Posts Tagged ‘human interaction’

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.

Sigh: a tale of relationship

Coping and Communicating | Posted by Doc
May 05 2010

It had been a long day, and at around 4pm Michael found himself sitting in his favorite recliner, dozing off. You probably know the feeling – it’s just the right moment, regardless of what’s going on, and you slip off. At that moment, it doesn’t matter what’s on TV, how loud the TV is playing, who’s talking about what – you’re going to doze off regardless. And that’s where Michael was.

And just at that magical moment when Michael reached total peace and balance – just as the recliner was at the perfect angle and his mind was like a still pool – a small voice said “Daddy? Daddy? Will you take me to the store? You promised!”

Oh, my. There was nothing Michael wanted less at that moment than to sit up, get himself in gear, and get in the car to drive his daughter Megan to the store.

Of course he’d promised. But it wasn’t really that important, was it? It wasn’t something that couldn’t wait, was it? And if he just held on, he could regain that place of peace and balance. Just for a few more moments, maybe?

“Can we wait just 15 minutes, honey?”

“Well, umm, okay Daddy. Fifteen minutes. You promise?”

“You betcha, honey! Fifteen minutes.”

By the time that last word was out of his mouth, Michael was back in Nirvana. Ahhhhhhhhh.

In what seemed to Michael to have been just seconds, there was that voice again.

“Daddy? Daddy? It’s been fifteen minutes Daddy. Can we go now?”

Michael struggled. A promise is a promise, after all, and everything we do as parents teaches our children, right? But how often do we, as adults, find that wonderful moment?

Sigh.

Truthfully, Michael was feeling put upon. Of course Megan couldn’t get to the store by herself. But it just wasn’t that important and Michael really wanted to enjoy his stolen moment of peace and she could go any time – it’s not like it really had to be today and now!

Sigh.

Michael straightened his recliner and forced himself up. He went to the bathroom to rinse his face and pull himself together. Somehow he found a smile and a wink for Megan. Off they went to the store.

Of course, Megan being Megan, it didn’t quite turn out to be a direct trip to the first store.

“Daddy?” Megan asked.

“Yes, punkin?” Michael responded with some trepidation.

“You ‘member those school supplies I need? We haven’t gotten them yet. Since we’re already out, can we go by that store too and get my school supplies?”

Sigh.

“Sure, sweetheart. Might as well.”

Somehow, Michael had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be quick.

And then Michael figured that as long as they were out, he might as well stop by the book store and pick up that book he’d been wanting. But before they got there…

“Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“I forgot that Mommy said that we should pick up her prescriptions at the pharmacy while we’re out. Can we please do that too?”

Sigh.

“Sure. I guess we might as well go there first, since the pharmacy closes in a few minutes.”

Of course, that meant going a couple of miles in the other direction. And since it was about 4:30pm, it meant going through rush hour traffic as well.

Sigh.

They made it to the pharmacy before closing time, but had to wait behind three people.

Sigh.

And then they made it to the stationery store, and realized that Michael had most of the supplies that Megan needed at home. If only they’d checked before they left.

Sigh.

And when they got to the store that was their original destination, they found that Megan hadn’t called and they didn’t have what she wanted.

Sigh.

Finally they made it to the book store. Megan got fidgety and squirmy while she waited for Michael and finally asked if she could get a book too.

Sigh.

When all was said and done, they’d been out for almost two hours, much of it spent driving, and driving through rush hour traffic no less! And for almost no result.

Sigh.

When they got home, Megan had a sheepish, slightly unhappy look on her face, and said “Thank you very much, Daddy.” And she gave him a big hug and a big kiss and ran off to play or watch TV or whatever it was she was off to do.

And Michael settled back into his recliner with a sigh.


There are moments when, if we’re lucky, we catch ourselves.

As Michael settled into his favorite chair, he heard himself sigh.

And he realized that Megan had heard every one of his sighs for the past two hours.

Michael realized what the look on Megan’s face and the hug and the kiss were all about. Michael had been blaming Megan for his “hardships” and his sighs were messages to her that he was frustrated and that it was hard work and that he’d rather be napping in his recliner.

That wasn’t the message that Michael wanted to give his daughter. His children were special and important. And there would always be times when they were dependent on him to go somewhere or do something, and those times might not be convenient for him.

Michael went upstairs to Megan’s room. She was working on her homework, having gathered up the school supplies she needed.

