXX to the other. You decide which is which.”, the girls decided within minutes.

I like this statement from Simon Baker: “Put the right people in the right environment and trust them to get things done.”

Yes, Simon, yes!

Push-Me, Pull-You

Coping and Communicating, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 10 2010

Do you remember the special animal in the movie “Doctor Dolittle“? The pushmi-pullyu?

The challenge these animals faced was this:

“They had no tail, but a head at each end, and sharp horns on each head.” and “…no matter which way you came towards him, he was always facing you.”

I always thought that an animal like this would die out, because if the heads were equal, it would never be able to go anywhere.

We all know about “too many chiefs and not enough Indians”, which has a similar problem.

So how do you handle a situation where there’s either too much push or too much pull?

In t’ai chi ch’uan (commonly referred to as just tai chi), one of the techniques has to do with pushing. Pushing takes on many different aspects, from forceful lifting/pushing, to a gentler slower movement. As I think about how we work with teams and organisations, it occurs to me that all too often we’re either pushing too hard and too directly, or not enough.

Consider, first, what happens when you try to push someone. What do they do? They brace themselves, at a minimum. Sometimes, they prepare to push back, and then they do push back.

How about if you come up on them gradually? Let’s say you’re standing next to someone, and you slowly shift your weight so that you’re leaning on them – pushing – more and more, little by little? How do they react? Most typically, they will notice when you cross some threshold that is very specific to them. Many times, it will be when some “significant” amount of pressure reaches their awareness. If you were walking down the street, then they’d realize at some point that you had steered them by either physically leaning on them or by entering their “personal space”.

If we are working with a group, team, or organisation, in helping them to adopt new principles, practices, and/or methodologies, some of us – myself most definitely included – have a tendency to push. To be emphatic, zealous, excited, energetic, passionate, insistent,…

We must be aware and wary of creating resistance through our pushing. We must consider whether it’s more effective to lean on them rather than to push them.

Family self-organization

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 10 2010

I was talking with my brother the other day. He has gotten his iPhone 4 (after standing in line for 5 hours in the middle of the night in Melbourne). Now he has a dilemma – one iPhone 3G and two daughters.

We banged the challenge around for a while. We approached it in typical parental fashion, exploring the tradeoffs and options. Give the phone to one, money to the other. But one has six months to go on her contract and the other has a year. All the details, all the challenges, the concern that one or the other or both would be unhappy with him because no matter what he does…

I’m sure you get it.

Finally, my brother said that he was willing to put up the phone and some money. The question is, which to which. Phone, money, two girls.

As we walked down the street together talking, it occurred to me that I was ignoring all the things I’ve been learning, teaching, and doing. When I teach Agile fundamentals, I include a session of the Agile Lego Game, which along with it’s other lessons clearly demonstrates the concept of self-organization.

With this in mind, and knowing that my nieces are smart and that they like each other, I said “Put the phone and the money on the table and let them work it out.”

After all, I’ve seen it demonstrated over and over – give people the chance to work together and figure things out, and the odds are that they will.

I’ll let you know how things go with my nieces. 😉

Driving for Self, Driving for Other

Agile & Lean, Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Jul 18 2010

I spent the past weekend with my brother. We drove from Melbourne down to Aireys Inlet along the Great Ocean Road. The scenery is spectacular.

While driving, I began to notice some of my brother’s patterns, and it got me thinking about my own patterns.

I think there are two main categories of drivers: those who become one with the vehicle, and those for whom the vehicle is a mechanical conveyance that they manipulate. In either case, we generally drive for ourselves. That is, we react in advance, based on what we see and what we expect to do.

Unfortunately, as I experienced with my brother, this means that while the driver’s body is already moving into what’s happening, the passengers are caught by surprise and may feel bumped, bounced, and thrown around.

I think of myself as one of the people in the first category – the vehicle is an extension of my body, and so I move the vehicle almost unconsciously, and my core body is rarely taken by surprise. My wife and children and friends, on the other hand, may find themselves tossed about from time to time.

This got me thinking about Agile adoption. Those of us who feel that we really know Agile are the first kind of driver – we move unconsciously based on what we know or expect to happen next. This is just fine when we’re working on/with teams that already understand and practice Agile.

But what about when we’re working with teams that are new to Agile? Are we moving so unconsciously that they’re being emotionally tossed about? Are they finding themselves caught by surprise, confused, or frustrated because we’re jinking left when they expected us to go right?

The challenge for me is to figure out how to get the “passengers” in sync with the changes so that we reduce the frequency and amplitude of the surprises to the point where they’re no longer surprised.

I’m still here

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Jun 09 2010

Fourteen years ago today, roughly five hours from now as I write this, I felt the beginnings of my heart attack. That experience – the whole heart attack experience – was a revelation to me, and I continue to celebrate my survival and growth.

Perhaps it seems obvious that a heart attack could change one’s outlook on life and relationships. Sadly, I’ve met too many people who survived and went right back to doing and being who they were.

As part of my annual celebration, let me share my three lessons once more:

  1. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “I love you” – you might not have a tomorrow, and wouldn’t it be sad not to let people know how you feel about them.
  2. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “I’m sorry” – those words don’t mean that you’re wrong or that you’re apologizing, and they do contribute to someone else’s happiness – what does it cost you to say?
  3. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “thank you” – gratitude, as love, friendship, regret, sympathy, and so many other expressions, is best served up warm.

Thank you, whoever you are, for being a part of my rich and continuing life.

Don’t wait until tomorrow.

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