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Anne Loehr was our special guest.

Her Twitter: @anneloehr

Her book on Amazon: A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best From Your People.


[00.00.00]Yegor: Hello everybody! This is the Shift-M podcast, episode number 40. And we have a special guest today, Anne Loehr. And she will introduce herself right now, Ann.

[00.00.12]Anne: Thanks so much, great to be here. Thank you to all of our listeners. So, as you said my name is Anne Loehr. I’m the SVP for the center for human capital innovation. That’s a long word, let me explain what we do to simplify it. We help you make better decisions about your people and whatever type of organization you’re in.

[00.00.32]Yegor: You’re basically teaching companies and consulting companies to improve how they manage people, am I right?

[00.00.39]Anne: Exactly. How to manage people, how to get people engaged, how to get people motivated and excited so that we can be innovative and creative in the work that we do.

[00.00.48]Yegor: You know how I found you. I was preparing a document for one of the investors and I was trying to find people on the internet who are saying something about freelancers. And I found your blog post, your article on your blog where you said that the freelance, the freelancer is a completely different creature from a full-time employee and it’s so difficult to, you know, to fit in the organizational culture for a freelancer into the culture of a full-time, you know, full-time culture. That’s how I found your blog and I started reading that. And today I want to ask you many questions about, you know, the cultural things and soft skills which I believe that many people believe that programmers, the majority of our listeners, are programmers that are technically from the software industry. So, there’s the thing which is called soft skills which people say that programmers need in order to be successful in modern projects. So, what do you think in general about those soft skills?

[00.01.50]Anne: I think soft skills are very important. So first of all, the word soft skills are not my favorite word but just to help people understand generally, people have a way called technical skills. So can I do the data analysis? Can I do the programming that’s what we would call a technical skill and then we have again not my favorite word but a soft skill? So, the soft skill is how do I work with the people around me, how do I collaborate, how do I manage conflict. What we see again and again is as you start to enter into your career and what you get hired for and entry and maybe one or two levels up is your technical skills. You are hired to work to create whatever the program is to create whatever is needed in the programming and that gets you to a certain level and then what we notice is after a few years it is the soft skills that will get you to the next level. So, I want to be really clear, it’s not that we only want soft skills we need both but what we have seen again and again is that the more successful people and the higher up have more of a focus on the soft skills than on the technical skills because they’re not necessarily the ones who are doing it a day today in terms of the data programming, that kind of thing.

[00.03.02]Yegor: And those soft skills can you list a few of them to be clear what we mean by that?

[00.03.08]Anne: Absolutely. So, a soft skill could be anything that has to do with the people that you are working with. So, it could be a collaboration. How do I work in a meeting to collaborate to find a new solution? Another soft skill could be conflict management and I want to be really clear. Conflict is not, you know, we’re fighting in the office. What it means is I just want something different than what you want that’s all it is and so how do we manage it when we’re working with a team on a new product to say, you know, what you have an idea. I have an idea and how do we come up with the best idea, so conflict management is a classic soft skill coaching. Coaching is not only for external coaches but how do I coach the people around me if I am managing them or the people, I am working with collaboration conflict coaching. And then probably the biggest one is what we call emotional intelligence. Motion intelligence is also known as EQ or E-I depending. And what that really talks about is understanding the emotions of the room, so that we can then manage the emotions of the room and help each other stay motivated to do the work. So those are four examples of very classic soft skills.

[00.04.18]Yegor: Okay so let’s start with the first one collaborating. So can you give real examples of somebody with poor skills of collaborating and somebody with great skills of collaborating? What’s the difference between these two people?

[00.04.31]*Anne: Absolutely, so someone who has poor collaboration skills let’s say you and I and two others are working together and trying to find the bugs in a program we’re fine to find the next version 2.0 and we go around the room, and we say we got this problem and if I was not a strong collaborator well this is the way it’s supposed to be. This is the only way to fix it. There’s no other way to fix it. I can’t believe you think there’s another way to fix it. I’m over-dramatizing it, but you get the idea. Someone who has stronger collaboration skills might say so “yeah, tell me about what you think is the best way to do it, tell me what you think is the best way to do it, and Yan what do you think is the best way to do it” and gathers ideas listens to the ideas and then depending what is the appropriate situation either makes a decision or has the team make the decision. Because if I say to you this is the only way to do it and just do it. That I’m not going to have a lot of buy-ins, I’m not really going to be bought into the idea and I’m not really going to want to work on the idea. And the second example if we all have some say and agree together then I have more buy-in and I’m more excited to do the work.

[00.05.39]Yegor: You know what people say that to be successful in the organization you have to be assertive, that’s the word I know assertive. So, but you’re saying that to be successful I need to instead of asserting my position instead of pushing my position I have to listen to all other opinions and then make a compromise or you know make something in the middle.

[00.06.01]Anne: So, yes and I’m a big believer in being assertive. Many people call me assertive. And when I say yes and I mean yes, we need to be assertive and we need to listen because the research is very clear to understand what, that when we have multiple ways of looking at things when we have multiple ways of a perspective on something we get a better solution. I only know what I know as a programmer and the experience that I have. But three other people in that example also have experience and may have more experience than I do. So, for me to shove my idea down their throat means that I am missing their learning and their expertise. So yes, I’m going to assert and say here’s what I think is best “Anne, tell me what you think is best?” I want to gather and then we make a decision together. It may still be my decision that I thought it may be your decision. So, it’s not necessarily compromising but we are deciding with all the data rather than just saying this is the way it’s going to be.

[00.07.05]Yegor: So, why people are not doing that? Why are these people with not enough soft skills not doing this collaborating? What’s the cause of that?