Michael sat down on the floor next to Megan, put his arm around her, and said “Thanks for the outing, sweetie! I know I was a little tired and cranky, and that’s not your fault. I had fun.” And he gave her a kiss and he gave her a hug.

And she gave him a smile that made him happy from his toes to his cowlick.

We’re all born selfish. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be selfishly giving and rejoice in the happiness of others.

[Perhaps this is not just about parenthood, eh?]

…likes me

Coping and Communicating | Posted by Doc
May 01 2010

Michael woke up on Monday, and without rolling over to touch Joan or say good morning, he headed off to the bathroom. This had become his usual practice. If he thought about it at all, he just thought that it was easier – morning greetings had been turning into arguments lately, and it wasn’t the way he preferred to start his day.

As Michael thought back over the past few days and weeks and months and years, he realized that this situation had been developing slowly but steadily. It scared him to think that the tortoise of discontent and frustration was going to win this race.

Michael loved Joan. He had loved her almost from the first time they met, over twenty-five years before. Of course, they were babies then, and didn’t have babies of their own. And they had all the time in the world. And they both knew how things were supposed to work and that they were going to make them work that way.

Times had sure changed! Michael remembered a time when he and Joan would smile and kiss each other good night every night. They had made a pact, early on, to never go to sleep angry. In the morning, they’d start their day with a hug and… Well, that was then. These days, there seemed to be far too many nights that one or the other went to sleep upset, and far too many mornings begun with a grunted greeting. Michael felt close to despair on some days, longing for the relationship they had once had.


Joan lay in bed, listening to Michael moving around, getting ready for work. She could remember, as if it were yesterday, laying in bed and listening to Michael in the early days of their marriage. Then, she remembered, he would stroke her brow or her arm, give her a gentle kiss to say good morning, offer a warm smile, then reluctantly climb out of their bed to start his day. The sounds of him moving around, preparing were reassuring. They made her feel warm and loved. Now they just reminded her of how different things were.

She tried to figure it out – what had happened between them? She knew that Michael still loved her. Well, she was pretty sure that he did. She wasn’t sure that he liked her, and she wasn’t sure that he wanted to be with her. He said he did, of course. What else could he say?

It just seemed like he was always criticizing her and challenging her. He always wanted to do things his way, and seemed to have a knack for making her feel small, stupid, or useless. Why did he do that? Couldn’t he see how he was hurting her.

Joan lay there and struggled with her feelings. She so often felt like crying, at the start of her day. But that would just start a “discussion”, which would end up with her crying and Michael acting frustrated and disgusted. Better to just push it down and deal with it on her own. They didn’t really communicate well any more, anyway, so why bother?


Michael could feel Joan. He knew she was awake, and knew that she was avoiding talking to him. He didn’t know what was bothering her, and was frustrated that she wouldn’t talk to him and wouldn’t let him help. That’s what we do for each other, he thought, isn’t it? Help? But Joan seemed to have shut him out. He didn’t understand, and the whole thing was making him both scared and frustrated. And sometimes angry.

Michael tried not to let it turn into anger, but it just kept building up. He’d never yelled at Joan, nor hit her, nor abused her in any way. He just wanted to figure out what was going on. But nothing he tried worked.


Joan knew that Michael wanted “to help” – what he didn’t realize was that his “helping” was part of the problem. Why couldn’t he just understand that she needed his sympathy and empathy and support? Why did he always have to try to change things, to “fix” things? Joan didn’t need fixing, she just needed his support.

There was that time that she was so upset about the broken chair. For no reason, a chair that was only weeks old had just fallen apart. Joan was indignant! This was shoddy workmanship and she felt ripped off. She was determined to get the store and the manufacturer to set things right. But when she called, she got the run around. She was determined to get justice! When she told Michael about it, he just smiled one of his incredibly frustrating, condescending, “there, there, sweetheart” smiles and told her to call the credit card company and they’d refund the money.

He just didn’t understand! Sure, she wanted the money back, but more than that she wanted justice! This wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just about money. It was about her feeling violated and cheated and wanting that to be set right. She wanted an apology. Michael didn’t get it – he just wanted to “fix it” and make it go away. That made her so angry!


Michael knew he was missing something. He’d try to help when Joan was upset about something, and not only didn’t he seem to be able to help, he seemed to make things worse. Like the time that Joan was all upset about that broken chair. “Just call the credit card company,” he’d said. She looked at him like he was crazy and left the room. That one had taken days to calm down. He still didn’t understand it.

