106. Centring & Entering

On today’s show, Dave and William are once again joined by Emmanuel Genard to discuss the idea of centring and entering. The reality of the work place means that entering a new team or having someone enter your team is likely and some of the centring and entering techniques shared in the episode allow for these transitions for be managed in a smooth way. They help both in gaining an understanding of what entering a new group feels like, as well as what it feels like being someone in the group and having a new person come in. These techniques require an empathetic understanding of the complexity of the people you work. Dave, William and Emmanuel provide a hypothetical situation and show how to employ some of these principles to diffuse a potentially tricky situation and how through some simple reframing steps, situations can have positive outcomes. For this and much more, join us today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • What sonder means.
  • Strategies for entering a group to make the transition smoother.
  • Empathy is critical to a group’s optimum performance.
  • How to go about centring yourself
  • Which questions to ask of yourself when entering a new team.
  • Potential challenges when entering a new team.
  • How reframing can be useful when entering a new team.
  • Steps you can take to reframe a situation
  • What tentative talk is.
  • An explanation of the satir model is and how it enhances communication.
  • Context is key to understanding and connecting.
  • And much more!

Transcript for Episode 106. Centring & Entering

[0:00:01.9] MN: Hello and welcome to The Rabbit Hole, the definitive developer’s podcast in fantabulous Chelsea Manhattan. I’m your host, Dave Anderson, with me today, I have.

[0:00:11.3] WJ: William Jeffries.

[0:00:12.7] DA: And our once and future regular guest.

[0:00:14.9] EG: Emmanuel Genard.

[0:00:16.4] DA: Hey, welcome back man.

[0:00:17.7] EG: Thank you, it’s great to be back.

[0:00:19.1] DA: Today we’re going to be talking about centering and entering. That’s centering yourself and entering a new group.

[0:00:25.9] WJ: This is something I already do? Is this thing I need to do?

[0:00:30.4] EG: I think we could all use some practice in centering.

[0:00:32.5] DA: Yeah, it’s tough. I think we don’t often have enough chance to get good at this because it’s a very rare thing like you know, you’ve heard of like forming a normal and storming and all those other rhyming things for like a new team.

[0:00:46.8] WJ: Bopping and mopping.

[0:00:48.0] DA: Bopping and mopping.

[0:00:49.9] EG: Meet and greet.

[0:00:51.8] DA: Greeting and completing. All the standard rhyming things.

[0:00:57.7] WJ: Centering and entering, that’s a new one. I don’t find myself to be very centered, I find myself to be more left justified.

[0:01:04.8] EG: Yeah.

[0:01:08.3] DA: But distributed, right? When you wrap on the line then the words, they go to the edge.

[0:01:15.2] WJ: Yeah, there’s some flex box in.

[0:01:18.1] DA: Yeah, centering and entering was something that we talked about with a friend of the show Esther Derby.

[0:01:24.2] WJ: Derbs. Shout out to the Derbs.

[0:01:29.8] DA: Hello, Esther.

[0:01:32.0] WJ: If you’re listening.

[0:01:34.7] DA: Yeah, it was a really great perspective to have and you were saying that this kind of resonated with you on a particular level.

[0:01:41.7] EG: To give some background, a lot of the consultant at Stride had a training with Derbs, which she’s known. It was actually one of the more valuable I think experience I’ve had at Stride because it helped me understand what it would be like first as someone trying to go into a new group and also as someone who was being in a group and having someone come in and those are the things and what I might need to do as a person, who is going into these clients and there is this whole culture and society inside these clients, right? This whole social, what is it, structure already there.

[0:02:25.2] DA: You know, in the case where you’re starting a new job or they’re changing up the team so it’s just like a new taskforce that’s getting created or they’re reorganizing the entire company. You have to like really give it your all, in order to –

[0:02:40.2] EG: It’s a way of checking with yourself to just center yourself, right? Then you’re able to actually – be explicit about where I’m coming from. I can be explicit about where I’m coming from.

[0:02:52.9] DA: Right. I think something that resonated with me, was just the idea of like empathy and I think being technical people, that’s often an idea that you don’t have to be empathetic at the workplace, we deal with computers, it’s called hard facts, zeroes and ones. You’re either a one or a zero and that’s it. It’s kind of rational, but between that, it’s a team sport and this is something that you know, Google has shown in their own studies that I think we talked about in the past episodes that it’s really not about having effective individual performers. It’s about having a cohesive team that works together well.