[00.07.13]Anne: A couple of things. One is you just don’t know how to uh these things are skill sets people think oh everybody knows how to collaborate no it’s a skillset there’s actually a methodology, just like there’s a methodology to java, and so people I don’t know how to do it. B - it’s very busy these days right. We’re looking at all kinds of things and we’re getting pinged and notifications of all kinds and so if we think to ourselves “ah, that’s gonna take another 20 minutes I don’t have 20 minutes to have a conversation”. Right, it’d be a lot faster for me just to tell them what to do in the short run. Maybe, in the long run, no, one of the constraints or obstacles is time. One of the constraints or obstacles is I don’t have the skill set to do it. And then the last one it’s a mindset. What I mean by that is we got to where we are because we’re very good at what we do. I am very good at this type of programming and I am recognized as an expert in this type of programming and so I get rewarded as this type of programmer, and so what we are saying is that if you are collaborating a little bit more the team will get recognized and again the research is very clear at understanding what that when the team gets recognized the program is better, the product is better but it’s a mind shift away from me as the expert to the team as an expert. And that’s just a new way of thinking for many people and many organizations.

[00.08.43]Yegor: This could be quite disturbing for you know big ego experts who are actually good experts and they want to be personally appreciated and recognized but you’re suggesting to somehow um you know to uh I don’t know how to say it but how to spread the recognition and to spread the attention across everybody in the team instead of focusing on one person so it could be a potentially like psychological problem for many people, right?

[00.09.10]Anne: Absolutely, it could absolutely be that problem. That’s what I call the mindset you call psychological. Because again I got rewarded, I got recognized for being the expert again in java whatever it may be, and you’re telling me I have to share it. Why would I want to share it well? Here’s why you want to share it. There’s only one of you, I work with people at Facebook. I work with people in tech companies. I know how programmers think there’s a limited number of hours in a day. There’s only so much you can do alone however when we spread it around the team and the team is bought in all of a sudden, we have a lot more energy and a lot more people, and a lot more bandwidth than one person does have a loan. So individually as an individual contributor or what we call an IC you can only get so far. When the team works together, and you’re stuck and you’re like “oh I don’t know how to do this and how to fix this bug… Hey Yegor, what do you think?” Then all of a sudden things can go much faster and you can accomplish a lot more

[00.10.11]Yegor: And to achieve that, so people don’t understand that their minds are clouded by their ego probably or something like that and that’s why they’re not collaborating, and we can train them to improve, correct?

[00.10.24]Anne: Yes, the first step I always say is what I call the business case. So, the business cases look here’s all the research like let’s just look at all the research, you know, in this case, this company, you know, doubled its product share. In this case the company blah blah blah and so you can actually see like this isn’t just someone coming in and telling you what to do. You’re all the best practices around many different industries in the tech space that are saying this works for you it works for the team it works for the company. So, the first thing I always say is the business case because no one is going to listen to any kind of training until they are bought into it. So it’s like - okay, so how do you all see that you know this could actually make your day a lot easier… Oh yeah I guess I see that great so now let’s go and talk about how to do it just like there is a way that you program and deprogram there is a way that you manage conflict or collaborate or coach and so then we go into it, but we need to do a business case first

[00.11.28]Yegor: And have you seen situations where people are not, you know, listening to your training and remain where they are?

[00.08.43]Anne: Absolutely. Again, I work with a lot of technical people. I work with a lot of scientists in the government as well as the private sector and so, you know, for them it’s really important to get this right whether this is the lab or the programming. And so, they don’t take it on board which is fine right it’s not anybody’s job to determine where your career is going to go, and though generally, the research is very clear that the more that we collaborate the higher up you are, the more people you manage. The less you are actually doing the programming, the debugging, and more that you are actually working with three or four or five people, perhaps even managing them and helping them work together as a team.

[00.12.16]Yegor: But you’re right, not everybody wants to be, you know, not coding, not debugging, not testing but some people actually want to stay focused on technical things and… And I guess for those people you would recommend not to you know to get better with their soft skills, right?

[00.12.35]Anne: Actually no… So, there’s I’m going to answer that in two ways: so, first of all, we have what we call an IC, and IC is an individual contributor, and then we generally have managers supervisors’ different levels, and different organizations. And organizations need both. Organizations need ICs, who are their subject matter experts, who are the best at testing coding etc. And also need managers, supervisors, directors, so that you can scale the organization. There used to be a philosophy that everybody has to be a manager and I think more and more organizations are realizing that’s not the case that it is perfectly acceptable to have Is and really have that subject matter expertise. What I will say though is that sometimes I see individual contributors, feel like they are not being recognized, feel like they’re not getting the same opportunities for growth that managers and supervisors are. So, if you as an organization have both, I would say just make sure that you recognize both that there is a track for ICs and how they can progress in their career and there’s a track for supervisors managers directors and how they can progress in their career, and both are recognized. That’s the first part of my answer, the second part of my answer is even if you are an IC, you still need to know the basics of collaboration because you are probably going to have to collaborate maybe with senior leadership or with other uh dependent departmental leads. So that you can actually get your point across, and you can get the funding or the testing that you need. So, it can’t hurt anybody to have these skills.

[00.14.15]Yegor: Sounds right, what about the second part? The second point you mentioned is the conflict resolution techniques or skills. Again, my question is what’s the difference between people who know how to who have those skills for conflict resolution and those who don’t have, how do they differ?

