Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

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.

The Other Hand

Musings | Posted by Doc
Oct 09 2011

I’m right handed. Very much so, especially since I broke my left arm in 5th grade, and was even more focused on my right hand.

These days, I sometimes shave with a manual razor, sometimes with an electric. At times, I find myself having to turn my head way to the side, and reach far around with my right hand, in order to get spots on the left side of my jaw and my neck.

This got me to thinking, and I decided to try shaving the left side of my face with my left hand. Only with my electric razor, of course, since I don’t entirely trust my coordination enough to take a chance at slicing myself open with a manual razor.

Thinking differentlyOn reflection, I realized that this was also a mental pattern. There are so many things I do in a certain way, because I’ve always done them that way. And there are many ways I think that I have always thought, because that’s the way I’ve always thought.

We all fall into patterns, and then lose awareness of those patterns and just do things that way. While at times I think this is enabling – read about my shower principle in I&I over P&T – at other times it causes me to ignore other possibilities because I just think happily along in the same old rut. Stopping to question why I think or do things a certain way is good.

Doing them – or thinking them – differently is healthy.

Shave with the other hand. See what happens.

The impact of desperation

Career | Posted by Doc
Aug 24 2011

In my previous post about “Everything at stake“, several folks have commented to me both publicly and privately. One of the important points that came up is about the reality for some folks – especially in a time of high unemployment – that everything really is at stake.

I do get that. There are times – and I’ve experienced them myself – when getting this job is critical to me being able to feed my family, make my mortgage payment, or fill my gas tank. This may lead to a feeling of anxiety or even desperation.

If I start feeling like that, how does it affect my behavior?

I may display some symptoms of neediness. I may try to be whatever the interviewer needs, whether or not it is what I want to do, or whether it is harmonious with who I am.

Is this exciting to the interviewer? Will the interviewer recognize, either consciously or unconsciously, that I am trying to sell myself as something I am not? And if so, will the interviewer start to discount what I say because it’s clear that I’m saying whatever I think he wants to hear?

I realize that there are times when each of us feels the pressure of need, and it’s just freakin’ hard to ignore those feelings.

What I want to convey is that you will – and should – be judged/assessed/considered based on your behavior. The more relaxed you can behave in an interview, the more likely you will be accepted as who and what you are, and the more likely that you will establish a rapport with your interviewer(s).

Once again: Busting the Mehrabian Myth

Musings | Posted by Doc
May 05 2011

You’ve probably heard, and repeated, that “93% of all communication is non-verbal”. Of course, this isn’t true. Rather it’s a misuse and misunderstanding of the work of Professor Albert Mehrabian.

Here’s an excellent video that explains it clearly.

Change is hard, still

Agile & Lean | Posted by Doc
Apr 17 2011

I had a chat with a new friend yesterday. We walked down the road from the hotel into Wolvercote, and chatted about life and work.

This fellow manages a development team. He’s concerned that they’re not as effective as he thinks they could be, that they have a low “bus factor” (my term), and that testing in particular is not what it could be. They have legacy code, and it sounded like they have quite a bit of specialization, in spite of having only four developers.

I latched onto that last point first. “Have you tried pairing?” I asked.

“No, I hadn’t really thought of it yet.”

Lots of intermediate discussion…

“What do you do when you have an odd number of people?”

I knew he was listening carefully, and yet I was getting a feeling of resistance. I tried to offer ways in which he could get buy in from the team, make some changes that would encourage them to think and examine the way they’ve been working, and make it a team thing, not something imposed from above.

“Well, I’m really concerned about the testers.”

I suggested co-location, or some version of it. He explained that they have separate two-person offices, and he can’t change that.

All of this got me to wondering whether he really wants to facilitate change, or he just wants to talk about it. He said some of the right things, but when it got down to actually doing it, he repeatedly explained to me how hard it would be, and what the obstacles are.

Change is hard. Embrace change only if you really believe that it has the potential to deliver benefit. And then embrace it wholeheartedly.

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.

