Do You Measure Your We-We?

The next time you’re talking with someone in a position of authority or responsibility, try this: Count the number of times they say “we” or “us” — versus “me”, “my” or “I”.

For example, imagine you work at a company that makes gizmos. You’ve worked hard with a group of people to create the gizmo, and someone in a leadership position relates a story about meeting with a potential Client and says: “I want them to see the value of my product.

Oh really, it’s your product?

Or, are they more inclusive, and instead say something like: “We want to show them the value we can provide.

I would argue that in certain situations, leaders who use words that are inclusive (like “we” or “our”) resonate more strongly with the people around them than those who make things about themselves.

Personally, I am put off by a person who makes it all about them.  I’m sure this is much more about me and my issues than them and their words, but I often wonder how people would respond to their leaders if more inclusive words are used.  I’m sure there are studies that have looked at this.

So the next time you’re thinking about how to communicate to your team (or listening to someone in leadership), consider measuring your (or their) we-we factor (not wee-wee, come on kids!), and see if you notice any difference when inclusive words are used.

What do you think? Are you turned off by people who make things about themselves? Does it make any difference in how you feel?  Or, are people like me just too sensitive?

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Things You Wish You Could Say At Work

The other day I heard one of our engineers say that he had to take vacation before the end of the year.  It seemed he actually wanted to work, but that he had to use the vacation — or he’d lose it.

Wait a sec.  Here’s a guy who wants to work, but for whom our “use it or lose it” policy is back-firing.  (Of course, he could still take time off and work anyway [I won’t get into that here], and that’s not the point.)

But before I get to my point: I am a big believer in taking time off.  In my earlier days, I had a very hard time pulling myself away.  I went through what felt like extreme emotional duress, worrying about this, that, and the other thing.  I couldn’t sleep, focus, or be present with the people around me.

I was somewhere else and nowhere at all.  Maybe you know the feeling.

But over the years, something strange happened.  I started learning how to unwind, and began forcing myself to disconnect.  And in doing so, I didn’t become lazy (one of my fears), or miss out on something (another fear).  Instead, my thinking was enriched, my soul refreshed, and my body renewed.  Vacation and time away is a wonderful thing and can actually improve your results.  I encourage everyone around me to do it and feel good about it.

So here’s the point — something I wish we could say at work: Why do we even have a vacation policy at all?

I wish we (and other companies) had the guts to implement a policy like this:

  • Official Policy: Be Reasonable And Use Your Head.  That’s it.
  • What does that mean?  It means we don’t track vacation or sick days.  Take as little or as many as you need to feel creative and productive.
  • This doesn’t mean people take time off without getting their job done.  Instead, it means that we track their results  – and people make sure their work gets done.  They’re adults.

I’ve thrown this idea out to people, and I usually get the same question: “Dave, you’re smoking something.  What do we do if someone abuses this policy?

I think that’s easy: We’d let them know they aren’t meeting our “be reasonable and use your head” policy, and we’d say “bye-bye” if it doesn’t improve.  They wouldn’t fit in and I fully expect their peers would call them out.   I realize there are legal implications that would have to be worked out (especially here in CA), but I feel that (maybe?) the right people would be attracted by a policy like this.

Your turn: What do you think of doing away with vacation policies?  What are some things you wish you could say at work, but don’t have the guts to utter?

How To Expose Yourself In The Workplace — And Not Be a Creep

A few years ago, I realized that nearly all of the things that irritate me about my interactions with other people are a result of my own lack of communication.

Here’s what I mean: In any given situation where you feel disappointed, angry, or frustrated at an outcome you’re experiencing with someone, have you stopped to think about why it is you’re feeling this way?

What first comes to mind may be helpful — but if you continue asking yourself “why” after the first thought/reason (and repeat this process a few times), you may come to a more refined understanding of what’s driving your discomfort.

What I came to realize is that in my interactions with others, I was becoming upset — or feeling let down — because I operate from a set of viewpoints that are fully to known to me, but completely unknown to the person I’m working with.  From one perspective, these viewpoints are all I know, and because they’ve been with me for 30+ years, I somehow feel others know these things about me too.

But of course that’s silly and nearly impossible.  They’re not mind-readers!

Once I realized this, I decided to write out these viewpoints in a simple list (particular to the work environment), and share/discuss them with everyone around me.  I make it a point to do this with new hires.

It takes some vulnerability — and I’ve often received very surprised looks when I do this, especially during an interview or first day on the job — but I think that this exercise has helped me give the other person a frame of reference for why I behave, respond, and think the way I do.

My hope is that this makes it a tiny bit easier for us to do great work together.  And through leading in vulnerability, I also seek to give them a platform to feel comfortable with me.

If you’re interested, here’s my list, which I call “This is Dave”.

What do you think? Have you ever stopped to think about what’s on your list?  What are some of those things?  Would exposing these things be scary — or liberating?

Attitude Check: Are You a Pig or Chicken?

Our chief software architect, Aref Memarian, recently shared “Essential Scrum” with me.  If you’re looking for a great review of scrum from someone who has obvious hands-on experience, I’d definitely recommend it.

While reviewing the various roles involved in agile development, the author describes two types of people: Pigs, and Chickens.  Imagine this scenario:

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.  The Chicken says, “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

Pig replies, “Well, perhaps, but what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds, “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says, “No thanks.  I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”

This analogy is based upon the Pig providing bacon, an act which requires total commitment to provide (i.e., death), in contrast to a Chicken who provides eggs — a task requiring participant but not his life.

In other words, in a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, the difference between a Pig and Chicken is that the Chicken is involved, but the Pig is fully committed!

In most organizations, you’ll probably need a combination of Pigs and Chickens involved on any particular project. You want your Pigs to be committed, which means they should have autonomy and freedom, in exchange for being held completely accountable and responsible for the project’s success. Your Chickens can provide input and support as required.

Now, what if you apply this concept beyond a particular project, and apply it to an organization as a whole?  For example:

  • If you’re a leader, what’s your mix of Pigs and Chickens?  Do you want more of one and less of another?  (And think: Which are you?)
  • If you’re in a non-leadership position, what’s your perspective? Are you a Pig, committed and accountable for your organization’s success, or a Chicken — involved, but only to a limit?

Is there anything wrong with being a Chicken?

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