e-Talk Radio: Derby, Esther, 4 January 2001

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think one of the things you said is very true, that everyone does their best job they know how, the skills that they've got really are things that they've learned technically, and sometimes they get management skills, but more often it comes through osmosis. Ah, we have a caller...what do you think Esther, would you like to listen to what our caller has to say?

Esther Derby: Let's listen to the caller.

Carol Dekkers: Okay, welcome caller.

Caller: Good morning you all, the best thing about having the flu is I can listen to you all without interruption. I'm a secretary at a large organization, and everything you all are speaking about is the truth. I deal with engineers who have brilliant technical skills, but human relations, human interpersonal sensitivity is lacking considerably, creates a great deal of trauma in the workforce or in the group that I'm the secretary of, and sometimes management has the same problem because when I try to introduce communication classes or seminars--we have time for that in our, you know, day to day working, there's certain time for training classes--they seem to not look at that or even want it, it's almost like they don't want the people to know too much on how to get along with other people, and that has gotten me in trouble because I've seen articles in the paper, on how that skill in today's world of teamwork versus...I guess autocratic versus participative management.

Carol Dekkers: Right.

Caller: It's not being followed. They talk the game but they don't walk it, and it creates a lot of morale problems in the crews and then I'm the one that has...I'm like, when you're a secretary you're like the mother, you know, of an organization, you kind of know more then the manager does because people talk to you and then you relay that information to the people who can, you know, cut the problem off before it creates a bigger problem, without using names. So you're kind of a priest that heals, and it's very difficult--it's gotten me in trouble with management and I've chosen, you know, to take the steps and to be quite blunt, but I find that all over the place and it frightens me in a way, because it really impacts the customer bottom line, it impacts people morale within the company, and I don't know anymore how to approach it other than to take my skills and leave and I don't want to do that, I've got a lot of years invested, but bottom line means it may just be too tough a nut for me to crack.

Carol Dekkers: Esther, what have you seen, have you seen, is this a fairly typical problem in the clients you've encountered? I know you do a lot of work with the complex human system…

Esther Derby: Well, I think it's certainly true that people in the position that the caller is in are often the social glue of the organization, they kind of hold things together.

Caller: Oh, I love that. I'm going to write that down…

Esther Derby: They see a lot of what's going on. I think also that in some ways when you get to be management, there's this notion that you've arrived and I think it can be very hard for people who have a lot of education and who have been very successful to kind of wrestle with the notion that maybe they don't know everything and they need some training...

Caller: And I think I've hit those points of insecurity and

About the author

Esther Derby's picture Esther Derby

A regular StickyMinds.com and Better Software magazine contributor, Esther Derby is one of the rare breed of consultants who blends the technical issues and managerial issues with the people-side issues. She is well known for helping teams grow to new levels of productivity. Project retrospectives and project assessments are two of Esther's key practices that serve as effective tools to start a team's transformation. Recognized as one of the world's leaders in retrospective facilitation, she often receives requests asking her to work with struggling teams. Esther is one of the founders of the AYE Conference. She co-author of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. She has presented at STAREAST, STARWEST and the Better Software Conference & EXPO. You can read more of Esther's musings on the wonderful world of software at www.estherderby.com and on her weblog at www.estherderby.com/weblog/blogger.html. Her email is derby@estherderby.com.

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