Forums

I've struggled recently with my ability to focus on helping people in my organization. Unfortunately, I've been consumed with getting results, and doing "things" to be more productive.

It seems like I'm in a pretty typical place for engineers. I find myself thinking more about how the team performs so that I can achieve results, or thinking about how I can coach folks so that they'll meet goals that I think are appropriate.

I need to begin changing my behavior so that I focus more on people skills. In the past, when I've needed to change behaviors, I start surrounding myself with people and resources that typify the new behaviors I need.

That said, can anyone help point me to forums, reading material, groups that will help me get immersed in a "new" culture.

Thanks!

kklogic's picture

Greg,
Great self-awareness. Kudos. Can you be specific on what behaviors you'd like to change - or any feedback you've received?

akinsgre's picture

First, I'm not a "typical" asocial engineer.

I like working with people. I really enjoy working in an open area with a team, when I feel that everyone is "gelling".

Some of the extra-curricular activities I do are driven by the social aspect. Even the technical user group I founded (pghcodingdojo.org) is, more or less, a mechanism for me to interact socially with other developers.

One thing I do is: when things aren't going well at work, I tend to stay in my cube more and work on technical things rather than getting out and working with my directs.

Secondly, notice how the first first couple paragraphs all focus on "ME". I am afraid that I have a difficult time looking at things from other's perspectives.

So, while I like open offices. It is hard for me to accept that others like private offices.

lazerus's picture

Hi Greg,
I really appreciate the question. I am the same way. I have excellent relationships with my directs, but I find the friction and conflict between departments difficult at times. I think that long term success as a manager demands a higher level of interpersonal skills, and I too would like to hear what the Forum says about this.

As far as work space goes, check [url=http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4991.html]this[/url] out, I think you'll find it interesting. Knowledge workers have to collaborate , AND require a certain amount of concentrated uninterrupted time and space.

tomw's picture

My personal favorite: Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

He talks a lot about developing your own motivations and confidence.... so yo can be better at dealing with other people, especially in situations where not being sure of yourself can be a problem (which is just about always). A major focus is learning to see things through the other person's eyes.

US41's picture

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Carnegie is the classic treatise on the topic. Check out the microcommunications podcast. The four recommendations in there are major people skills.

Beyond that, read First Break All the Rules by Buckingham and Now Discover Your Strengths by the same author. You don't want to try to turn yourself into something you cannot be. Rather, learn to leverage your natural way to accomplish the same end result.

Don't over-focus on what you cannot do. Just shore it up enough to keep it from sinking you and spend your time developing your abilities you naturally have.

jhack's picture

Just finished Carnegie's "How to Win Friends ..." while on the plane this week. (thanks to Mark for insisting that I read it right away!)

US41 is right; Carnegie's book is great. Buckingham also has some solid advice.

Don't forget "one kind thing." Smile. Relax (not your standards, your muscles).

John

akinsgre's picture

[quote="lazerus"]
As far as work space goes, check [url=http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4991.html]this[/url] out, I think you'll find it interesting. Knowledge workers have to collaborate , AND require a certain amount of concentrated uninterrupted time and space.[/quote]

Great article. I've read a lot about how important private offices are for developers (Peopleware puts much emphasis on this); but have struggled what I've perceived as a lot of extra efficiency gained by having people sitting close enough to talk easily.

That article offered a great perspective.

akinsgre's picture

Thanks for those suggestions. I'd listened to Seven Habits, but it's been awhile. Time to get that one out.

And I forgot about "How to win friends.." so that goes on the list too.

John, your comment about "Kind Things" made me think a little more.

Again, I am not asocial. I enjoy working with people, and really enjoy doing nice things for my directs and helping them in their careers.

Incidentally, one of the things that's made me happiness in the last couple years are some incidents when I've helped other developers (not my directs) find jobs that they like. It gives me a real feeling of helping other people.

The behavior that, in my mind, I keep coming back to is when I'm really busy, or stressed, I let the people management stuff go and either stick with individual contibutor work,or try to use "technical" management to get around the problems.

