#Øredev14: Dan North – Deliberate Advice from an Accidental Career

My notes from Dan North’s talk at Øredev14.

Sage advice
Credit: Flickr / Randy Heinitz

“People Love Machine” – About people having an emotional connection with technology.

About 25 years in tech, had some wonderful wonderful interactions with people. Later realised pivotal moments. Be aware when you’re interacting, you may be having an impact.

Most interactions were from professional life, but realised a number outside of work, or at work but not technical things.

Part 1: Forming

#1: The Instructor

Studying ju-jitsu. Getting excited, been doing it for a couple of years. Asked if want to be an assistant instructor (demonstrate on). Went to course, day on the mat. Get taught things like “mat management”, need spatial awareness, need to make it safe.

Most of the class wasn’t that, “firstly, don’t over present yourself” – after you get better, feel a bit flash. Not there to see you, there to learn jitsu.

“It’s impossible to teach jitsu”, “all you can do is an instructor is create an environment in which someone can learn jitsu. The rest of it is up to them.”

So much of coaching, and change – what we do when not programming – is about sharing knowledge. How do you share? Can’t teach at you. Create an environment in which you can learn. If they choose to. If choose not to, that’s not on you. If a bunch of people who aren’t learning, that might be on you.

Impactful teachers aren’t necessarily nice. Might just have a message for you.

#2 The Message

Fascinated by NLP. 2 flavours: crazy america, and a nice packaging of behavioural psych.

“The message is what’s heard, not what’s said.” – Even if think been lucid, if thing had in head is different, that is what is actually said. Technique for thinking about rapor.

Say something, then calibrate, look at their reaction. Raised eyebrow? Arms folded? Have not yet communicated intent.

How can I tell when something I’ve tried to communicate has landed?

Coach someone on what you think you’re hearing, and what they are trying to say. The delta.

Unless you close the loop, easy to leave an interaction believing you have told them something they didn’t hear.

#3 The Conflict

Marco was a project manager and facilitator @ Thought Works. Put together a class for internal TW away day on NLP.

One thing wanted to work on was rapor and connection. Easy to turn up and consult at someone. Easy way not to get invited back.

Exercise: imagine a difficult interaction you’ve had with someone. Imagine that they are trying to help. Whatever someone is doing, however crazy, toxic, pathological… they think they are helping. What must be true for them? Such that they would think that is helping? If you can get there you’re genuinely in their headspace.

Lady in the class goes “woah”. Realised had been having the wrong conversation with project sponsor. Hadn’t occurred to think about what might be true for them. So different, anything been saying to him for the last 2 months could not have made sense. Now I can see a way through, to meet him where he’s at.

Had never seen anything land as profoundly for someone.

Tried to do it himself too.

Biting tongue, counting to 10. Use that time to think “what must be true for them? What is their reality such that this make sense?”

#4 The Taxi Ride

Bradley. Been a counsellor to life sentence inmates in prisons, brickie, built a company doing international relations in global companies.

About conflict. A taxi ride. Going home with girlfriend. Unlicensed taxi. Asked for a ridiculous amount of money. Threatens, “smash you in the face”. Bradley says “and then what? Unless you’ve stolen this car you’re going to be easy to find. Take 30GBP, or do this and we’ll see you in court.”

Fearlessness in challenging unreasonable behaviour. Be fearless without being reckless. Calculated risk. Technique called “mismatch”. Expecting one of two responses: fear, or aggression. Don’t expect “that would be a really silly idea” – not programmed for that. Other parts of your brain kick in. Same part that says “you’re being an idiot, that is not ok.”

Gave permission sometimes the right thing is a really abrupt intervention. Say it’s wrong. Gives other people permission to say why it’s wrong.

Can’t use all the time, become shouty, never listen to anyone person.

Sometimes can say this is wrong.

#5 The Vicar

Thought was a bad christian because wasn’t “gooding”. Went to vicar, said “you’re an IT professional, I can barely use this computer. My sphere is local. You go places I don’t go, and you can influence in places that I can’t reach.”

Broader – about being situationally aware.

Every situation is an opportunity for you to care about the things you care about.

#6 The Estimate

11 years ago, new shiny TW, doing planning and estimating at an internet bank. Having a meta meeting – a meeting about meeting where going to do the planning.

Guy suggested, get everyone to take an index card and write down how many people and how long for. Asked to say it as a consultant. Worked – 6-10 people, 6-10 months.

Egoless. Wanted idea to succeed, didn’t care about getting credit. Idea bigger than ego, and need to succeed. Had vision – get people doing this, get some work done.

Best of these interactions – don’t realise at the time it’s inspired you. Changes how you interact later.

Sometimes needs to be someone else. Have someone come in and say stuff, because expensive enough to have clout.

#7 The Coach

3 stage model of coaching. Sometimes you just have to say “follow me”, get them following you.

Doesn’t sound like coaching. Stage 1: lead from the front.

Stage 2: firm hand in the back.

Stage 3: coaching from behind – bit of course correction.

Sometimes, coaching is a function of time.

New team, give permission to say “lets just do this”, come to the why later.

Leading from the front isn’t bad. Talk about “servant leaders” – got good at being servant, and bad at being leaders. Leader is saying “this is where we are going”.

Scared of leading because leading used to be managing, but now we’re agile and we’re not doing that anymore.

Don’t mind no estimates, do mind no commitment.

Part 2: Shaping (pay it forward)

#8 The Deadline

Team of smart people, at each other’s throats. Trying to figure out how to do a thing, lots of opinions for how to do the thing.

First, listened. Drank a lot of coffee and listened.

They were all right. Lots of ways to do this. All possible. But didn’t matter, because none of them would work.

Had to go to senior director, and say, “this is not going to solve your problem.” Was asked, “why has no-one else told me this?”

Answer: “I think they are afraid of you.”

Reminded of Bradley. Noone wanted to do it, someone had to. Felt able to have this conversation. Didn’t want to do it, don’t like upsetting people.

Director asked “so what can we do?”, offered another solution, bit riskier. Need air cover.

Told: “go do it. Don’t screw it up”

Did it. Turned out alright.

#9 The Team Lead 

Senior tech guy, parachuted in. TL said, “it’s all yours”, said no “it’s your team” – tried to create a win-win. She’s a better project manager, she gets stuff done.

Try to be a well-rounded person, but can’t do that. That’s why you build a team.

Surround by people who are good at the stuff he’s rubbish at.

She was on the hook for delivery, told him what to do. He had someone he could rely on, could keep him from doing shiny things.

Client gets exactly the outcome they want.

The End

People impact you. Have a think about the things that have been impactful for you. Any interaction you have with someone, could be impactful to someone further on in their career.

Maya Angelou: ““I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.””