[0:03:35.5] EG: Yeah, to have that team, one of the things that needs to happen is you need to understand that everyone else around you is having – has this rich and complex inner life as you do. They have the contradictions, the thing they like and they don’t like, the fact that you know, when they were five, they lost their teddy bear and still haunts them.

[0:03:56.7] WJ: Are you sondering right now?

[0:03:58.0] EG: I am sondering right now.

[0:04:00.0] DA: Just going too deep.

[0:04:01.5] EG: I’m seeking sonder, right?

[0:04:05.2] DA: Yeah. It’s a great word, the dictionary of obscure sorrows.

[0:04:10.5] WJ: Yes. listeners, you don’t know, the definition of sonder is the profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers, pass in the street has a life as complex as one’s own which are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it. That’s what the training with Esther Derby, mind enemy, essentially that you know, I’m going to this group of people, if I want to enter, they have this huge, complex, vivid thing happening within them, right?

You know, this other person, this history between these two people, they’re all trying to do this other thing and you know, people have figured out how to maintain and survive in the group and you’re entering it and you’re – if I come in without acknowledging that there is stuff here that’s working, maybe not working, but they figured out a way to deal with it.

You have to acknowledge the fact the work that the group has done to be able to work together, even if it’s you know, all messed up, if it’s like, they’re not doing the best they can do, they’re low functioning team, they’re still somewhat functional in some level.

[0:05:13.2] DA: Right, yeah.

[0:05:14.3] WJ: You need to recognize that before you even suggest things or before you try and like, make – come in with all the fixes.

[0:05:23.0] DA: We’re talking I guess more on the entering side of things right now, get to take a step back and talk about centering first, like the concept of that because this level of empathy we’re talking about really extends not just to understanding other people and their motivations but also, to understanding your own motivations so you’re beginning to understand things that other people are experiencing and what they’re going through.

[0:05:46.5] WJ: When we’re talking about centering here, we’re not talking about like the more traditional sense of the word where you know, you set, you meditate, you center yourself and then you go and do a thing. Right, this is something a little bit more long lasting?

[0:05:58.1] EG: I don’t think if it’s long lasting, I think it’s a lot like what you just said, but with specific questions for you to answer. It’s not so much about following my breath and hopefully lowering my heart rate as much as it’s about answering a couple of questions. How am I doing right now?

How do I think this other person is doing and what is that context that both of us are in?

[0:06:21.5] DA: Just kind of taking a moment to step outside of that and understand it. In way, I guess not removed from trying to meditate or something, but you know, there are tools that you can use to ask yourself like you know, what your own motivations and goals are coming into this so you can better understand how that might align with the team that you’re going to be working with.

[0:06:45.0] WJ: It’s more like a writing exercise than a meditation exercise.

[0:06:48.8] DA: Before we move away from solving the thing about questions for other, let’s try to reframe these questions against like a hypothetical situation where like you’re Bobby.

[0:07:02.4] EG: Hi, I’m Bobby.

[0:07:05.5] DA: Hey Bobby, how’s it going?

[0:07:06.4] EG: Doing all right, thanks for asking.

[0:07:08.5] DA: Bobby Emanuel. You're joining a new team and this team has a reputation, they’re like, -

[0:07:17.1] EG: They’re known.

[0:07:19.6] DA: Really getting shit done and how do you feel about centering in this situation like –

[0:07:25.2] EG: I’m going on to a high-performance team or team that has known that has a bunch of high performing individual contributors. I’d say, what it’s going for Bobby is Bobby is kind of excited, maybe Bobby is going to learn a lot of things and hopefully does nothing else in Bobby’s life that is getting in the way.

[0:07:45.7] DA: Do you feel like your abilities are up to the situation like you’re going to –

[0:07:50.6] EG: I’m feeling nervous, right? Am I really going to be up to the task of working with these super high performing people? Am I going to be they’re dragging behind? Am I going to be the weakest link on the team?

[0:08:02.0] DA: Yeah, hopefully you make some new friends.

[0:08:04.8] EG: The thing I most want to have happen is that I learn a lot and I contribute something meaningful to this team.

[0:08:11.2] DA: All right, I think you got your stuff together, Bobby Emanuel.

[0:08:14.5] EG: I’ve centered a little bit of myself.

