Friday, May 26, 2006

Treat People Like You Are An Adult...

...but act like you are a child.

Most of us would probably agree that kid-like qualities are cool.  The ability to treat the world with wonder, innocence, respect, trust, and a smile are skills that are important to foster.  Being able to frolic is right up there on my short list of critical qualities in companions.  In many world religions, child-like behavior is encouraged for one reason or another.  Studies show that laughter, skipping, and learning will keep you healthy longer.

Having said that, there is no excuse for not treating others as if you were an adult.  Kids can be extremely cruel and selfish, albeit usually unintentionally.  Their place in life is to figure out how things relate to them.  To learn, to associate, to become.  The responsibility of an adult is to behave, to create, to do, if you will.  As such, we have rules about appropriateness, courtesy, and morality that are generally accepted to create our civilization.  In most cases (the minor ones, nothing major here) we exclude children from these rules specifically because of their unique position in life.  They cry out loud in public, they ask questions about how much other people weigh, they stare at the scar on your face without it being rude, they pretty much get to run around exploring and causing mischief because they are kids.  And it's more or less okay...until it's not.

At some point, you have start treating others as if you were an adult.  Conforming to rules of ettiquete and propriety.  Being concerned about other people, instead of your own immediate need.

Because I travel all the time, I end up dealing with most of my friends from a distance much of the time.  Finally I will plunk down with them for a couple days of hardcore fun and merriment and then I am off again to let them resume their routines.  It is precisely situations like this which have crystallized for me the need to be playful and carefree at times, and the need to responsible, serious and courteous at other times.

My friends who can be kid-like slip easily into a weekend of laughter and companionship, experiencing the wonder of the world around us.  Once sated we slip back to maturity as we face jobs, workout schedules, routines, households.

My friends who never slip the bonds of adulthood are never quite sure why I would pull the car over just to savor a sunset, or why my eyes grow wide at a juggler.  They never get quite as excited as I do about the idea of Disneyland, watching animated movies, walking the waterfront, or the chance to see Cirque Du Soleil.

My firends who still treat people as if they were kids take so much more work to engage.  I'd rather just not talk about them.

In the end, I find that the only practical rule I can follow is:

Treat People Like You Are An Adult,
But Act Like You Are Child.

It's more fun than you'd think.  Less work than you'd imagine.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Three Random Rules of Engagment

Lately the project I've been working on has been heating up.  Because of the pressure and the fact that finding senior technology people in Orange County is like finding a snowman in a blizzard, I've had to ask some junior people to really step up and fill some challenging roles.  As typically happens when you push people quickly they have some missteps on their climb to excellence.

One such example, happened this weekend.  As I was dishing out some advice on the proper way to handle situations like this, I realized it might be valuable to others.  So I'll share the Three Random Rules of Engagement here.


The first thing is that when you are being vocal about something, always shift congratulations, never blame. It makes you sound petty and people won’t like that. If something isn’t your fault make sure your superiors know about it well in advance, and always in from your lips, never your pen. Don’t write down negative things until asked. Write down positive things without being asked. Once they’ve been told, assume they remember, even if it appears they don’t. Generally there are good reasons for this. If it really bothers you, then talk to them about it. Don’t write.

The second thing is that you never bring up a problem without a solution or the background. If you can’t explain why something is happening, or what to do about it, then you need more information before raising the issue. There are situations that don’t warrant them but they are usually emergencies, high risk ventures, and when you are under strict orders other wise. If you don’t do your research before bringing up issues, then you are just the one delivering bad news and we all know what happens to the messenger. In addition, it will appear that you aren’t capable of thinking outside your immediate area or being proactive about getting things done.

Lastly, never email above someone without them knowing about it first. Unless it is so serious that you want someone fired, it is never a good idea to email someone and copy their manager/supervisor/etc. without speaking with them first. One major exception to this rule is for kudos; those you email to as many people as possible. When you are raising an issue, the quickest way to piss someone off is to broadcast it to the world before giving them a chance to address your concerns. Often times there are valid reasons and an alternative viewpoint that perhaps you aren’t aware of. Of course, if the person in question is harmfully inept, shows repeated unwillingness to address issues, or otherwise constitutes a threat to the company, then by all means, email away.


Of course, there was quite a bit more to it.  And I did give him some encouragement as well.  I'm not a complete jerk, you know.

Anyway, next time you start to feel cornered remember these Three Random Rules of Engagement.