If you aren’t presenting, MUTE THYSELF. This isn’t rocket surgery, folks. Your office background noise doesn’t make you more important. The fact that you are taking this call from an airport doesn’t impress me. The fact that you must take a call while you are on the meeting isn’t a positive thing. The fact that you are multitasking doesn’t make me like you more. The fact you work from home and have a dog is not cute. Okay, it is, but we don’t need to know.
If you are a fan of Wil Wheaton, you can also share this in his meme, Don’t be a Dick
Please share this with all your frenemies.
What do you think of this picture of Annie? Doesn’t she look cute? She’s such a tiny cat and looks so innocent that you think you can pick her up and pet her and she’ll be all sweet and nice. She can be nice and sweet, but she can also be nasty and bite and scratch. The funny thing is, she turns from nice to nasty really fast. You can be petting her and thinking everything’s fine, but all of a sudden she’ll turn and hiss and lash out to scratch. For those that don’t know her and just try and pet her they are surprised when she turns and they aren’t expecting it. For those of us that know her and have experienced it, we know what the signs are and can see her starting to turn. It’s in her eyes and the way she holds her head, but if you haven’t seen it before you may not recognize it.
Last week I wrote a blog post called What It Feels Like To Be The Cat and I talked about a specific example of feeling like a cat when you’re in meetings. In my example, the project team was surprised when I finally did “lash out” in a meeting, but they shouldn’t have been. Just like Annie does, we all show signs when we are not happy, not engaged, ready to run, or ready to lash out. We just have to look for the signs. In Karen’s recent post Herding Cats The Hard Way, she talks about situations where you can be causing your users or project team to act like a cat and want to lash out, but sometimes it happens no matter what you do. But I think that if we see the signs, we can change our actions and it can keep things from getting too bloody.
I’ll give an example of how this can happen. Let’s say you’re invited to a normal status meeting where everything seems to have been going fine and it’s a clear agenda of things to discuss. Now suppose that someone has found some problem that wasn’t on the agenda and it relates to your (or your team’s) work and they bring it up. Your first reaction internally is an adrenalin rush and you get defensive. Most of us won’t “lash out” in that meeting as a first response, but if it keeps getting discussed and we’re pushed into a corner it could happen. But if the others in the meeting are paying attention they can see it coming and defuse the situation. Think about it, has this ever happened to you? What was your reaction? Did you feel like the cat and want to lash out or run away and hide?
You’re actions and what you do and say are important in your interaction with people. You can’t deliver the same message the same way with everyone and you have to watch and pay attention to the other person so you can see when their attitude is changing. If you don’t pay attention, you could be surprised and a bit bloody.
About one hour before a webinar this week we had to get one of our cats to the vet. This is a nervous cat but we generally can use food and kind words to lure him close enough to put him in a cat crate.
This time he was sick, so he wasn’t feeling well and he was afraid. That made the whole process take much longer than it usually does, which led to the cat fighting back more than normal. Also adding to the stress was the fact that we had to get him crated and to the doctor at a specific time or lose our appointment. Having a webinar coming up within an hour or so made me more stressed, too.
First Rob tried to get him in the crate with smooth talking as a bit of distraction. The cat was having none of that. So next he tried it wearing gauntlet-type leather work gloves. The gloves didn’t even make a difference, Frankie’s claws went right through them. Next Rob tried padded leather work gloves. Same effect. After several horrible attempts , Rob succeeded in getting Frank in the crate. We had the cat locked in a bathroom with two people and all three of us were miserable. Both Rob and Frank suffered injuries in the process.
I couldn’t help think of similar situations over my career of being locked in a conference room with project team members and business users with none of us wanting to be there. We all suffered scratches, bites, and war wounds.
The worst part was not being able to explain to Frank why all this was going on. He had to be treated so there was no question about having to put him through this process. Unlike a business user, though, we don’t have the opportunity to prepare him for the event with good data, analysis of the cost, benefits, and risks of going to the veterinarian. He was blindsided by all of this.
Every time we have to get a cat to the doctor we have to tailor the process to the individual cat. For one, we could put the crate on the kitchen floor and he’d walk in because he loved being in the crate. For others it involves some kitty bribes and distractions. They don’t like being in the crate, but they aren’t hard to distract. For others, it takes two people, several strategies and a series of missed appointments until we are able to succeed. Those latter ones are the worst – we feel bad, the cat is unhappy and generally everyone gets hurt.