Learning and games, games and learning

Agile & Lean, Education, Musings | Posted by Doc
Mar 04 2011

I’m reading “Reality is Broken: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” by Jane McGonigal. It’s fascinating stuff, talking about Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and using gaming to teach, learn, collaborate, and learn to enjoy what we do.

Of course, it’s got me thinking.

Alternate Reality

Does this mean some kind of weird science fiction stuff? No. It means games that can be played in the real world or in virtual worlds that may apply different sets of rules or contexts. McGonigal mentions the virtual worlds of Halo and World of Warcraft in the book. These are two very different contexts and scenarios. Halo is warfare set in something like the real world we know. Okay, there are aliens. But other than that…

I’ve never been a big, enthusiastic gamer, but I do like shooting things and blowing them up. And yet, somehow Halo has never called to me.

And then there’s World of Warcraft, which is a fantasy world in which you complete quests, fight, and band with others. If you’d asked me last week, I’d have said that I had no particular interest. But thanks to Jane McGonigal, I decided to sign up for a free trial of the game. It was more what she said about Intrinsic Motivation (see Dan Pink’s “Drive”) and how the quests relate, and the overall idea of collaboration but not (necessarily) competition.

The quests are compelling. Nothing really happens. I don’t get any prizes or recognition or anything but leveling up in the game. Somehow, in spite of that, I want to keep doing quest after quest. There’s a feeling of satisfaction about it. Finish one, start another. Level up periodically. Fight monsters, deliver messages, get lost and wander around, go up trees and down into the earth… On one level, it seems entirely pointless. On another, I FREAKIN’ GET IT!


How does this apply? Is there a way to use this kind of approach in delivering what we oh-so-annoyingly* call “training”?

I’m thinking about the idea of intrinsic motivation, quests, achievements that allow each of us to feel a sense of accomplishment, and extending it beyond the specific educational situation. That last includes some form of “social medium” and also thinking about how to extend it into the workplace.

Agile teams are pretty good at this. Each time a person or pair completes a story, they get to move it on. There’s a sense of achievement in that. Of course, they don’t get a nifty “+1” floating over their heads. They don’t level up to the next level of developer or tester. Maybe there’s a way?

For now, my immediate focus is on how to apply this in the educational/learning situation. Is there a way to design and create learning environments that take advantage of the work of Jane McGonigal, game designers, and others?

* I say “oh-so-annoyingly” because we should NOT be doing “training”. We train pets to certain specific behaviors. When I’m working with a project team or a bunch of folks from an organization that wants to adopt Agile, I’m not training them. I’m leading them to think differently and adopt different behaviors. So “training” just seems the wrong word to me.

Based on what we know today…

Agile & Lean, Musings | Posted by Doc
Mar 03 2011

One of the things I like about Agile is honesty.

In traditional/waterfall, it’s all too likely that we are being dishonest, either through commission or omission: about being on time; about how much is left to do; about when we’ll be done; about the quality of our work. The whole system seems to encourage, or at least support, this kind of dishonesty.

Let me be clear: I am not condemning waterfall wholesale, nor those who practice waterfall. I am examining the cultural biases generated by this approach, and the effects they have on the people.

A phrase I use frequently in Agile:

Based on what we know today, if nothing changes,…

Think about a burn-up chart or burn-down chart. It is immediate. It is based on what we know today, and the forecast/projection only holds true if nothing changes. All the information is clear, it’s right out there for anyone to see, and it’s honest.

When will the project be done? Based on what we know today, if nothing changes…

Because we allow for changes in scope and capacity (velocity), all we know for sure is based on what we’ve accomplished to date, and the current status.

How much is left to do? Based on what we know today, if nothing changes…

As above, the scope might change. If the scope doesn’t change, then we can look at a burn-up chart and tell, with some accuracy, how much is left to do between now and when the progress line touches the scope line.

It goes on and on. The charts are on the wall (including the card wall itself) or in some readily accessible and visible virtual location (like in Mingle).

When I do training, I always make sure that people learn this: “Based on what we know today, if nothing changes…”

It’s honest, based on history, experience, and evidence, and it’s all there for anyone to see.

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.

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