[0:08:17.4] DA: What about the other considerations to other people? The first question I got here is what do I know about what’s going on for other people involved?

[0:08:28.6] EG: Let’s say they are – they have a really tight deadline and because they’re such a high performing team, that the difficult work is put on them.

[0:08:38.6] DA: They’re like the A team.

[0:08:40.3] WJ: The A team.

[0:08:41.0] EG: They’re confident, but there’s a lot of pressure to perform.

[0:08:44.8] DA: What do I know about their needs and capabilities related to the situation?

[0:08:48.3] EG: They expect to be able to do it; they expect to be able to meet anything they need to do. They probably think they may not need me.

[0:08:56.9] DA: What do they know that you might not know?

[0:08:59.3] EG: That I was brought in because even though they’re high performing team, that the management doesn’t think that there is enough capacity to meet all the requirements for the deadline. They’re going to need more people before this project starts, with the deadline it has.

[0:09:18.8] DA: William. Can you tell us about the context?

[0:09:21.0] WJ: Yeah, I have no faith in this team, absolutely none whatsoever.

[0:09:24.3] DA: What is the context? No faith in them?

[0:09:26.2] WJ: No, absolutely not. They’re all hot shots, they have always been able to meet their deadlines because of general low expectations within the organization, they’re meeting a very low bar. Now that I’m in charge, the bar is going back to where it should be, everybody’s getting in line and I’m sending in Emanuel to make it happen.

[0:09:50.4] DA: I think that answer the next one. What are the demands of their context?

[0:09:54.1] WJ: They’re extremely demanding demands.

[0:09:57.8] DA: Sounds like it will be pretty rough for those guys.

[0:10:00.2] WJ: Yeah, nose to the grindstone. I want to see all 10 fingers coating, preferably also all 10 toes.

[0:10:08.1] DA: What exists in the organization that might keep people from successfully applying Bobby’s advice?

[0:10:13.5] WJ: I sold all of the keyboards to cut costs.

[0:10:19.4] DA: Wait. This is a huge limitation of the context. That’s important to be aware.

[0:10:25.0] EG: They’re going to have to use Google voice translate or something.

[0:10:29.4] DA: Yeah, the Dragon text to speech.

[0:10:31.1] EG: Dragon text to speech to code, lord.

[0:10:35.0] DA: Which of these factors are in their control?

[0:10:37.7] WJ: Well, you know, I think real dedicated employee would provide their own keyboard.

[0:10:44.9] DA: They got the WASD cherry browns keyboard, you know, very –

[0:10:50.0] WJ: Those fancy Kinesis. I think they can also control the expectations that the organization has of their delivery and the data that – when they’re going to finish and they can do that by communicating early and often about delays of which I’m sure there won’t be any now that I’ve sent in my main man, Manny.

[0:11:13.0] DA: Sounds like that might be an opportunity. Those hot shots are not good at communicating.

[0:11:17.8] WJ: They just like, “you know, give me the work and I’ll do it.”

[0:11:22.6] DA: Don’t worry about it.

[0:11:23.5] EG: Don’t’ worry about it, just tell me what it is you want done.

[0:11:29.0] DA: I feel like we’re pretty centered right now. We are very good at – do this situation, that was pretty fun. Now we have some idea about like some different challenges we’re going to be facing and like, you know.

[0:11:44.9] WJ: Also, I’m firing the team later.

[0:11:49.5] DA: Gosh. There’s always a curve ball. You’re holding that one close to your chest.

[0:11:54.9] WJ: Yeah, just wanted to you know, let that out of the last-minute right before you got there.

[0:12:00.2] EG: So, the first thing I want to do is reframe that probably because I enter in. So, there is a lot of feelings right now, a lot of emotions and one of the biggest things we have learned from Esther Derby is that no matter what someone is doing, they are trying to help. No matter what it is they’re doing in their mind, they are doing the thing that is most helpful.

[0:12:21.4] DA: Those hot shots.

[0:12:22.6] EG: Those hot shots and this manager, who is extremely demanding.

[0:12:27.3] DA: That is true. It did seem like kind of a cartoon reel in, but I said he’s toast.

[0:12:31.4] WJ: Look, the entire organization is going through by the cuts. Everybody has to take a haircut and that includes the keyboards.