[00.14.31]Anne: Yeah, so let’s do so… Let’s go into the ones who do not have it. So, there are generally five ways to manage conflict, and people who know all five ways, know how to use the right one in the right situation, so we call situational awareness like “oh there’s this going on I need to pay attention.” So the five ways to manage conflict is compete, compromise, collaborate, avoid or accommodate. Now all of us have what we call our preferred go-to style so I prefer to accommodate what I prefer to avoid. And there’s nothing wrong with that at certain times it is totally appropriate to accommodate. However, if that’s the only thing that you know how to do that doesn’t make you a strong IC or manager, or supervisor. So, let’s say for example that I am someone who always accommodates, so accommodating means that you want something, and I always say yes to you right that’s how I manage it. I don’t want to get into a conversation with you, even if I disagree with what you’re saying I always accommodate. And so, an example is someone who has poor conflict management skills and accommodation is their go-to skill, every time you come to me, and you say “hey Anne, can you… Can you just work on this, hey Anne can you just click on this?” and I say yes, and I keep accommodating you. Eventually, something’s going to happen right either I’m going to blow up or I’m going to miss deadlines or I’m going to get frustrated or something’s going to happen because I did not manage that conflict instead of saying “you know, Yegor, I can do it and that means this other deadline is going to be a little delayed or I can do it but it means that I can’t do it until next week. That’s what we call conflict management, so someone who doesn’t have it would just say yes yes yes yes yes, and then something will happen a blow-up or a missed deadline or an unhappy client. The person who has those skills again whether you’re an IC or a supervisor or manager, says “you know what I understand that’s important to you and I really can’t get to that until next week” how does that sound or “I know that’s important to you and if you need it today I need to tell you that this other thing won’t get done today so you’re having a conversation and managing any potential conflict upfront rather than just saying yes yes yes and blowing up later on.

[00.16.50]Yegor: And why people are doing that saying yes yes yes this is a cultural thing or again the mindset what’s wrong with them?

[00.16.57]Anne: Uh, so there’s nothing wrong with anybody right, it’s we do things that worked for us and then they no longer work for us. Uh, the ICs mentality there’s a couple of things that are going on there. People think that if I say yes, I’m being seen as a team player, and so people want team players and so they think “well if I say yes then Yegor’s gonna think I’m a team player so that’s great”. Uh people who say yes, are afraid that they’re not gonna be liked at work. And there’s a difference between being effective and being like the difference between being liked and being respected and again it’s a skill, it is a skill to know the language what I could call a word bridge-likeoh my gosh I cannot say yes to Yegor, and I really don’t even know how to get the words out of my mouth”. So, it’s a skill to say there are several different ways you could say it: yes, and yes later. So, when people are constantly saying yes either they think they’re being a team player and they’re not when they blow up or they literally just don’t have the skillset yet and just like a skill set for testing there is a skill set for actually managing conflict.

[00.18.08]Yegor: And maybe the team actually promotes certain types of behavior in people… That’s what I’ve seen in many situations in many teams I’ve been working in for you know in my career that sometimes the team just doesn’t want to hear anything except yes. So, you literally if you say something else if you manage this conflict somehow else you will be blamed as a not a team player so maybe it’s not only the fault of one person maybe people are just accommodating themselves to the culture of the team?

[00.18.35]Anne: You’re absolutely correct. So, we called the culture the team and then as well the culture of the organization. Right, so there are some organizations where it is expected that you will always say yes. There are other cultures of organizations where it’s expected that you will speak up and self-advocate, you’ll speak up for yourself if there is an issue. I was at an organization for a tech company yesterday um and one of the things that they always say is that there, but some problems are not somebody else’s problem, it’s your problem. Uh in other words you need to speak up if something is going on. So uh we have what we call individual culture what I learned and how I use it then we have as you said the team culture what does the team expect of me, and then we have the larger organizational culture and what are the norms we call them the norms what people normally do in organizational culture and all of that can push against each other, which can create tension and someone gets frustrated and that type of thing.

[00.19.36]Yegor: So, it seems that those soft skills we’re talking about are quite subjective. They are, you know, for each particular team we may need a different set of soft skills.

[00.19.47]Anne: A different set of soft skills perhaps, so maybe one team really needs more conflict management not so much collaboration. So different skill sets yes how you do it is still the same like that’s not going to change team to team. However, do I need more conflict here? Do I need more of emotional intelligence here? Yeah, that can certainly depend on the team and the organizational culture.

[00.20.13]Yegor: And how do you how can you, I’m thinking right now about myself, so how can you reflect on yourself and somehow measure your progress on this soft skill, so how do I know the type of form being in some team, being in some project how do I know how well I perform on that level because on technical skills I know pretty much well how to measure my success I see the number of lines of code I write I see the number of features I produce I see the code quality. So, I know how to measure it? How can I measure myself there? By the amount of salary, I’m getting or what’s the result?

[00.20.44]Anne: Yeah, so, first of all, every soft skill is measurable. People think it is not but basically, a soft skill is just like a technical skill. You break it down into behaviors right so in coding - I’m going to do this certain number of keystrokes; I’m going to do certain of these things like those are certain behaviors that you do and then you can measure the result and how much code did I produce etc. It is the same for soft skills. Certain behaviors tell you that you are doing it correctly. So, let’s talk about emotional intelligence. We haven’t really talked about that yet. So emotional intelligence is an overarching soft skill and at a very high level. What it says is how do I see what’s going on with my emotions today and then how do I let that impact those around me. So, if I have a low emotional intelligence, let’s say I’m very frustrated, it’s the holidays, I have a lot going on, my mother is sick, I’m tired, I’m hungry and I come into a meeting and I get frustrated or I snap at someone. That means that I have a low self-emotional intelligence because I’m not even aware that I’m frustrated, and I lash out at someone else and so that is someone who has low emotional intelligence. Very oversimplified example but you get the idea and so what we can then do it, and people call me all the time and they say, you know, I really need to work on my emotional outburst I get frustrated really easy with clients and then I lash out at clients or write colleagues or teammates and so what we then do is okay. So, let’s just say how many times a week do you lash out at a client? - I’m making this up five times a week. Okay, so now we’re going to go through the skills of managing your emotions, recognizing that you’re frustrated before you lash out, and then we’re going to measure - okay, this week how many times do you lash up? - still five. Okay, let’s keep working on it this week oh four times. So, the same way that you can measure coding and how many lines of code someone can measure how many times do I lash out at a client. In order to do that, we have to identify what are your areas of growth where do you want to improve your skills, and then we back into what skill sets you need and then we can measure how many times you lash out at your client.

