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Excitingly Well Run Meetings

The group of people huddled together in a room “until the job is done” is often used as a demonstration of virtues like “diligence” and “commitment.” And these scenes are often the stuff of dramatic moments in popular culture. We rarely, if ever, see any effusive praise for the well-run meeting that ends on time with a useful outcome. The former is more compelling. The latter is often more valuable and much harder to do. And while there are times that the former is the right thing to do, more often than not, it’s an indication of a problem. Well run meetings are useful meetings.
While it seems a bit pedantic to talk about meetings and schedules, and teams often present a ‘meeting-free culture’ as an ideal, the reality is that software development is a collaborative activity and we need to interact with (or “meet”) with people. When you need collaborate with more than a couple of people — perhaps from different teams — scheduling a meeting is inevitable. People have other commitments a…
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Books to Make Discussion Easier

For a variety of reasons, I’ve recently found myself in quite a few conversations about social and political issues, both in person, and on Facebook and other social media. Even when I was engaging with someone with a different view that I had, I learned a lot, both about my views and contrary ones . Other conversations were more frustrating. The difference between the enjoyable ones and the frustrating ones seemed to be that the arguments I heard didn’t always seem to be either relevant or logical. Rather than (always) walk away I took these challenging conversations as an opportunity to practice focusing on understanding, rather than (only) and opportunity to win. (Though sometimes walking away is the best thing...)
I found these books, which I’ve recently read, to be a useful part of a toolkit for more productive arguments about controversial subjects:
Don’t Think of an ElephantMastering Logical FallaciesHumble Inquiry
Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff is the most partisan …

Review: Grit for Kids: 16 top steps for developing Grit, Passion, Willpower, and Perseverance in kids for self-confidence and a successful life

Because I had written reviews of Grit and other some education related books Lee David Daniels sent me a review copy of his short book Grit for Kids. While the title would have caught my eye, I’m not sure that I would have stumbled upon it otherwise, and I’m glad that the author brought it to my attention. While the book, by nature of its length, leaves out quite a bit about the concept and its application of Grit to parenting, it does provide a useful, actionable, introduction to concept.Grit for Kids is a short, application focused short book that can provide some needed guidance to parents who are struggling with how to help their kids follow through in the face of challenges, or just boredom. It says a minimal amount about the theory of “grit” and dives into scenarios and techniques you can use to encourage the right combination of endurance and passion with children in your care. The examples are realistic and address children of a variety of ages from later elementary to high sc…

Review: 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying

Sarah Cooper’s book 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, is very much a fun, and funny book, which, is also surprisingly useful and relevant. Part satire, part social commentary, it reminds us of people and situations we’ve been in and gives us the opportunity to laugh at others and ourselves. If you’ve been in any medium to large size organization (or had to interact with one), you’ve seen most of these “tricks” in action, and you’re likely to want to share select items with others, laugh out loud, or perhaps wistfully imagine life where these things didn’t happen. But the book offers more than just the opportunity to mock your corporate colleagues. After having a good laugh, you have the opportunity to think about why some of these tricks, — especially the ones that sound so reasonable — make you cringe when you see them in action. And that thought process can lead to better collaboration.Let’s start by taking a step back (see tip # 3). All of the items Cooper mentions are thi…

Mindfulness, Resilience and Positive Intelligence (Book Review)

I got a copy of Positive Intelligence at the recommendation of a leadership coach. After having done the “Saboteur” quiz on the Positive Intelligence site, I wanted to learn more about the his approach. While the book gets at some of the concepts I've seen in other places, the approach is worth exploring.The positive intelligence framework is that we have within us Saboteurs, which hold us back, and a Sage, which helps us explore possibilities. While the anthropomorphism initially made me feel a bit awkward, there is some power in ascribing non-productive reactions to a part of your thought process, and giving it a name. The book explains techniques to both be more attentive to, and thus able to suppress, your saboteurs, and also how to “strengthen” your Sage, so you can treat setbacks as opportunities more readily.Some of the basic themes of Positive Intelligence may sound familiar if you’ve spent any time learning about team leadership, but Chamine’s way of modeling them adds a…

Tribe: A Multi Level Discussion of Community

Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging is a book about the seemingly unlikely combination of community and war. It covered a lot of ground, and as such left me with a bit unsure of what Junger wanted his readers to take from it. But perhaps that’s his point: community and interdependence is a complex issue that works on many levels. You may not agree with all of Junger’s conclusions, or simply have a lot of questions, but since he has a number of references in the back, you have to tools to explore his sources more deeply. Because of diversity of the topics in the book, Tribe got me thinking about quite a few things in ways that I hadn’t expected. The book opens with a discussion the realization that modern society seems to be at odds with the intrinsic values that “self-determination theory” describes, and how the values of tribal societies support mental (and physical) health in both direct in direct ways. With a mix of history, quotes, stories from his experienc…

Ted Talks (Book Review)

TED talks often get me intrigued and inspired about topics that I sometimes hadn’t thought about before. As someone who speaks to various audiences at work and at professional events, I’m always looking for ideas about how to be a better speaker, and TED Talks, The official TED Guide to Public Speaking sounded like a promising resource, and I wasn’t disappointed. The book provides some good guidance about everything from developing an idea to actually speaking on stage. Even if you never expect to speak on the TED Stage or any other, the book still has value. Anderson points out early and repeatedly that “presentation literacy” is an important skill for everyone. Even if you never present to a formal audience, learning how to organize and distill what you want to say is a valuable skill, and many of the concepts are relevant to writing as well. Keeping “presentation presence” in mind can be useful even if you are sharing an idea with a colleague. If you want to be a better presenter (…