And there was the time that Joan was gone visiting her folks, and he cleaned and reorganized the kitchen cabinets. He was so proud of how logical and clever the arrangement was – pots near the stove, glasses near to hand, cooking utensils arranged near the stove and oven! He thought, all the time he was doing it, how excited and pleased Joan would be when she saw what he’d done.

Then she came home. He was excited, and showed her what he’d done, and explained how logical and efficient it all was. She just stood there with tears running down her cheeks. Why? What was wrong? Why hadn’t she loved it? Didn’t she know that he’d done it for her?


Joan had just about given up. Yes, she still loved Michael. And she thought he still loved her. But they just didn’t seem to be able to communicate. If she tried to tell him that she disagreed with him, he’d get all defensive and then turn it all back on her. And he was always criticizing and questioning and making her feel like she couldn’t do anything right.


Michael had just about given up. Yes, he still loved Joan. And he thought that she still loved him. But they just didn’t seem to be able to communicate. If he tried to tell her that he disagreed with her, she’d attack him, telling him that he wasn’t perfect and that she was doing her best and somehow she always ended up crying. And she was always making him feel like she didn’t need or want his help.


On this particular Monday, they had a date to visit Grannie. Grannie was not actually related to either of them. They’d both known her most of their adult lives, having met Grannie when they were first dating. She seemed ancient then, and that was twenty-five years ago! If they thought about it, they could remember her real name, but they’d been calling her “Grannie” for so long, well, that was who she was.

Both Michael and Joan were looking forward to seeing Grannie. As difficult as things were for them these days, they particularly enjoyed the time they spent with Grannie. She had such a lovely outlook on life – generally everything was simple and Grannie just listened and seemed to enjoy their company. She mostly didn’t put up with any “nonsense”, and had a habit of exposing the simple truths at the heart of things. Sometimes that could be hard for Michael and Joan, since Grannie didn’t allow them to hide things behind “polite lies” to protect their own feelings.

But on this night, both Michael and Joan were feeling both anticipation and fear. Each knew that Grannie would see through their public faces to what was in their hearts, and they were afraid of hearing her say it out loud. And yet, there was something in each of them that hoped…

Grannie is no fool. She’s lived a long life, surrounded herself with people she cares about, and paid attention to those people. As she gets older, her tolerance for “pussyfooting” and “shilly-shallying” goes down. So it’s no surprise to Joan or Michael when Grannie, early in their visit, asks “What’s wrong with you two?”

Naturally, they both leap to denial. Wouldn’t you? This is difficult stuff, and Joan and Michael haven’t been able to deal with it themselves. How can they talk about it with Grannie? But Grannie is not easily put off. With love and care, she draws them out.

You can imagine the discussion and the stories and how each describes the other’s behavior. Lots of sentences begin with…

“He/she makes me feel…”

Grannie lets it go on for a while and finally says “Hold on! Joan and Michael, you keep telling me that the other ‘makes you feel’ some way or other. Now I don’t doubt that Michael wants to ‘fix’ things, and Joan wants ‘support’ and that you two have come to be at odds somehow. That’s making me sad. I’ve known you two for a long time, and there’s no doubt in my mind that you truly love each other. So let me ask you a few questions, okay?”

Michael and Joan, as couples do, look at each other. Each gives a small, shy grin, and they both say “Sure, Grannie, go ahead.” And then they look at each other again and grin nervously. They know that Grannie won’t pull any punches, and are sort of nervous about what’s coming, but they also sort of hope that Grannie can cut through to the heart of the matter.

Grannie starts with a clean shot – “First of all, I don’t think that either of you ‘makes’ the other feel any way. I think each of you feels the way you feel because that’s the way you feel. Sure, the other person’s behavior is what triggers those feelings. But they don’t ‘make’ you feel, now do they?”

This is a tough one, and both Michael and Joan take a minute before answering. There’s a bit of flailing before they both accept that their feelings are their own, and not under someone else’s control.

“So then,” Grannie continues, “if your feelings are your own, and you are responsible for them, why are you finding yourself upset with and about the other so often?”

