This is the fifth article in a series where I’ll talk about the essential traits of an E-g consultant.
All software has a social impact: people are affected by all aspects of the software life cycle and they are more important than all the previous topics covered in this series, by far.
It can be easy to envision coming to the E-g office everyday working with E-g people and being a part of the E-g culture that we love. Sharing life with the folks we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with is very rewarding and enjoyable. It’s certainly not without conflict, but our folks do a great job of handling conflict professionally and with care. It’s based on a foundation of established relationships.
Although we do enjoy working together, we must embrace relationships outside the walls of E-g. We serve our clients and that means we have to step out into the world and serve a very diverse community. This is not mere acceptance of a responsibility we must endure, but rather an opportunity to actively engage with others.
We could devote an entire series to dealing with different people behaviors. In this post, we’ll just cover some typical people-related situations an E-g consultant may encounter. Keep in mind that most of the people we deal with are wonderful folks, but we can’t ignore the exceptional conditions that will provide opportunities to live out our values and grow.
Here are some examples to consider:
The new project dance
We are occasionally called to serve with many different people on a project. You may be on a team with client employees, independent contractors and of course employees from competitors. As consultants, we have to be willing to be regularly inserted into project teams where we will meet new people. Anytime we enter a new social group, it always takes time for relationships to form and trust to be built. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable as all the dynamics shake out. There are many aspects to this, but a common one is the sizing up of one another’s technical abilities. People bring a very diverse set of backgrounds to the table and there are always some interesting things to work through until you get to the “The team has really gelled!” state. E-g consultants may have to exhibit fortitude when it comes to working towards a healthy team dynamic.
In most sports, you belong to a team and play other teams, so you get to keep a single team focus and try to defeat your opponents. In consulting, we are part of multiple teams. You’re on the E-g team and you might be on the client’s project team. Simply put, we have to strive for the success of our client team while using the foundation of our E-g values to guide us. Many of us are competitive by nature, but we have to turn that on only when it’s in the appropriate context. That competitor’s employee sitting next to you? She’s your teammate and should be treated with that mentality in mind. Save the competitive spirit for the next proposal 🙂
Sages and newbs
Next we have a behaviorally neutral trait: knowledge. You will work with people who are smarter than you are. They will have more experience and/or they will know more about technology, process and a whole host of other things. Knowledge has value in the giving and the getting. E-g consultants love to learn from other people and view working with smarter people as a valuable opportunity. On the other hand, it’s our job to share what we know and mentor those who are less experienced.
Plainly stated, there are going to be people who choose words that are going to rub you the wrong way. There’s nothing like the liberal use of “stupid” in a code review comment to elevate the blood pressure a bit, eh? While comments should always be constructive, sometimes they’re not and we have to be able to see through the color commentary. We have to be able to relax and determine if the communication is valuable. Also, we need to be able to respectfully address the behavior. At E-g we place a high value on professional communications. Occasionally we find ourselves working with individuals who choose otherwise.
Language and Culture
The people we work with can have a very diverse set of cultural, social and national backgrounds. We have to appreciate and respect other world cultures and those teammates for whom English is a second language. In some cases, we may even need to work with people who we will never physically meet in the rare cases where we are part of a global team.
It all comes down to People
The focus on behaviors in this post was intentional. Attaching labels to people is an attempt to permanently affix them to a person’s character. When we begin to see all people as valuable, it brings a healthy perspective to the workplace.
We have to keep in mind that we may be the one who needs a behavior adjustment! E-g consultants recognize there is always opportunity for improvement and we should encourage others to call us out when we’ve goofed.
Personally, one of my greatest joys is hanging out and working with people of all types. In just about every situation where I’ve encountered challenging situations with people, there’s a story behind the behavior. Working through that can be a challenge, but some great relationships have resulted from a little bit of work. The best teams find healthy ways to create a culture of friendship and acceptance, which is an essential ingredient in knocking projects out of the park.
If you see opportunity in engaging with a wide variety of people that will grow, stretch and challenge you then you might want to be an E-g consultant.