Side thought

Where I work, I’m considered fairly senior. I’ve got a good deal of experience, and people generally respect my opinion.

This has had an important consequence which I didn’t expect. I have the power to make people feel good about themselves professionally. For example, when someone comes to me with a design – especially if they’re feeling insecure about it, especially if they’re fairly new or junior and are nervous about coming forward with it – by getting excited about their work and encouraging them, I can lead them in turn to be excited about their own work.

One of the wonderful things about this is that it doesn’t require that their design be excellent in order to work. Even if the design is deeply flawed, the conversation that results will reveal the ideas which led to it, and will encourage them to think more about it, and by the end of it they wil have something that they’re excited about.

Another one is that oddly enough, this seems to work for good but not for evil. Having a senior person – one you respect but don’t necessarily know personally – praise your work has a much more positive impact, overall, than having the same person deride it would have a negative impact. Not that I would want to do that, but it’s very pleasing to me to think that there is a benefit which can come in life from a form of power which isn’t immediately translatable into its opposite.

There wasn’t any particular recent event that inspired this post. It just occurred to me that at various times in the past, I’ve spoken with people who were unsure about their work, and when they left they clearly felt really good about it; and those have been some of my favorite moments.

Working with people is neat.

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Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 21:12  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. Have I mentioned I like you?

  2. But I thought all senior people were supposed to instantly judge the lower beings. 🙂 Isn’t that how it works in all large companies.

  3. That’s awesome. 🙂 Not only are you doing good now, but I bet that when some of these people are themselves in positions to manage other people, they’ll be that much more positive and encouraging…Soon the whole world will be converted to being excellent to each other!!

  4. yay! I’ve always thought that finding the good in things is a renewable resource that creates goodness for pretty much free.

  5. it’s very pleasing to me to think that there is a benefit which can come in life from a form of power which isn’t immediately translatable into its opposite.
    You just can’t get away from those non-commutative theories, can you? 😉

  6. I read once, of software engineering, “it’s always a people problem.”

  7. Praise and excitement works great for evil designs as well!


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