[0:12:39.4] EG: Yeah, right. So, there are no keyboards here so we are going to have to get really creative and maybe this could be a way for the team to come together. If we all get a keyboard, we can talk about which keyboard we want. We can get keyboards together.

[0:12:56.5] DA: Or you just trying one keyboard in a mob program.

[0:12:59.7] EG: Or try them out together or even do mob programming right? But also, that we might – if we are being brought in that means it is something that is important enough that the company wants to [inaudible 0:13:11:7] that you can add it, even if their budget cuts cost come in, as a consultant this, I am not cheap. So there is something important about this project. So, I would try reframing and start to focus on something like that.

By saying that this is an important project that they have brought it in. I know you all, I would talk to the team about how try to find out some history and context from the team, how do you feel about this manager that took away the keyboards?

[0:13:38.9] WJ: If anybody is upset about the keyboards, we use the money to pay for Emmanuel. Blame him.

[0:13:44.7] EG: Yeah, they have the next level custom like Ergo Docks keyboards.

[0:13:51.6] DA: Very rare collectible keyboards.

[0:13:54.2] EG: A very rare collectible keyboards with custom keycaps, yeah.

[0:13:57.3] DA: Okay, maybe the keyboards need to get sold, this sounds like too much. So you mentioned reframing. So, when I think of reframing it is like taking something negative and putting in different perspective and thinking about from a positive direction. Is there a good process by which we might be able to approach reframing?

[0:14:18.3] EG: Esther Derby had a very good way of doing it where you take whatever reaction you have now and you describe it from your point of view as in this manager is being reasonable taking away the keyboards.

[0:14:29.8] DA: I am outside right now.

[0:14:32.2] EG: Right and you would go from being unfair and being difficult owning a keyboard and you go add eagle from the current discussion to a neutral description is there seem to be waste in the company with the custom keycaps and custom Ergo Docks keyboards made to order. The company wanted to make sure everyone is focused on what was important and not these vanity things. And the positive description is that now the team can mob program or this will encourage pair programming more with one keyboard maybe.

[0:15:09.4] DA: Yeah there is a positive into that, but if you want to label William why he is twirling his mustaches, you’re going to be like, “well he really cares about the financial wellbeing of the company and you know this is an unorthodox thing you know it is for the better financial health company maybe.”

[0:15:29.4] EG: There is always this point of view that we have that when someone does something there is this immediate interpretation of it that happens. It is really fast too because it is like this. It is the interpretation that you get from your whole upbringing, how people have treated you in the past and comes like that, right? It comes in an instant. It can be difficult to somehow take a step back and realize, “okay I am feeling like this.”

Not to deny it or say that it is bad or good but okay, feeling like this is my immediate interpretation of what had happened and I am giving this kind of meaning but other possible meanings. Other possible interpretations. The facts haven’t changed right? The keyboards are gone. There are no keyboards, but I can interpret it as this manager is crazy or this manager is focused on there’s something happening that prompted this right?

You know a financial strain to the company, the habits they saw, they are trying to help in some way. I just don’t see what that way is yet.

[0:16:30.1] WJ: Yeah, I think with this interaction model, it reminds me a lot of this concept of tentative talk, which I think is a thing we’ve talked about in the podcast before. But it is this notion that when you approach someone who has a different perspective who perhaps you disagree with, it is much less effective to come in with your world view totally solid and make statements of fact like accusations. You are miss managing this team by taking way all the keyboards.

You are trying to undermine the team actively by removing the leader of the team and making it harder for us to direct jobs and instead if you approach it with a tentative frame of mind as though you yourself are a little bit unsure about whether or not you are reading this right.

[0:17:22.0] DA: You are like testing.

[0:17:23.1] WJ: Yeah, the other person’s response is much better. So, it is like, “hey I noticed that all the keyboards are gone and I could be wrong about this, but the first conclusion that I came to is that you wanted to make it harder for us to program. Is that really what is going on?” And that sort of tentative talk makes it easier and safer for the other person to come out make a correction like, “no actually we are launching a new keyboard list laptop and everyone has to dog foot it.”

[0:17:58.2] DA: Right so by making it tentative you are making it easier for them to take that message in and they are not rejecting it outright. You are not fighting them; it seems to me like I think that you have done something crazy.

[0:18:14.4] WJ: Right and also you could be wrong. Maybe that team lead that they fired actually behead just sexually harassed one of the team mates and you didn’t know about it.