[00.23.09]Yegor: That sounds like this slash out of the client sounds like a negative thing, but it seems by your structure of the conflict resolution techniques. It could be a possible conflict resolution as well, so you’re not always supposed to be accommodating and say yes. Maybe sometimes you need to know to push the client back and maybe to be even over aggressive, sometimes, so maybe those are, you know, pretty legal cases and legal scenarios. I mean legal in terms of success in terms of productive results…

[00.23.40]Anne: Yeah, sometimes absolutely. So, you know there’s nothing wrong with competing, first of all, some people not everybody’s like “oh I never compete, I don’t want to get anybody mad at me okay” - well there’s nothing wrong with competing right we all compete all the time, right for an increase in our salary for a promotion for a job right if you apply for a job, you’re competing against someone else. So, there are times that we compete all the time. The other thing is you know if it is about exactly as you said if it’s legal issues if it’s security if it’s safety if it’s compliance - I’m gonna compete because I’m not going to have a conversation and collaborate about this. This is the protocol, this is how to make sure that we are all safe, this is for privacy. And so, we’re not going to collaborate on whether we have this policy, or don’t we have this policy - this is the policy. Now what we may collaborate on is how do we create the best systems to make sure that we are maintaining privacy or maintaining whatever it is about the product. That we can collaborate on but are we going to have privacy or not privacy on? - we’re going to compete on that because there’s no discussion to be had. Does that make sense?

[00.24.56]Yegor: Yeah. Okay, let’s go to the next one, the coaching, the position number three. You said it’s also important soft skills, so coaching means that I’m supposed to be coaching somebody or I’m supposed to be teaching people around me or I’m supposed to be possible to be coached. What is right?

[00.25.17]Anne: Great, so, coaching gets very confused with mentoring with therapy. So, I’m gonna do a very simple story to explain the difference for everybody, and then we’ll talk about how you actually do it. So, by any chance, are you a skier?

[00.25.35]Yegor: Oh no… Skier? Yeah, I’m doing snowboarding.

[00.25.38]Yegor: Okay, perfect, we’ll take snowboarding. Okay, so let’s imagine that you and I are snowboarding together and for those who are listening who are not familiar with it. When you ski or snowboard you go downhills and the hills generally are rated based on how difficult they are. So generally green and blue is fairly easy, generally black is very hard. And so, let’s say you and I go on a ski lift, I have some experience, you don’t have too much experience, we get off the lift and we realize we’re on a black hill, which means a very difficult hill, and you’re like “oh my gosh I’ve never done this before. This looks really hard”. We look down the hill, we see many trees and we see a path down. If this was therapy and I am a big fan of therapy I think therapy can be very helpful for people, if this was therapy you and I would ski up to a tree we would look at the roots of the tree, we would figure out where those roots came from, and we would start to really have a conversation about the roots. That’s not coaching, that’s a therapy where we kind of look at the underlying causes of what’s going on in someone’s personality oversimplified but you get the idea. If this was mentoring where I was your mentor you and I would look down the hill and I would say well the first time I went down this hill, Yegor, I went this way and then that way and then this way. And the second time I went down this hill, I went that way and watched out for that bump over there and watched out for that tree. And then I would go down the hill first and you would come behind me. I’m a big fan of mentoring, everybody needs mentors in their life, hugely helpful to get experience to get more of an advice type of relationship “hey how did you handle, how did you handle this” that’s not coaching either. In a coaching relationship, you and I looked down the hill and I would ask you a lot of questions. Say so, what do you think is the biggest obstacle? What’s one way that you think you could go down it? What’s another way you could go down it? You would come up with your own solution and you would go down the hill first and I would follow. That’s the difference between mentoring coaching and therapy oversimplified but hopefully, you get the idea. So first of all, does that make sense?

[00.27.54]Yegor: Yeah, it does. My question to you is do you have a mentor?

[00.27.59]Anne: Do I personally have a mentor? Yes

[00.28.01]Yegor: Yes

[00.28.01]Anne: Yeah, I think everybody should have a mentor, right? Because it helps us see things that we don’t see who have experience. So, for example in my world, I’m really understanding the government business and how the government works, and I was always in the private sector before and so I have a mentor who likes how does the government work? Just tell me what I need to know about government contracting. Right, so I have someone who basically kind of walks me through and that’s what a mentor does. A mentor walks you through certain situations excellently. I also have a coach though and so the coach will also say to me and ask me those types of questions, so you know where do you want to go in government contracting, how can you get faster at government contracting, that type of thing. So that coach doesn’t tell me anything about it how to do it, the coach makes me think through where I want to go with it and that’s what a coach would do whether it’s for an individual contributor or for a supervisor or manager as a scientist in the tech world any world to help them move forward in whatever way they want to move forward.

[00.29.10]Yegor: So, we need to like it. I need to have that person in an organization which I enter, so I need to find a coach for me?