I'd like to be more inclined to find people solutions when there are people problems. Make sense?

ctomasi's picture

Greg,

I'd like to recommend setting up a schedule. Are you doing weekly one-on-ones? Those are very powerful. They open a lot of opportunities for more (and better) communication with your directs. Are you giving regular feedback (using the feedback model)?

Also, perhaps twice a day, get up, talk to the people. I do this one because I'm not physically in the same area of the building as my team. Try questions like: "How's it going?" "Anything I can help with?" "You look like you have a question?" You might be surprised what you get. Even if all you do is listen to them, that's a lot. Of course, don't barge in on them when they're on the phone, deep in thought over a complex problem, etc.

I share your self-awareness about keeping on top of the people-skills. It takes time to develop, but as I've recently found out, it pays off and the directs appreciate it.

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="jhack"]Just finished Carnegie's "How to Win Friends ..." while on the plane this week. [/quote]

"How to Win Friends..." is important enough that I have the audio version and re-listen to the book at least twice per year.

akinsgre's picture

[quote="ctomasi"]I'd like to recommend setting up a schedule. Are you doing weekly one-on-ones? Those are very powerful. They open a lot of opportunities for more (and better) communication with your directs. Are you giving regular feedback (using the feedback model)?
[/quote]

I was doing O3s and feedback; but they were tough, especially if I was having a tough days, or the O3 was with a "difficult" direct.

Scheduling other things, like walking around, was not something I'd thought of. That's a great idea.

jhack's picture

Greg,

It's great that you are self aware and are really working to make this better for you and your team.
[quote="akinsgre"]...when I'm really busy, or stressed, I let the people management stuff go and either stick with individual contibutor work,or try to use "technical" management to get around the problems.[/quote]
Delegate - don't go back to your individual contributor role, but rather help your team help you. Coaching, even doing the training yourself, will get them to take on more responsibility. Turn "distress" into "eustress."

John

iann22's picture

I would like to add a few more resources to this list.
These are coming from the belief that soft-skills aren't just for the office and, as such, these books will mostly be found outside of the business section of your local bookshops.
[b]Influence: The Art of Persuasion[/b] by Robert Cialdini
[b]The Art of Seduction[/b] by Robert Greene
[b]Mastering Your Hidden Self[/b]: A Guide to the Huna Way by Serge King
[b]Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming[/b]: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People by Joseph O'Connor and John Seymour
[b]The Red Queen[/b] by Matt Ridley
[b]The Way of the Superior Man[/b] by David Deida
[b]How to Tell a Story[/b] by Peter Rubie
[b]The Art of Speedreading People[/b]: How to Size People Up and Speak Their Language by Paul Tieger
[b]Emotional Intelligence[/b] by Daniel P. Goleman
[b]Radical Honesty[/b]: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton
[b]The Psychology of Achievement[/b] by Brian Tracy
[b]Walking with Cavemen[/b] DVD from Caroline Noh
And lastly:
[b]The Game[/b] by Neil Strauss - The biography of one man's soft-skills development.
And if you wanted to go further in this arena, then I would recommend anything by David DeAngelo. These are DVDs or MP3s and will be easier found on ebay than Amazon. '77 Laws' is a good start-point and an accessible overview of his other work.

WillDuke's picture

I've been reading and appreciating your posts here for a while. So I have a question:

1. What's the real problem here? (Specifically, not a general problem.)

A performance environment is a good "social" environment. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team.

Also, your people are probably engineers too right? They probably like the same things you do. Look at your DiSC profile. Look at their DiSC profiles. Is the environment they are in good for them?

I'm not sure I'd rush in looking for trouble where there isn't any.

lazerus's picture

Will, if I may take that question, and please Greg I am not speaking for you but as a manager interested in improving my people skills.