[0:18:22.5] EG: Yeah.

[0:18:24.8] DA: So, as you are giving this person this tentative statement testing the waters, there is a model that you can use to consider how they might be processing that statement. Is it called the Satir interaction model. So, there is four steps in this model. The first one is intake, so that is like –

[0:18:47.6] EG: It is the facial expressions they are making, their body position.

[0:18:51.5] DA: Yeah like sensory input like are your ears working. If intake fails you literally just did not hear them. So, you didn’t speak loudly, you didn’t speak clearly.

[0:19:01.5] WJ: Words, tone, pace, breathing.

[0:19:04.8] EG: Yeah, all that stuff, right?

[0:19:06.5] DA: The next thing is meaning and that is your interpretation of it. That is one of the more challenging things there where you have to try and have someone unambiguous phrasing.

[0:19:17.3] EG: Next step is significance, which is how you feel about it, your feelings and your feelings about those feelings.

[0:19:23.0] DA: The meta feelings?

[0:19:24.1] EG: Yes.

[0:19:25.6] DA: You know trying to be not too harsh on this guy who can’t make decisions to get rid of the keyboards.

[0:19:34.6] WJ: It was that or the mice.

[0:19:36.3] DA: This guy is not a Vim user, is he? And then last is the response, this here falls with defenses or –

[0:19:45.7] WJ: Defenses being things like projecting or denying or just ignoring.

[0:19:50.6] EG: Yeah and one of the things about the interaction model is that if any of these things change, if the intake changes, if the meaning changes, the significance changes then the response ends up changing as well, right? So, all of these things are open so I would say the intake stays the same you know? This person says the magic came into that. All right everyone get rid of your keyboards right now and they are all gone so that is a fact, but the meaning, interpretation and significance of that can have several different ways you know?

I took it one way, Bobby John took it the other way, Bobby Mark took the third way, right? There is just different ways of taking and then the response because of the different meaning and significance they have, the response to them will be different. One of the things I found helpful is that allowing to say, “you know what? If I change the interpretation of this all of a sudden my feelings of it change.” I don’t try to change my feelings, my feelings are my feelings, but if I change the way I interpret it, the meaning I have given it, if that changes all of a sudden all these other things change and I act differently towards that person.

[0:20:51.8] DA: Right and I will also say that unless you want to understand the context that you are in that the different experiences that these people have had, then it becomes harder to communicate and you are having trouble connecting with people that maybe it is any one of these things that I have broken down and you can try to readjust your message and trying to get through.

[0:21:16.9] EG: This also leads to when you enter the system to think about what role are you playing in this person’s mind. So, in this team for the manager, I am there to fix everything. For the team I am just someone who is also add to their team when they don’t feel like they need anything fixed. So, I could have two different roles and different views of mine. So, I need to think about that and that changes and these are all connected because that changes how I interact with them.

What the words they see, how they can hear what I say as well, what the meaning they might give to it all of a sudden and how they might – the significance of it for them, for the two different people because they are playing two different roles right? So, I would then probably have to go back to centering myself all of a sudden to understand, “okay this is how I am feeling this is the other, I have two others now, I have the manager and the team as the other. I need to maybe answer these questions about them and I have two different context that connects the magic, context of the team to think about.”

And this goes around in a circle of okay, to the team I am just someone who is just forced upon them that I imagine I was the one who came to fix things. Somehow I need to fight for our way to interact with the team in a way that’s positive, that produces something good and valuable to meet the deadline or whatever. For the manager, I need to show that I am in fact, introducing to this new concept for the team so that you have confidence and delivered thing, right?

[0:22:45.7] DA: Yeah, there you have it. Center and entering. Well Manny, it was awesome having you on the show again.

[0:22:51.2] WJ: It was awesome to be back down The Rabbit Hole.

[0:22:56.7] DA: William.

[0:22:57.3] WJ: Pleasure as always.

[0:22:58.2] DA: Yeah.


[0:23:02.6] DA: Follow us now on Twitter @radiofreerabbit so we can keep the conversation going. Like what you hear? Give us a five star review and help developers just like you find their way into the rabbit hole and never miss an episode, subscribe now however you listen to your favorite podcast. On behalf of our producer extraordinaire, William Jeffries and our amazing host, Michael Nunez who is out being a dad and me your host, Dave Anderson, thanks for listening to the Rabbit hole.


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