[00.29.14]Anne: So, every organization does it a little differently. So, you’d have to check some organizations you can just find, so I’m talking about coaching you can. Just find a coach and it’s usually what we call an internal coach, so it’s someone inside the organization who’s trained. Sometimes you have to be at a certain level to have a coach, so it depends on every organization. For mentors again it depends on the organization could have a formal mentoring relationship, could have an informal mentoring relationship. So, a formal mental relationship is uh there’s gonna be one mentor and one mentee and it’s gonna be a nine-month relationship and it’s set times for lunch that type of thing, great? An informal mentor would be just someone that you admire, someone that you see who’s maybe a couple of years ahead of you who’s really an expert in something and you just want to pick their brain. So, it might be more informal like “hey you know what can I just take you out to lunch, and can I just ask you some questions about how you do this or how you manage this situation?” So, it could be a set person that you take out to lunch once a month or it could be just someone. Maybe for a few months you’re kind of picking their brain and then a few months later you’re picking someone else’s brain but you’re learning either about the organization, right? Like how does it work who should I talk to or you’re learning about the product that you’re working in or you’re learning about ways to move forward inside the organization. So, you either can advocate for yourself and say hey where’s the formal mentoring program and how do I sign up? And if there isn’t one you could say to someone. You know, I really respect the work that you do, and I would really love to learn more about that. Could we set up a time for a coffee or a lunch?

[00.30.57]Yegor: And they may be single?

[00.30.59]Anne: They may say no so then you ask somebody else, right if it’s not important to you just keep asking until someone says yes. And I will say I have never had someone say no to me and I don’t think I know anybody who said no to anybody. What they may say is I would love to and I only have 30 minutes a month or would love to and I can’t start for three months. But rarely have I had anybody or heard anybody saying a flat-out no.

[00.31.28]Yegor: Yeah, me neither. So, let’s compare these two types of behaviors like people with good soft skills in the areas of coaching and people with poor soft skills in the area of coaches. How do they differ? How do they behave differently?

[00.31.40]Anne: Sure, so now that we know the difference between coaching and mentoring, so when we think about coaching in the context I’m about to explain it’s me as a coach to the people I work with. So, a lot of people think a coach is someone who comes in and we sit for an hour and we talk about certain things with executive leadership, which is true that’s what I do. However internally that’s not how coaching works it’s what I call drive-by coaching, so, you and I are going down the hall and you come to me, and you say you’re you know you’re just having a bad day you’re frustrated about something, and I would immediately start coaching you in the hall and it would maybe last five minutes. So, the first obstacle is people say oh I don’t have an hour for coaching. I don’t have an hour for coaching either, but do I have three minutes or four minutes to talk to someone. So, to coach, it’s a very simple formula you listen to, and you ask certain types of questions that’s really all it is. You’re listening and you’re really listening you’re not waiting for them to stop talking so you can be the smartest person in the room you’re not waiting for them to stop talking so that you can make your point but you’re really listening with curiosity, so this is actually where coders are quite good because coders are curious. Like “oh what if I did this, oh if I would have done that”. The best coaches are also really curious. Now the difference in coaching though is it’s not your job to fix the problem, which can be hard for some people because they want to fix the problem and move on. As a coach, my job is to listen to ask a few questions and to let you fix the problem so that you’re empowered. So, in that situation that you just asked about if I was a supervisor could even be a colleague doesn’t have to be a supervisor relationship. Let’s say someone comes to me and you come to me, and you say, “oh and I’m really struggling with this new code, it’s kicking my butt, I can’t quite figure out how to make it work”. If I was not a strong coach, I would say oh let me show you how to do it here’s how you do it you’re… Like no I know how to do it. I’m just frustrated with it. It seems like it’s taking a long time “oh let me show you a little different way to do it” and I’m not listening to you. If in that same situation you come and you say I’m really frustrated with this new code instead of trying to fix it for you, I might say what’s really bugging you about it, what’s really bugging me about it is that it doesn’t actually mash with the other code. That we’re working on oh so what’s the impact of that well the impact of that is that if the two don’t mesh, we’re going to have problems in six months. Oh, so what do you need to do about that? Well, I guess, I need to have a conversation with so, and so, to find out what the priority is. So, if I was not a strong coach, I would just try to fix it and I wouldn’t really understand what they’re talking about. When I’m really coaching, and you can see how quick it is I’m asking a few questions and then that person is realizing “oh yeah you’re right and then they move on to do whatever they need to do”

[00.34.47]Yegor: And how to be, you know, to have the good soft skills in this area. I have to be prepared to ask questions. Not to try to solve all the problems by myself but be ready to ask people around me and find those coaches or mentors or you know help actually, right?

[00.35.04]Anne: Yeah, and that’s hard right going back to the beginning part of our conversation, that’s hard because I was rewarded for fixing problems, right? I got known as an expert and so that’s great and sometimes people don’t need to be told what to do and to fix the problem sometimes, they just need someone to brainstorm some ideas with or just talk about it for three minutes. So that they can then figure out their own solution. So, it is if I’m a very visual person and I use my hands a lot to tell stories and so, sometimes I literally will imagine that I’m taking one hat off of my head and putting another hat on my head. I don’t usually do that in front of somebody. But it helps me realize I’m taking off my fixer hat and I’m putting on my coach hat to say it’s not my job right now with Yegor to fix this problem for him he’s a smart guy he’s been doing this longer than I have it’s my job though just to ask a couple of questions so that he can find his own solution.

[00.36.07]Yegor: Some people get shy or maybe get you to know scared of asking questions because that may compromise, they’re their level of expertise because people may start thinking that they’re not in the right place and why this programmer is going around the office and asking questions how their how his or her problem is supposed to be fixed and blah blah blah. So maybe he’s not or she’s not a good programmer. Don’t you think that also could be a problem here?

