Sunday, January 31, 2010

BOOK: Winning with People

[This was originally posted at http://timstall.dotnetdevelopersjournal.com/book_winning_with_people.htm]

I am not a people person. However, I do love software engineering, and I recognize that no software engineering project will succeed without people. 95% of every project failure I've ever seen (or heard of) has ultimately been due to people reasons, not technical reasons - two coworkers can't get along, the manager leads the team in the wrong direction, the tech folks can't get the requirements from the business folks, the QA and dev teams bicker about what's "really an issue", etc... Hence, the cruel irony that just like I work on technical skills, I must also actively work on people skills. Sometimes that means not talking about work during the occasional co-worker lunch. Other times it means reading people-oriented books. This latter activity makes me consciously focus on people interactions.

One such book I read was John Maxwells' Winning with People. It was a Christmas present. John has written dozens of books about people, leadership, relationships, and all that. He's got a lot of wisdom. The book is a series of short chapters on various principles like "Never let the situation mean more than the relationship", and "the journey with others is slower than the journey alone." I found it practical, avoiding the common sense clich├ęs like "be nice, work hard, etc..."

I saw a few big take-aways:

  • "The journey with others is slower than the journey alone" (pg. 198)
  • Quoting Andrew Carnegie, "No man becomes rich unless he enriches others." (pg. 230)
  • "If individuals don't possess people skills, they very quickly hit a ceiling in their effectiveness." (pg. 242)
  • "Most of us admire and respect people who sustain solid, long-term relationships." (pg. 259)

The book is also filled with good quotes, like:

  • Quoted T.S. Eliot as saying "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important." (pg. 11)
  • Quoted someone "the difference between who you are today and who you will be in fie years will be the people you spend time with and the books that you read." (pg. 13)
  • "Actions are remembered long after words are forgotten" (pg. 42)
  • "People who add value to others almost always do so intentionally."
  • "We often expect maturity to come with age, but the truth is, sometimes age comes alone." (pg. 63) - There are young devs who are great, and "experienced" devs who are not.
  • "Ultimately the things that bring fulfillment involve others." -  I would find it more fulfilling to use an old technology with friends, where we actually ship the product, then a new "cool" technology by myself.
  • "The best way to keep from stepping on other people's toes is to put yourself in their shows." (pg. 73) [I see this continually in the classic software rivalries: managers who want to deliver vs. techies who want to do "cool" stuff; application developers vs. QA, application developers vs. IT infrastructure, etc...]
  • "I made a mistake of trying to impress everybody" (pg. 95) - Software engineering is too big, so you can't possibly know it all, so inevitably you'll meet people who know more than you. One of the dumbest thoughts that ever crossed my mind as a younger consultant was "everybody asks me for help, but I don't need to ask anyone else - I must be doing great". Ah, the cluelessness of being young.
  • "If you don't like people or don't believe in them, you won't be able to fake it" (pg. 104). Tim's translation: "People can tell when you think they're a moron."
  • "Caring for people should precede confronting people" (pg. 107)
  • "Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." (pg 111)
  • "Most of the time when you confront people, they will have an emotional reaction." (pg. 114)
  • "Most people hate confrontation, but they love resolution." (pg. 115)
  • "If you are not honest with yourself, you will not be capable of honest with others." (pg. 126) - Example: If you deceive yourself into thinking the big task will be done in only 4 days, you're going to struggle giving accurate status reports to management.
  • "It is more rewarding to resolve a situation than to dissolve a relationship." (pg. 132)
  • Quoting someone else: "If you make every game a life-and-death proposition... you'll be dead a lot." (pg. 138)
  • Quoting someone else: "A successful man in one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him" (pg. 222)
  • "People are an appreciating asset only if we are willing to invest in them." (pg. 233)

See also:

BOOK: Making Things Happen, BOOK: Bringing Out the Best in People

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