The problem is (sometimes for me) that when you get stressed by work, you don't want to do the people part of managing. But, to be effective as a manager, [b]that's the important part![/b] Especially "being nice" to requests from outside yor department. If I'm really busy working, as a high C, I'm not all that interested in "doing you a favor", even if in my left brain I know it is the coin of the realm, as Mark has said in the recent Matrix podcast. As a high C, it's easier to get information about people skills like this from books or the MT forum than to "put yourself out there" and just do the stuff you need to. A person in this position will be seen as arrogant or worse by those who don't understand it. I am not rationalizing the behavior, I am saying that as a manager we have to overcome the natural instinct to shrink back from people during the course of the work.

I picked up my old copy of "Win Friends...", thanks to everyone who pointed that out. It never fails to inspire me how much people here care about each others improvement!

akinsgre's picture

[quote="WillDuke"]What's the real problem here? (Specifically, not a general problem.)
[/quote]

The real problem is that I'm not building good enough relationships with my directs.
[list]
- O3s are forced.
- Missing opportunities for coaching.
- Not delegating well.
[/list:u]

In my supervisory roles, I can distinguish between two different situations. One in which my team members are on the same page, where we can communicate well, trust is high, and I'm not feeling like I'm pulling teeth to get them to do things for me.

On the other hand, sometimes I feel just the opposite.

It's my belief that the lack of trust is coming from a downward spiral around poor communication and poor people skills.

WillDuke's picture

Lazerus - I certainly wouldn't argue with Horstman's law #1 - It's all about people. Because it's ALL about people, I don't think it is helpful to reference "the people management stuff" generically. A directive to "work on the people management stuff" is not actionable. As a feedback comment we would cringe:
"Bob, can I give you some feedback? You need to work on the people management stuff."

It's big, broad, and vague. Let's get specific. What particulars of "people management" aren't going well? Let's use the MT tools that can help us improve. What behavior are we exhibiting that we can improve upon?

Are we hiding in the bathroom to avoid confrontation with an upset customer? Great, we can give ourselves feedback on that behavior.

Are we avoiding O3s with a confrontational direct? Great, let's give feedback on that behavior.

WillDuke's picture

So after my soapbox rant I see askingre's reply.

[quote]The real problem is that I'm not building good enough relationships with my directs.
- O3s are forced.
- Missing opportunities for coaching.
- Not delegating well. [/quote]
Let's look at them one at a time.

O3s are forced.
How long have you been doing them? Does your side feel forced, or is it their side? Are you focusing on THEM during the O3? Not what you want from them, but what will HELP THEM.
Resources - Listen to O3 podcasts again. Every time I do I find something I missed before.

Missed coaching Opportunities
This is an easy one. Don't let yourself miss the opportunities. :) Apparently you're recognizing the opportunities and just not taking them. So, set yourself a goal. How many opportunities are you missing now? Are they daily? weekly? How many are you going to capture? 1 a day? 2 a week? If it's more than you're doing now then it's an improvement.
Resources - Coaching podcasts

Delegating
Why do you say you're not delegating well? Are you not following up? If that's the issue, do so in the O3. It'll help with the first issue.
Are you not delegating enough? More coaching might help you delegate more. This would help with your second issue.
Resources - Delegating podcasts

[quote]It's my belief that the lack of trust is coming from a downward spiral around poor communication and poor people skills.[/quote]
I'd say give yourself a break on the people skills. We all worry about our people skills, but it's too vague of an indictment to do you any good. As for poor communication, trust your instincts. If that's what you think the problem is, then you're probably right.

Work the tools. It will be uncomfortable. It will feel goofy. People will laugh a little bit. But when each direct gets their 1/2 hour weekly. When each direct gets a deluge of feedback. When each direct gets coaching. When each direct gets delegation. When the trinity happens nobody suffers from lack of communication. :wink:

US41's picture

[quote]Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton [/quote]

I've read that book. The impression I had after reading it was that the man was terribly naive. It would be folly to ignore power politics and people's tendency to take offense in a desperate struggle to be perfectly honest.

To me, that is purifying one's own soul even at the expense of others.

I think Machiavelli knew more about human nature. You don't have to strategize the downfall of your coworkers - but you can pay attention to the likely outcomes from certain behaviors such as telling everyone the truth all of the time.