[00.36.32]Anne: Absolutely. It’s a huge, huge issue right this domain expertise that I am the expert is a huge obstacle to coaching. And yet if you look at millennials, those people born between 1981 and 2001 and you look at the top three things that they are looking for at work, one of the top three things is a coach. They don’t want to be told what to do, they want to be thinking through and finding the solution themselves and that if we want to retain people who have the skills that you need, we need to help them develop whatever way they want to develop whether it’s an IC or a manager. And the best way to do that is to help them think, so they could say ah this is just ridiculous. Well, how important is this to you in six months? Well, it’s really important actually that I get this done in six months. Great, how are you going to get it done, right? Just by asking that question how important it is it helps them realize. But you’re right you know if you go around and are always asking questions probably not the best thing to do. However there’s a term that people use and I don’t think people realize how important it is people often say oh thought leader, you want to be seen as a thought leader you want to help people think and strategize and really that’s all coaching is Yegor, it’s you’re helping people think and that’s what we call a thought leader because at the end of the day if you tell me how to fix it I may or may not come back to you, right. However, if you ask me questions and make me think you know what I’m going to go talk to Yegor for two minutes because he always makes me think about a tough question and I really like that and then that can kind of help you be seen as someone who is the go-to person for the bigger questions again whether an IC or a supervisor or manager.

[00.38.25]Yegor: So, should I be like let’s put on the like let’s look on the other side. Let’s say I am not looking right now for a coach, I want to be a coach. So, should I be in the office? Should I be looking for students or looking for mentees? So, looking for people who are, you know, wandering around and not knowing what to do and looking for problem solvers? So, should I approach them and say if they come to me I can help you, I can be your mentor, or I shouldn’t?

[00.38.51]Anne: I wouldn’t recommend that way. So again let’s split the two, let’s split mentor and coaching, so mentoring, I think you could do that right, so mentoring could be “hey if you have any questions feel free to just pop by and I’ll be happy to help it” anyway I can “hey I know that you’re really new in this language if there’s anything you don’t understand just pop in happy to help you”. So, that’s a way that you could create an informal mentoring relationship. And I think that’s fine but certainly not like “hey, I’m the brightest person in the room, you know, come to me and you don’t know what you’re doing”—wouldn’t recommend that that’s someone who has low emotional intelligence. But someone who is high emotional intelligence says “hey, you know what I know that you’re brand new here I’ve been here three years if you ever just want to know how things are done here? Come by let’s have coffee”. I think that’s appropriate. Now coaching uh coaching is just like programming, there is a specific way to do it um and so I would recommend that you at least pick up a couple of books or you practice before you just kind of go out on someone, and I certainly wouldn’t say hey let me coach you. However, what you could do though is again use the analogy I said about taking your hat on and off. Let’s say that someone comes to you, and they are they’re like ah this is really tough I’ve been testing and testing and testing and it’s not going right right that could be an opportunity for you just to think to yourself before I jump to action before I jump to fixing let me just ask a question and see where it goes. I would say oh okay so what do you want the outcome to be, well I want the outcome to be a three-step solution, oh so what will those three steps look like right. Coaching is a conversation people get a little unused to how it is but it’s just a conversation where you’re asking more questions. Now I’m gonna be really clear it’s not the Spanish inquisition it’s not like boom boom boom boom boom boom boom, you’re listening you’re they’re talking it’s a conversation.

So, to go back to your question, mentoring, I think, informally just saying you’re open if anybody wants to pop in, I think that’s great if there’s a formal mentoring program in the organization check-in with HR whoever’s setting it up, sign up, I think that’s great. Coaching, I certainly would not say hey let me coach you unless it’s a formal relationship, so an internal coach to a coach. However, I think for someone to learn this skill they could pause “pause”, they could take a step back and say let me just ask one or two questions and see if it’s helpful and you could start that way.

[00.41.35]Yegor: And how all of that will I can see clearly how that will benefit people who are looking for help, but how will it benefit those who are providing help? What’s the point in doing that, I mean, how will it help career-wise?

[00.41.48]Anne: Yeah, so, if you are seen as a thought leader absolutely will help your career, if you are seen as someone who is not the person who is always doing will help your career, right. I am constantly working with people, managers especially who like I don’t have time to manage because I’m always doing, I said Well we need to look at why you’re always doing because if you’re always doing A - you’re not gonna be able to grow in your career and B - you’re not letting the people you’re managing grow in their career because you’re taking all the work away from them. So, you’re gonna help your own career because then you can take on harder projects, you can take on new stuff, you can innovate in a new area because you’re not doing the day-to-day stuff. And then the people you’re managing if they are doing more of your work are also growing. There’s a very famous Harvard business review article called “Who’s got the monkey” it’s an old article but it’s actually still very relevant and what it talks about is oftentimes managers think they’re helping. Let’s say you and I are talking, and you say that you’re stuck with something. I say oh yeah you don’t worry I’ll take care of that for you, and what I’ve done is I’ve taken the monkey off of your back and I’ve now put it on my back. So, I now made my to-do list longer, not really good for me, not really good for you because you’re not learning how to do it. And so, when we are coaching or delegating properly which is another soft skill, we learn to leave the monkey over there we’re going to support the person we’re going to help the person but we’re not going to take your monkey for you unless we absolutely have to safety security that kind of thing and that allows me to grow and do more innovation and allows that person to solve the problem for themselves.

[00.43.36]Yegor: Makes sense. So, I’m going to become a thought leader and what’s going to happen next. How will I be promoted because of that, or will I be considered as a potential candidate for a higher management position, what’s going to happen next?

[00.43.52]Anne: Yeah, I can’t guarantee that, but you certainly would probably be more considered right like “hey Yegor, you know, his people are working well, his people are growing, he’s growing”, so you certainly would be considered. Again, I can’t guarantee that what often happens though is that when there is a new product line when there’s a new uh puzzle to solve, you often would be the person that they go to first you know what Yegor is really good at working with people and finding creative ideas and we have this really tough nut to crack around privacy or coding or testing whatever, so let’s have Yegor run that group. And so again is it quite a promotion and a raise maybe not is it more interesting work for you probably.

