I have mentioned the book Seeing Yourself as Others Do to a number of people over the last several weeks. We have been talking a lot about soft skills over the past couple of months at our ArcReady program and I have mentioned it each time I have presented the session. I also attended a professional development training session last week where skills like listening, negotiation, body language and strategic thinking came up quite a bit. I have mentioned it enough that I thought that I would go ahead and write up a proper review of it.
Before I jump into the review, I have to disclose that I know the two authors of this book personally. Carol Keers was my coach a few years ago and I also got to know Tom Mungavan while I was going through the coaching experience with Carol; they both work for Change Masters. I also got an advanced copy of the book to review, and as part of the review I gave them a quote to include in the book. While I consider them my friends, I have tried to not let that affect this review. The fantastic experience that I had with Carol as my coach probably did have an impact on the review. 🙂
There a probably 1000+ books that cover soft skills from a variety of perspectives and I am sure that many of them are quite good. Seeing Yourself As Others Do has a few advantages that make it a great book to read if you are interested in exploring soft skills. The book is very easy to read, written in conversational that that is easy to consume and uses “real world” stories as examples to communicate the techniques presented. It is so easy to read that if you take it along on a business trip, you will probably have it finished by the time you get back. One of the best things about the book is that within a couple of chapters, you will already be able to start applying the techniques that are presented to you. Finally you will learn about yourself, not some program or theories that the author is presenting.
The Decade Shift
One of my favorite parts of the book and the coaching that I got from Carol years ago is the concept of the decade shift. To summarize the concept: As you move from decade to decade (from your 20s to your 30s to your 40s – not from the 1980s to the 1990s) the expectations of you and how people expect you to behave changes. Your job or your role may not change as your age does, but how other people treat you will change and you will need to evolve your behavior in accordance with the change in your age. At first glance it may seem “unfair” for the expectations to change, but that is human nature. If you get nothing else out of this book, this section will give you wonderful insight. One of the reasons this book has been on my mind is that I re-read it over the past couple of weeks just as I turned 40, I figure that would be a good time for a refresher course on the decade shift.
The importance of soft skills to an architect or developer
As I mentioned, we have been talking about soft skills in the latest ArcReady programs. The “dirty secret” of the ArcReady content is that 95% of the content was not targeted at architects in particular. Virtually all of the conversation would apply equally well to any technical audience and most of it would apply to any profession, even outside of technology altogether. We gave the content an architecture slant simply by sighting examples from our own experience as software architects. Since the content is really job agnostic, you might be asking yourself “Why did Microsoft devote an entire series of their architecture program to soft skills”. The answer to this question is two-fold, first Soft Skills are just as important as technology skills to architects and developers. Secondly most architects and developers could use some improvement in their soft skills and will make great leaps in their career by making a small investment in soft skills.