In your career, you’ve had a lot of soup. You’ve had tomato, chicken noodle, potato leek, and countless others. More importantly, you’ve had different variations of each soup. Big huge noodle chicken noodle. Some amazing type of cream on that tomato soup. This soup journey has taught you a lot about soup. Now, when presented with a new bowl of soup, the moment that counts is the first taste. You taste a bit and wonder, “What is going on with this soup?”
I don’t intentionally read the room when I’m interacting with a group. (That may very well be a great thing for managers to do. I am not a manager.)
In the last few years however, I have learned to shut up more, and listen more. I feel this has been a huge part of my success at . . . maybe “success” isn’t the right word.
Somewhere in my brain I have the ideas from an article that described interactions between people as boundary/border negotiations between countries; some have walls, some have armed forces, some are open, some are dividing waste-lands, and some have a frequent exchange of ideas. The people on either side of the border can be soft marshmallows (they shape easily to their borders), malleable (they can be shaped by sufficient outside force), etc. I digress.
By learning to listen, I feel people now put up less razor-wire-topped walls to protect their border with me. Less walls means more interaction, and that interaction has been a driver of my progress of self-improvement.
…and reading that linked article from Rands, now I see that it — reading the room, listening, being a person with an open border — is a widely useful skill.
The Old Guard does not tell the story of when no one talked to each other for a week because of a disagreement over architecture. They don’t talk about those long 72 hours where if funding didn’t show up, they were done. They don’t tell these stories because they hurt to tell, they are shitty awful stories, but they are as important as the myths because they resulted in the construction of trust within the team. If we can get through that; we can get through anything.
Ideally, this is going to be an effective conversation. You have a topic you want to discuss that will likely result in a decision or two. You are confident in your version of the truth and you feel no matter what happens in this conversation, you’ll be able to adapt.
Problem is, there is another person in this conversation and from the moment they open their mouth, it’s no longer just about the topic, the conversation is now about how we are having it.
Dunbar’s Number is a favorite blunt diagnosis for the pains that affect rapidly growing teams. The number, which is somewhere between 100 and 250 describes a point at which a group of people can no longer effectively maintain social connections in their respective heads. What was simple from a communication perspective becomes costly. What was a familiar family that you saw wandering the hallway becomes Stranger Town.
Also, Dunbar’s Number on Wikipedia.
The issue, just like exercise, is that each time you build, the high becomes slightly harder to achieve. Part of your hormonal reward is based on the fact the thing you just built has never been built before. It’s novel and your brain commensurately rewards the new because it has learned after millions of years of evolution that doing so is collectively good for our species.
~ Rands, from Busy is an Addiction