[00.44.37]Yegor: Yeah, that’s true, but there is also a negative side to all this: you know soft skills and then dealing with a lot of people instead of dealing with the code and software by itself, I think, it’s politics. Because the more you are involved in this people-to-people relationship, the more risky you are, the more shaky your position is as far as I understand. Because not everybody is playing by the rules let’s put it this way and not everybody is being honest and being you know being correct with you. So sometimes you may have problems with people don’t you think that’s a risk in all that in this game?

[00.45.11]Anne: I absolutely think politics is a way of organizational culture. So, I think yes, I think there’s also a risk of just sitting in your cubicle and only coding and not growing your career as well. So, I think there’s a risk either way you go and so it’s a really important question for you to think about where do I want to go, what do I want to be doing, what kind of work excites me and then choose the appropriate behavior. And I also think that the better you are at the soft skills actually the better you are at managing politics, right, because you know how to manage any conflicts the politics is bringing up, you know how to collaborate to come up with an answer. So it will help you manage that but at the end of the day people have to choose where they want and it’s not like for the rest of your life but people need to choose you to know for the next year, for the next 18 months, for the next two years what do you want to be known for what do you want to be seen as so that when you have your next again people call it different things but whether it is your next calibration or your next performance review whatever. It is like what do you want the manager, who is rating you to know you for, and then focus on that area.

[00.46.28]Yegor: Yeah, it makes sense. So, though we have the last point about emotional intelligence you said EQ or EI. So, again here’s the same question: what’s the difference between someone with high emotional intelligence and someone with low emotional intelligence? How do they differ between these two people?

[00.46.44]Anne: Yeah, so someone who has low emotional intelligence, let’s say that we’re having a meeting talking about this new coding and a new system to fix the glitches, and some people are on their phone, some people are not listening to you and you’re leading the meeting they’re not listening to you, you ask them a question they don’t really answer. So that’s someone who has a low self-emotional intelligence because they’re not realizing what’s going on, they just keep plowing ahead of the meeting they don’t realize. You know what no one’s listening to me, you know what no one’s paying attention to. So let me stop, let me pause, and let me ask what’s going on “hey everybody, how’s everybody feeling today” right, because you’re not reading the room. Part of emotional intelligence is understanding what’s going on for your own emotions but then also being able to read the room. And so that’s a huge thing in terms of even if you’re just working with one person to be able to read the room. If I could read the room I’d maybe stop if I’m working with one person and they’re not really responding, I might say something like “hey you know what yeah you don’t really seem like yourself today” doesn’t seem like we’re really communicating well. What can I do to improve it? So, you’re able to read the room and then use that appropriately depending on what is going on to either motivate the person, help them motivate themselves whatever the case may be.

[00.48.08]Yegor: And do you think it’s trainable? I think it’s sort of talent or something which we just, you know, got born with, no?

[00.48.15]Anne: Yeah, everybody thinks that yeah everybody thinks that emotional intelligence and leadership are natural skill sets “oh you’re either a natural-born leader or you’re not”, “oh either born with EQ EI or you’re not actually”, that’s not the case at all. You’re born with your IQ, and you can’t really change your IQ that much unless you do a lot of sudokus, right. Emotional intelligence actually you can change and that’s the great thing. It’s actually a score if you use there are different assessments but one assessment has a score, and you can actually improve it based on just like programming practicing certain behaviors. So, you are born with a certain level and the great news is just like leadership emotion intelligence if you do certain behaviors and practice certain things you will get better at it just like programming.

[00.49.10]Yegor: And do you know how to practice that? What do I need to do in order to improve that and start listening to the room and start listening to people and start feeling people?

[00.49.20]Anne: Absolutely. There’s a whole science behind it, there are hundreds of books written on it, hundreds of articles. Daniel Goleman is probably one of the leaders of emotional intelligence. So, lots of things that people can look at super quickly. A lot of emotional intelligence is about brain science and what is going on in our brain. It’s fascinating work, so we have something called an amygdala. That amygdala is the center of our brain kind of between our ears and that’s what triggers what we call the fight or flight mode. So, the fight or flight mode is something that happens, and either I’m going to fight it or I’m going to run away. And then we have a part of our brain called the frontal cortex, it’s right in our forehead kind of above our eyes and that’s the decision-making part of our brain. And so, what happens is when we have an amygdala hijack when I’m frustrated, when I’m ticked off, when I’m exhausted, the amygdala will then hijack the front part of our brain. It’s fascinating. And then the front part of our brain cannot make decisions, so at a very high level what we need to do is we need to put a pause between our amygdala and the hijacking of our frontal brain which makes the decisions. So, there are lots of different things you can do to create more space, literally, and a pause between those two things, so it could be very simple breathing techniques, it could be very simple meditation. But I mean tiny meditation that you can do in a boardroom, it can be grounding techniques and what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to make sure that the amygdala doesn’t hijack. People who have really practiced this on a daily basis, what does that look like, maybe doing a little bit of “tai chi”. Three minutes of “tai chi ‘’ every day a body scans things like that actually have a better response and therefore do not let that amygdala hijack them and their moods and then, therefore, hijack the room. So, encourage everybody to look it up, look at Dan’s work and lots of articles out there. But if nothing else it’s really being mindful of what’s going on in my body, I’m really frustrated. How do I breathe one or two breaths not like you know in the middle of a meeting? That’s gonna be a little weird but how do I breathe, how do I calm myself down before I say something or do something or make a decision that I’m going to regret.

[00.51.48]Yegor: So, it sounds to me that this emotional intelligence is or is all about self-control. Am I right?

[00.51.55]Anne: Yeah, emotional control we can’t always, we can’t control the amygdala, that it’s wired into us we can’t control that. However, we can control how we manage it, manage our emotions, manage our responses.

[00.52.11]Yegor: So, the more calm, the more self-control, the more cool you are the better for your career, that’s what…?