This isn’t getting any easier. Michael and Joan look at each other sideways. Grannie has, as always, started to cut through the distractions and into the heart. But both Michael and Joan have been struggling with this, and neither has an answer. And they each say so. Grannie watches them. Joan looks at Michael before answering, as though hoping for help. Michael looks at Joan before answering, as though looking for support. The bond that Grannie knew was always there is obviously still there.

“Joan, let me ask you a few questions directly, okay? Michael, you just listen for a minute.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Joan, do you love Michael?”

“Yes!”

“And do you like Michael?”

A moment for thought, then “Yes, most of the time.”

“And, Joan, do you believe that Michael loves you?”

Without hesitation, Joan says “Yes, I do.” And smiles, almost wistfully.

“And, Joan, do you believe that Michael likes you?”

And now Joan stops, and thinks, and looks under her eyelashes at Michael, and thinks some more. And says “I’m not sure any more. I think so some of the time, but some of the time I think he just doesn’t like me.”

“But you believe that he loves you and you know that you love him?”

“Yes!”

“Okay,” Grannie says, “Michael, now it’s your turn. Joan, you sit and listen.”

And Grannie proceeds to ask Michael the same questions. And much to Joan’s surprise, the answers are almost identical!

Since Joan and Michael are paying attention, they grin a bit and look at each other, maybe even a bit quizzically.

Grannie continues. “Now here’s my dilemma. You both tell me that you love the other. You also both tell me that you believe the other loves you. And you both tell me that you like the other most of the time, but that you aren’t sure that the other likes you. And there’s the dilemma.”

Grannie pauses, smiling beatifically at them, one eyebrow arched as she says “What I don’t understand is this: if you both feel and believe as you say you do, why doesn’t the belief that the other loves you deeply outweigh anything and everything else?”

Joan and Michael get a thoughtful look in their eyes. Joan looks at Michael and asks “You like me?” Michael, with a nervous grin says “Most of the time.” Joan smiles and says “Me, too!”


Michael and Joan are in love. Everyone that knows them has always known this. But their family and friends saw their difficulties. Being cautious of interfering in someone else’s relationship, and being careful of their own relationships with Michael and Joan, most of their family and friends had been treading carefully. And now?

Now everyone notices that Joan and Michael are acting like they’re in love, again. And when someone asks Joan what’s going on, Joan just says “He likes me!”

And when someone asks Michael what’s going on, he says “She likes me!”

And they smile at each other.


I wrote this around 2002 or 2003. I hadn’t read it for a long time, and just reread it today. I’m reminded that these lessons apply to far more than the marital relationship. It’s valuable to remember that our feelings are our own.

A Culture of Heroism

Agile & Lean, Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 11 2010

A while back, I wrote about A Culture of Blame. As I’ve traveled around the US and to other countries, I’ve seen more and more evidence of this, which keeps me thinking. I’m always looking for patterns of behavior, and simple ways to describe them.

When talking about Agile teams as compared to Waterfall teams, one of the things that has become apparent is that Waterfall is also a Culture of Heroism. In fact, in many ways, much of Western culture is about heroism. We laud the star athlete, the exceptional business person, the standout author, and so on. In many cases, it seems to be recognition and acclaim for the individual over the group, or at least the individual separate from the group.

Agile teams foster a culture of collaboration and cooperation. That’s not to say that there’s not room for individual excellence, effort, and achievement. I would say that high performant teams tend to focus on the success of the team over the individual. Is Agile more socialist, while Waterfall is more capitalist? I’m not sure, but it seems that way.

Regardless, there are a number of side effects of a Culture of Heroism:

  • Ego-driven achievement
  • Unhealthy competition (although sometimes it’s quite healthy)
  • Rewards that – in recognizing the individual – discourage the others on the team
  • A focus on the individual rather than the group goals

This is an interesting thing for me, because I’m highly competitive, and am happy to have individual recognition. On the other hand, I believe strongly in subordinating my ego to the purposes and goals of the team, and that the success of the team is what’s important*. Since my ego still wins out at times, I recognize that this is not just a struggle for me, but for others as well.

We’re raised in a culture of individualism and heroism, then we are invited into the Agile fold, and asked to shift our focus and our energy from ourselves to our teams.

I’ll continue to explore this as I get the opportunity to work with more teams. I will say that I’ve seen the culture of heroism everywhere I’ve gone, in one form or another, and believe firmly that the change to a culture of collaboration must come from the leadership as well as the team.

Consequences

Coping and Communicating, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 20 2009

I’m reading this book, and one character says to another “Everything has consequences.”

