Archive | October, 2008

Interesting people are interested in people…

21 Oct

I’ve started to realize more and more that there are fundamentally two types of people in the business world: people people, and non-people people. Allow me to explain:

People people are those people who are genuinely interested in others – and the three dimensionality of their interests, their passions, their hobbies, their loves, their lives as human beings, and then there are those who are interested in others only as a means to advance their own agendas such as making a sale, finding a date, moving up in the company, etc.

I’m one of the former group – a people person, which, given my background as a mechanical engineer and software developer, is somewhat of an anomoly. When I was in engineering school, I served as a volunteer for the students’ union orientation committee where a group of us would “host” a group of out of town (rural) students for the weekend in the dormitories and tour them on campus, introduce them to cafeteria food, and provide information and lectures on the logistics of student life and university procedures. My engineering colleagues were astounded that I’d spend my free hours doing something so mundane as meeting and greeting new students – especially when it didn’t guarantee any favors on campus or increased grades. “Why would you bother spending a weekend touring around new students with those social science people only the students union?” they’d ask incredulously. No answer would resonate to their satisfaction – but the truth was that I simply enjoyed getting out of the engineering building, meeting the others on the orientation team, and meeting newcomers to the university. No reason other than expanding my own knowledge of cultures and people in general was why I volunteered. And, to my engineering buddies’ chagrin, it was fun!

Since those long bygone days, I’ve had many occasions where well meaning colleagues have suggested that I could better spend my time “courting” the higher-ups rather than the secretaries when I am at a social gathering. The truth is that networking to me is meeting and greeting everyone at an event – not just those who can advance my career. One co-worker asked me point blank a couple of years back why I would ever take the time to coordinate and arrange an “adhoc” dinner for people at a conference (i.e., anyone who wanted to go to dinner signed up on a sheet of paper and then we made reservations at a local restaurant) – especially when it might not lead directly to a new contract or offer of paid work. I was the one who was surprised by his question – I never realized that I should only talk to people who could provide me with a direct benefit.

Yet, I’ve come to realize that this separation of people types is incredibly common – even amongst those who are considered to be great networkers (those who can really “work” a roomful of strangers). Those who are non-people people will typically approach only those people who they have already researched beforehand, or who they might want to ask out on a date. I’ve witnessed this as recently as last week when I attended a major technology group event in my local area, and the head honcho (who happened to be a single guy in his 40’s) would only approach good-looking women to talk to. Those of us who had knowledge or could have advanced his career were second rate citizens to this guy. Yet there were others in similar positions who took the time to approach everyone equally and talk to each person who attended the event (which was to solicit volunteers for upcoming school programs). Those who were truly interested in other people were the ones who I found the most interesting at the gathering, yet I am quite sure that both types (as opposed to those who don’t go to networking events at all) do quite well despite their interest in people.

I, for one, just find it incredibly interesting to learn that there are so many truly different people one can meet by simply being interested. To me, the most interesting people I meet are interested in people. Maybe it’s true what they say after all – we tend to like people who are most like ourselves. So is it any wonder that people people like people people?

Have a nice week!
Carol Dekkers
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com
———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————

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Marketing and sales for professional IT experts… not your father’s world

17 Oct

As a technical person with loads of experience and a solid reputation for my expertise, I’ve never had to market myself per se in the past. But today’s world is different, and changing, and chaotic – and while word of mouth advertising is still my preferred method to gain new business, it just doesn’t cut it anymore.  Strangely enough, the more I seek to do high quality consulting with companies really committed to process improvement, and the more I seek out conference speaking opportunities, the more I encounter marketing, advertising, and pure sales skills are what seems to separate the busy from the merely working to make a living!

In my father’s world, going to work (even entrepreneurs) and working hard was all it took for the majority of people to earn a solid living with a loyal company and a long career.  Not so anymore. Today, those who are earning the top dollars in the software measurement and speaking businesses are less those with the high quality skills of analysis and communication and more those with sales forces, skilled marketers and slick advertising.  Is this really what it takes today to stand out and be distinctive amongst all of those competing for work?

I’ve been thinking about this and especially in light of the fact that more and more layoffs are occurring in the United States and throughout the worlds – especially for 40-50 something age bracketed professional workers who can be much more cheaply replaced by foreign workers or outsourced partners.  Just how can a technical professional whose strengths lie in experience and expertise find ample work without accepting a fulltime job (if he/she can even find one)?  What are the acceptable limits of selling one’s strengths without overdoing it?  What is the threshold to which our technical peers will still read ad copy and not gag at the pontification that some marketers use to “sell” bodies (as in body-shopping of professional services)?

I’d like to know what you think.  If you’ve got ideas about how you would go about marketing your own professional services into higher quality work that is worthy of your skills and expertise (e.g., not for just “working” anywhere…), please post comments here.  As more and more layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing, and displacement happens here in the US (with a ripple effect throughout Europe and the world) we’re going to need the support of each other.