But there are benefits to going through this cat fight. What Frank taught us about meetings with business users and project teams:
- Sometimes you have to go to meetings that no one wants to attend, but you do it because it must be done to keep the project from failing.
- Springing bad news on a business user with no preparation and no supporting evidence is treating them like cats. It puts them in a much more stressful position and makes them want to fight back.
- If all your encounters with others are like crating a sick cat, you aren’t doing it right.
- If team members are in a high stress situation, meetings are going to be much more painful than you expect.
- Sometimes you have to take the scratches in order to get the job done.
- If every encounter you have with business users results in going through a box of bandages, you aren’t caring for your business users enough outside of meetings to mitigate their fears and stresses.
- You need the right protective equipment for each meeting. Sometimes that’s just kind words and some food. Sometimes it’s a full blown Kevlar protection system.
- If you wear the Kevlar to every meeting, though, you are sending the message to the team that someone is going to be hurt.
- You need to tailor meeting locations, agenda items and communications styles to the individual business users.
- Everyone in these meetings feels as if they are the cat.
One of my commitments this year is to try some new ways of interacting with the data community. I’d like to try to have some recurring office hours where people just like you YOU can drop into a Go To Meeting to ask me questions about data, data modeling, database design …or my treadmill desk, a recent conference, industry standard data models, etc. Or you could just say “Hi”. I’ll also have the ability to get help from you, too.
What are Office Hours?
I’m drawing from an academic practice of educators publishing set times when students could stop by to get help from an instructor on a more direct basis than in a classroom. However, my intention isn’t for this to be an Instructor/Student dynamic, but more of a professional information sharing opportunity to talk shop outside the bounds of our regular projects.
I see this as the types of conversations that happen during breaks at user group / DAMA meetings or at the end of a webinar. Not all work, but primarily about topics we share an interest in. I also see this as a type of tertulia, which is a conversation by a group of people with a share interest.
Rob Drysdale may join us as his schedule fits, too.
This is open to anyone and everyone who would like to be part of a virtual meeting of data professionals where there is no set agenda.
Meeting Information (GoTo Meeting) 1. Please join my meeting. 2. Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone. Dial +1 (773) 945-1017 Access Code: 483-280-225 Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting Meeting ID: 483-280-225
Update: Office Hours meeting info has changed. Please see: Office Hours are Back for new information.
Please enter your real name or Twitter ID when joining the meeting. It helps us connect better, which is why we are having these meetings.
What it Is not
The intention isn’t for us to provide 45 minutes of free consulting to solve a detailed data modeling problem for one person. That’s what we do for a living. It also isn’t quite the bar discussion after a user group meeting where all topics are available. However, I might be on a beverage break at the same time and so could you. So think about the same sort of topics, approaches, and conventions you’d normally follow in the break room at work or over breakfast at a your local DAMA meeting.
This isn’t a user group meeting with a presentation or agenda. Perhaps it is an “unmeeting” of sort. You don’t have to join at the starting time, nor do you have stay all the way through. If you want to bring your Barbie, GI Joe, or Wayne Gretzky action figure, please do so.
One final note
We are using a version of Go To Meeting that allows for 15 participants at a time. That means that our group will be small at any point in time. I think that matches what my intent is. It also means that we can share screens/applications and that you can use a computer headset or dial in to to talk.
As I said, this is a trial. I’m thinking this will be a couple of times a month, probably on Thursday afternoons ET. But I’ll be looking for feedback to see if this is the right timeslot and if we are using the right tools to do this. I’ll also be looking for input into the right structure.
Update: We’ve had a few of these now and I can definitely say that they are here to stay. Most Thursdays at 4PM Eastern, using the meeting information above.
If you’d like a meeting invite for you calendar, e-mail me Karen @ infoadvisors.com (remove those spaces). You can also leave a comment here with a valid e-mail address so that I can send you the meeting invite.
So lets give this a try. I’d love to hear your questions, comments, thoughts on DATA. We talk about issues, challenges, funny stories, and whatever is going on in the news about data.
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