I swear I heard a bell go off in my head!

I’ve always said “Everything counts.”  And also “if I’m present, whether I’m active or passive, I have an effect on what happens.”

And then this fictitious characters says “Everything has consequences.” and it all comes together for me.

Everything you do, or don’t do, has consequences.

“Right, Doc. Like if I give my wife a gift, it has consequences?”

Yup. And sometimes unexpected ones. Maybe the gift is too expensive, or not expensive enough.  Maybe you thought she’d love it, but she sees it in a way you’d never think of.  Or maybe she just loves it, and feels warmer towards you for a while.

“Okay. How about if I do nothing?”

There’s no such thing as “nothing.” Being inactive is not nothing. Being silent or withdrawn is most definitely not “nothing.”

As always, since It’s All About Me, whatever you do or don’t do, I will interpret according to my context, my view of the world at that moment. And that’s my reality.

So “nothing” might be angry or hostile or sad or frustrated or… And, as they tell us in Crucial Conversations, I will then proceed to tell myself a story about how you feel, what it means, and how it affects me.  All as a result of you saying and doing… nothing.

I’m not suggesting that you either stop doing anything, or that you do something all the time.

I’m saying that it pays to be aware that Everything has consequences.

I’m sorry

Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 02 2009

I’m all in favor of saying “I’m sorry.” Not necessarily as an admission of fault or wrongdoing, of course. But because sometimes it’s the right thing to say.

“I had a really rotten day.” “I’m sorry.”

And then there are times that it’s just not the appropriate thing to say.

Mary and Bill were riding down in the elevator, on their way out to the store. They were chatting as usual, talking about this and that.

The elevator reached the ground floor. When the door opened, there was another couple standing right in front of the door, effectively blocking the way.

As Bill and Mary started to exit the elevator, Mary turned sideways to edge out, and said “I’m sorry.”

Bill’s inclination had been to say “excuse me” until Mary spoke up, and then he was stumped into silence.

What did Mary have to be sorry about? There was no fault, and nothing to be sympathetic to. Rather, the people standing in front of the elevator should have said “I’m sorry” or at least “excuse me” and moved aside.

So why would Mary say “I’m sorry”?

My thought is that Mary has self-image issues. She behaves as though she somehow believes that other people are worth more than she is or more important than she is. I could be wrong, but I’ve seen this kind of behavior enough times to have a clue.

While I believe strongly in treating people with respect, I don’t believe in behaving with automatic subservience or submission.

You’ve gotta earn those, and you’d better have a BIG hammer!

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.

“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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Inside or Outside?

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Mar 29 2009

I found Liz Strauss’s blog today, and particularly this post (there’s lots more – this is just the basics):

Two weeks ago, I wrote about finding your voice when the tribe has spoken. Losing a job is a sure a way to feel we’ve lost our tribe, but it’s not the only one. A relocation, a divorce, a huge setback of some sort, or some way of thinking can make us feel apart.

Lots of folks have lots of reason for feeling we’re on the outside.

It’s almost overwhelming. The world can seem to be one huge tribe and we can seem to be the only one who’s not a part. Of course, that’s flawed thinking. Ever met a group of people who could agree on anything huge for very long? The whole world is too big to hold a meeting about who belongs.

via How to Find Your Tribe in One Word – Liz Strauss at Successful Blog – Thinking, writing, business ideas … You’re only a stranger once..

It got me to thinking, once again, about where we live and how we relate to others.

As I’ve said before, we live in our own heads. Everything we think we know about the world around us is really inside us.

And yet, somehow, we form bonds and join tribes. Multiple tribes. For instance, I belong to the husbands tribe and the fathers tribe and the photographers tribe and the specialized tribe of fathers with multiple children. I belong to a technical professionals tribe and a facilitators tribe.

Isn’t it odd that that belongingness is really all in my head?

Admittedly, it’s reinforced by the behavior of the other members of my tribes. They treat me as a fellow tribe member. At least I interpret their behavior that way.

What happens when I no longer feel like a member of a particular tribe? What happens to me when I lose that sense of belonging?

I feel isolated, maybe lost, scared, and I wonder whether I’ll ever belong to a tribe again.

That leads me to think about how important it is for me to treat other members of my tribe.

Like an agile team is a tribe. Like my family is a tribe.

It’s that Golden Rule again.

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