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  • How to Get Other People to Do What You Want

    May 15, 2018 | Teamwork
  • One of my very favorite new places to hang out is Seattle CoffeeOps, a biweekly meetup at Chef Software to talk about DevOps. It’s big (50+ attendees), friendly and wonderfully designed. The quality of conversation in the breakout sessions of 10-12 people is very high. At a recent session one of the topics was “How do you get other teams to do what you want?” In any cross-functional activity (DevOps or not) this is always a challenge, and some great ideas emerged from the conversation. Here are some highlights:

    • Bring problems not solutions. Being an order taker can be satisfying in the short term, but it’s much more empowering, creative and energizing to be asked to think, not just do.
    • Provide the context. Part of asking others to engage in solution-making is to give them the information they need to participate. Knowledge is power…so give some away and build an alliance.
    • Understand their ways of behavior. When you approach another group or individual, recognize that you’re probably crossing tribal boundaries. Put on your pith helmet and practice your anthropology skills. Listen carefully, suspend judgment, and notice where the meaning lies, what the priorities are, and how the village functions (whether it’s Salesville or AppDev Corners or Infosec Station).
    • Participate in planning. If you need something from a team, join their conversation about what they’re doing. This gives you valuable context about their world, builds trust and respect on both sides, and helps everyone put your needs in context. When you make your ask, you can do it intelligently and in line with what’s actually achievable.
    • Make friends. Building human connections is a good investment. In addition to being more fun and leading to greater happiness for everyone, it’s often far more efficient than trying to explain a complex technical concept to a complete stranger.
    • Cultivate empathy. Whether you make friends or not, you can always put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This person is a human, just like you. Just like you, this person wants to be happy, healthy, and safe, and live with ease. Starting with that premise changes the nature of the conversation.
    • Be grateful. Be appreciative. Gratitude is the ridiculously simple but often overlooked practice of saying “thank you” from the heart. Appreciation is the even more powerful practice of saying “I see and name what you did.”
    • Escalate (but only if you need to). If you escalate, something is broken in the relationship. You might need to escalate as a last resort to get something done, but recognize that the system has failed and there is repair work to be done.
    • Bake cookies. Unquestionably the most effective tactic of all. Sharpen up your baking skills: you will have fun, make new friends, and reliably get exactly what you need from any coworker.