[00.52.18]Anne: Absolutely, right. If you’re always the person who blows up who yells, right. What’s gonna happen to the team? They’re not gonna speak up, they’re not gonna give any ideas, they’re gonna be afraid of things, they’re not going to take risks, they’re going to be afraid of failure. Right, that’s not going to help the tech space, right. You need to make rules, break rules, you need to test things. Things are going to break. And so, the more that you can say okay well that didn’t go as planned, okay well that certainly was not something we anticipated. What’s a way that we can move forward that’s going to be a much better conversation than what is wrong with you and why did that break and why didn’t you tell me about it ahead of time.

[00.53.00]Yegor: So, if you think it’s for people who are you know natively or originally are more angry and more emotional, for them to build a career it’s more difficult than for people who are, you know, who are more calm by definition.

[00.53.19]Anne: I think yes. Again, I think it’s both and in the sense of… Even if I don’t think people are naturally born calm, right. It comes from practice, and it comes from what shaped you as an individual. And I do think that if anger or again the trigger of the amygdala is something that is a constant for you and it shows up and lashing out a client or lashing out at colleagues or throwing your computer against the wall that certain things can help you manage that, which then manages your own health we’ve even talked about that, but the impact of having constant amygdala hijacks is what we call adrenal fatigue syndrome, right. And you have this adrenal fatigue syndrome; you then feel it with coke and coffee and then we start getting into health issues that’s a whole nother matter. But I think that it is very easy if you commit to it to daily practices and I’m talking like two minutes a day, I’m not talking an hour on the couch a minute a day, which will help you manage that, which will make you more consistent easier to work with and then gives you more space to be innovative and creative to do what you do well.

[00.54.36]Yegor: You know, I think I’m gonna I’m gonna meditate for half an hour after this podcast recording.

[00.54.46]Anne: That’s a long time, that’s a long time start. I’d say start with five minutes… A long time

[00.54.49]Yegor: Okay, I have one last question for you. Actually, getting back to the topic I brought up in the beginning about freelancers and full-time people. So, there are differences between them, right? In all the areas of the soft skills we’re talking about, I think so. So, freelancers are freelancers full time there are full-timers… Do you see the difference? I think you do. So, tell me about it.

[00.55.10]Anne: So, I wouldn’t say there’s a difference between freelancers and full-timers in terms of soft skills. The term is really and in terms of how you are paid in your legal status. So, you can have freelancers who have high emotional intelligence and freelancers who have low emotional intelligence, you can have full-time employees who have high flow. So, there’s no difference there. Now, a freelancer is often working somewhat as somewhat like an individual contributor right they’re working on their own not necessarily with a big team. However, freelancers really are going to need the soft skills because they’re going to have to sell themselves, they’re going to have to work with a team that is often remote, they’re going to have to influence when they’re not in front of the person that they are creating the product for. So, it’s a skill set that everybody can use but I certainly would not say that freelancers have better soft skills than full-timers. I would say that’s a real situation and individual.

[00.56.09]Yegor: But they need more of those skills or less because they’re sitting in most cases… Let’s talk about freelancers who are also remote workers so they’re sitting somewhere they communicate over the phone or internet or somehow, but they rarely show up in the office. So, do they really need those soft skills when they’re actually just you know calling you on zoom or skype or whatever so they’re not in the office they’re not in those meetings most of the time they are remote people, so, do they need soft skills?

[00.56.37]Anne: Well, yes, everybody needs soft skills. Soft skills are a life skill, and it really depends on the work if literally, it’s like “hey Anne, just create this product and send it to me”, maybe I don’t need soft skills for that particular project. However, if it is “hey Anne, you’re part of the bigger team and you need to join the meetings by zoom once a week and you need to contribute to the final product once a week” then absolutely they are going to need soft skills to be able to do that remotely.

[00.57.07]Yegor: They’re going to be exactly the same set of soft skills, or they may be different? What do you think?

[00.57.12]Anne: Oh my gosh, there are so many soft skills, we’ve only talked about a few today but the four that we talked about, they would certainly need. Collaboration, conflict management, emotional intelligence, coaching - all of those skills would absolutely help them.

[00.57.30]Yegor: And do you think those skills are changing in time? Like if you look at like for example 50 years back and then we’re looking at the industry right now, let’s say software industry, and we look for 50 years ahead, so, do you think there are some dynamics of changing of those soft skills we need or is the same set of skills which we needed before and we’re going to need in the future?

[00.57.48]Anne: I think in the future we are going to need more and more soft skills because of AI, I think AI is going to be doing more of the menial work for us, right so, I don’t actually have to sit there and code but there are other things that I do need to do. The teams are going to be more global the teams are going to be much more remote, we’re going to be using technology a lot more and so the human factor is going to be so much more important, right, because we’re going to be doing some automatic stuff but then there’s going to be some stuff that only the humans can do and so that’s going to be more of the collaboration, more of the innovation, more of the creativity. And so, we are going to need more and more emotional intelligence and soft skills in the future than we do even now.

[00.58.32]Yegor: So, that’s a recommendation for our listeners, so, if you want to be more successful, you sort of start shifting from just being a pure technical person into being more like a people person, right?

[00.58.45]Anne: Yes, and again it’s at both ends right. I mean you got tired because you’re really good at programming and coding and testing. So don’t lose those skills, let’s be really clear we need those skills and grow the soft skills as well.

[00.59.01]Yegor: Great, it sounds great to me. I actually learned a lot today after listening to you, so, thank you for coming.

[00.59.09]Anne: Thank you so much, it’s been a lot of fun.

[00.59.12]Yegor: Thanks a lot for me and also, I will show in the show notes I will mention your book which is on amazon, I will mention your blog posts. I think it’s worth reading and buying and everything.

[00.59.22]Anne: Thank you so much

[00.59.23]Yegor: All right, bye-bye

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