It’s not the world of our fathers (or even our older brothers) – and the quicker we adapt and adopt to the changes today, the better our children will be equipped to face tomorrow.

Regards,

Carol Dekkers

www.caroldekkers.com

www.qualityplustech.com
———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————

Conquering Communication Litter

14 Oct

Carol Dekkers

Carol Dekkers

 

By Carol A. Dekkers, CMC, PMP, P.Eng.

 

Abstract:  Communication is often a skill we take for granted.  It is so much a part of our everyday life that we seldom take notice of the communication litter we toss out to the people we meet, yet we wonder why we feel ignored, misunderstood and even exhausted.

I have never been a morning person, so I usually start my day off slowly by walking my dog around the neighborhood.  As part of my routine, I take along a trash bag to pick up the “doggie doo” plus litter I find.

discarded along the sidewalk – water bottles, cigarette packages, bits of plastic, etc. 

There’s lots of it!  Every day I discover bits of litter discarded along the sidewalk from the day before – water bottles, empty cigarette packages, plastic bags, fast-food containers, you name it – a veritable smorgasbord reflecting our fast-food nation!

When I started watching for litter a few months back, I was amazed that simply by becoming aware of it, I quickly filled a grocery sized trash bag.  Now, even when I am out somewhere else, I notice litter on every corner – discarded to avoid clutter in cars or on persons.

After completing my walk this morning, it occurred to me that litter could be an analogy for what we encounter in our routine communication.  We unconsciously contribute to communication litter by tossing careless words at our colleagues, and then wonder why we feel ignored, misunderstood and even exhausted.

Litter, litter, everywhere

Let me explain.  Just as we need to be aware not to litter our streets with trash others must pick up, we need to become aware of the communication litter we unconsciously toss to those we encounter in the routine of our everyday lives. Unconsciously, and often in an attempt to connect with colleagues, we spew forth words and phrases without thinking about how they accumulate and stick to those we meet.  For example, we may toss out  “Gosh, you look tired, must have been a rough night.” This sounds innocuous enough, but the recipient gets covered in bits of judgmental litter.  All day long we make casual comments, unconscious of the fact that we it may be verbal rubbish attaching itself to others and littering our corporate landscape.  We all walk around with bits of such lint that accumulates as a carpet of snow by days end.

We unconsciously contribute to communication litter by tossing careless words at our colleagues, and then wonder why we feel ignored, misunderstood and even exhausted.

The problem with litter

The simple act of conscious observation is the first step to eliminating our habits of verbal littering.  Without consciousness, we end up with so much communication refuse at the end of the day that we pass it out to our unwitting spouses, children, pets and friends.  Is it any wonder there is so much road rage, frustration, and domestic discord?  While we may not consciously treat someone with disregard, this is often the result when we are reckless with communication.  According to 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.”

There are typically two ways of dealing with all this communication rubbish:  1.we can deny the problem and dismiss how it makes us feel, especially since we’ve  learned to stay professional at work.  In addition, it is often not easily fixable – by suggesting that someone “made us feel” could result in even more litter: we may be chided for being “too sensitive”, mocked or even held up as an example; none of which would improve our morale.

Conscious awareness

However, the second way to deal with communication litter is 2. To become consciously aware.  We can take steps to change our habit of tossing out litter to others, and recognize when it happens to us.  We can be silent or redirect things to acknowledge something the other person is doing well. At the same time, we can pick off our own lint and discard it before it sticks to us. 

A few examples may serve to make what I’m talking about crystal clear.  Let’s say you get up a few minutes late and run the danger of arriving late to work.  As you pass your daughter’s room, you notice that she is trying to find a clean shirt out of the pile on her floor and utter “You should have hung up your clothes and picked your outfit last night – hurry up, we’re going to be late”.  You’ve just lobbed out your first two pieces of communication litter and started both your and her day with unpleasant, critical parental judgments.  While you may be correct, it serves no useful purpose to comment on something that should have been done when it cannot be now.  In the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer, “… If you shoulda and coulda, you woulda done it.”

Then when we walk into our workplace, we continue the habit. We may make everything about us: “I hate it when there’s only one cup of coffee left, and I have to make it. It always happens to me when I’m in a hurry.”  The positive outcome to anyone within earshot is questionable.  How much better it would be to simply keep the comment to ourselves and give ourselves a few extra minutes before a meeting in case the coffee is depleted, rather than centering the world on ourselves.  This is another form of communication litter.

It is easy to toss out these bits unconsciously. When we are unstressed, we need to become conscious and aware of the words we use.  Judgments about how we think someone’s night was, or why their hair looks less than perfect, are best left unsaid.  Once we realize that the mom-ism “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” applies equally to adults, we are on the road to reforming our littering ways. 

Communicating without litter

Maybe now we can refine and reframe our earlier example.  Conscious to the problem, we can consciously walk by our daughter’s room and say “Good morning sweetie.  I got up late this morning so we really need to hurry.” Then later, in a loving conversation, we can address the mountain of clothing in the bedroom. 

So does this mean that we say nothing at all when we walk by someone and make mental judgments?  Quite the contrary – once we notice and stop ourselves from tossing out a judgmental comment, we can replace it with a simple “good morning”, “good afternoon” or another comment useful to further the goals of the day.

Summary

Just as my neighborhood becomes a little more beautiful by consciously picking up a bit of trash daily, our lives and our workplaces can also be enhanced by beginning to recognize the bits of communication trash we toss out, and also accumulate during the day.  When we can identify our own contribution to the problem, we can begin to clean up the litter habit, and slowly but surely we can beautify our corporate landscape.

About Carol Dekkers, PMP, CMC, P.Eng., CFPS

Carol Dekkers is president of Quality Plus Technologies and works with clients who want to maximize their  communication effectiveness.  Her technical presentations on software measurement, scope management, quality, and communication have earned her a reputation as an international expert and she has served on the U.S. delegation to ISO standatds since 1994.  Ms. Dekkers ability to transform technical information into easily understood English has garnered her loyal supporters spanning more than 25 countries and a range of industries.  Carol is the co-author of five books and over 60 published articles.  She is available for keynote presentations, workshops, and executive consulting and can be booked at www.caroldekkers.com.  Ms. Dekkers can be contacted by email at  Dekkers@qualityplustech.com.  Ms. Dekkers is the co-author of five books and over 60 published articles.

 

 

 

 

 

The IT Measurement Compendium – Estimating & Benchmarking Success with Functional Size Measurement (Function Points)

13 Oct
The IT MEasurement Compendium cover

The IT MEasurement Compendium cover

It is finally available in the United States and throughout the world!  Co-authored with Manfred Bundschuh, who retired as the measurement coordinator for AXA Insurance in Germany, and myself, The IT Measurement Compendium: Estimating and Benchmarking Success with Functional Size Measurement is available for order from Springer (the publisher) directly, or from Amazon.com (direct link from www.qualityplustech.com/books.html – where you can also view Capers Jones’ review!)

Culminating a yearlong writing and editing endeavor, this is the first book ever to examine all five ISO conformant Functional Size Measurement (Function Points) standards AND feature a single case study that uses all five methods to derive the software size.

While function point analysis (FPA) was first invented and presented in 1979, use of the methodology became especially relevant for comparing the productivity and quality of outsourcing contracts.  In addition, corporations who strive to reach level two or higher on process maturity scales such as the CMMI(TM) or the SPICE models, have discovered that functional size measurement provides an objective means of sizing software requirements – and fits into parametrics software estimating methods (as the size of the software to be developed).

For further details or for quantity discounts, please contact me directly by sending me an email at dekkers@qualityplustech.com.

Respectfully,

Carol Dekkers

———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————

A gorgeous day in Florida despite the economy

11 Oct

Since I changed my attitude along the lines of Eckart Tolle’s The Power of Now! I find that it is easier to enjoy today DESPITE what the government, the economy, the electioneering, or the state of the union is dishing out at us today.  The majority of society seems to be pre-occupied with complaining about one of the aforementioned, or the heat and humidity, stock losses on paper, the real estate plunge or the myriad of other societal ailments that most of us cannot do anything about!  A gorgeous day TODAY

We only have today – and if we have a roof over our heads TODAY and we have our health TODAY and we have healthy children TODAY and friends who love us TODAY – that should be good enough for TODAY.  I work hard, give to others, treat people with kindness, follow the golden rule, and yet the economy is still in shambles.  I used to be preoccupied because I lost hundreds of thousands of home equity dollars because I trusted my ex-husband to be fair, and I was in angst because I wanted more speaking opportunities to come my way faster, but life is not fair and not necessarily scrupulous no matter how good we may aim to be.  Despite whether I had a good or poor attitude and outlook on life, the sun came up and went down without me even noticing.

TODAY I stopped to be grateful for what IS TODAY – and it was a gorgeous day without hurricanes or rain or frost, culminating in yet another colorful sunset here on the west coast of FL.  As my favorite t-shirt line asserts “Life is Good” TODAY! 

Next week, I may or may not return to worry about the economy, how horrible our outlook is, or what I’ll do to ensure that I don’t go further into debt – but that is next week.  The purpose of this rant?  Simply to share that today is great and today is the “present” we give ourselves and live ourselves.

Have a great weekend!

Carol

www.caroldekkers.com

www.qualityplustech.com

———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————
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