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Righteous Vilification

Posted on 2012.02.06 at 20:48
Current Location: 67114
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Concerning Dr. House, MD as a role model I had made the statement several years back that attitude was as important as skill. Unfortunately, the person I was speaking to entirely missed the point making the comparison that no one can walk in, off the street, without credentials, and be hired as a surgeon, for example.

The only current tech news I read these days is, LinkdIn's "Top 5 things you need to know in the news this week" which arrives each Monday morning. For those of you who remember my self-appraisal this past year, management concurred with my analysis but I didn't know why. I assume they agreed with me. Nonetheless, I was surprised to find this in my inbox Monday, from Hire for Attitude:

Virtually every job (from neurosurgeon to engineer to cashier) has tests that can assess technical proficiency. But what those tests don’t assess is attitude; whether a candidate is motivated to learn new skills, think innovatively, cope with failure, assimilate feedback and coaching, collaborate with teammates, and so forth.

Soft skills are the capabilities that attitude can enhance or undermine. For example, a newly hired executive may have the intelligence, business experience and financial acumen to fit well in a new role. But if that same executive has an authoritarian, hard-driving style, and they’re being hired into a social culture where happiness and camaraderie are paramount, that combination is unlikely to work. Additionally, many training programs have demonstrated success with increasing and improving skills—especially on the technical side. But these same programs are notoriously weak when it comes to creating attitudinal change. As Herb Kelleher, former Southwest Airlines CEO used to say, “we can change skill levels through training, but we can’t change attitude.”

The first time I heard that quote was from my own boss, drp back in 99. Made a lot of sense to the younger me. Over the years, I proved it to be an accurate statement. When I explained this to the person who used Dr. House, MD as a role-model, you'd think my obvious success and empiricism would've been proof enough. You would be wrong. "Nuh-uh," he said.

In last week's "Top 5" we had the highly motivational How to Be Happy at Work which can be summarized thusly, "Happiness and unhappiness (in work and in life) result entirely from the rules in your head that you use to evaluate events. Those rules determine what's worth focusing on, and how you react to what you focus on. Many people have rules that make it very difficult for them to happy and very easy for them to be miserable."

Some people think its weird that I actively seek out that which could destroy me and yet the first step in being happy at work is to answer the following two questions:

What has to happen for me to be happy?
What has to happen for me to be unhappy?

"Now examine those rules. Have you made it easier to miserable than to be happy? If so, your plan is probably working." This is a game I have been playing for many years and I am quite adept at it. For something different, rather that tell me why you disagree - try it. Try it and prove that it works. Don't try to disprove it, for you're already succeeding at that.

And my Dr. House, MD friend? Moving up in the world. Learning his own lessons. No shortcuts for that one, he's going to do it on his own, and there's nothing wrong with that either. Sometimes to better understand a lesson, one has to experience that lesson. To each his Dulcinea.


michelle1963 at 2012-02-07 15:56 (UTC) (Link)
Hiring for attitude! Absolutely perfect. It has been my experience that all it takes is one person with a shitty outlook to screw up a work environment ~ especially if the work is such that one must interact with that person.

Yes, I always try to take the high road with such assholes, but just talking to them can taint the day. It's like you're in a game of paintball, and the vile things that come from their mouths leave green slime on your arm. You can pretend it's not there, and yet you have been slimed.

Even worse are those co-workers who tend to follow the person that is the strongest. When they are around a happy co-worker, they tend to be happy, but get them in the presence of Miss Slimy Mouth, and they began emulating her. So then it becomes a battle of wills for the hearts of these erratic people. It's just two easy for the original slime ball to create more just like her.

So yeah, attitude.
jobu121 at 2012-02-07 21:35 (UTC) (Link)
I will try it. My happiness comes when I have pulled a non-it person tries to argue IT theories and works with me. I just keep giving them false hope and more rope. That is what makes me happy at work :)

And yes sir - ehowton is one righteous dude!
codekitten at 2012-02-08 13:04 (UTC) (Link)
i completely agree. most of the developers i work with do not have a degree or if they do they don't have it in IT.

what we do all have (i have a great team!) is a can do attitude and a general supportive camaraderie. so even though we might not have the highest/best/most training or skills, we will figure it out together.

you know something is going on when there are 5 of us in a cube all leaned in together!

attitude makes all the difference in the world.
suzanne1945 at 2012-02-08 14:53 (UTC) (Link)
This discussion reminds me of some teaching methods and practices I first used and was trained in in the mid 90s. In education the method was called collaborative or cooperative learning. Students were put into heterogeneous teams of 3-4, depending on the age group. Many activities were done in teams, but assessed individually. The research behind this approach was that workers are fired, primarily, not because they did not have the technical skills for the job, but they lacked interpersonal relationship skills. We, in education, were told that businesses were more and more going toward a team approach to problem solving.

It was fascinating to see children move from being competitive and unwilling to compromise to being able to tackle problems as a group and come out with some amazing finished products. Learning of all individuals in the team grew. The high end learners gained in leadership skills, compassion for bringing along the less able, and learned that success could only be achieved when all members of the team learned. It was great for them to enforce their learning by teaching. Of course, those at the low end succeeded because they had the immediate help they needed to understand. Besides kids could sometime communicate in "kidese" which helped them understand.

I found codekitten's remark that something was going on when all five leaned in together in the cubicle. In class the kids sat around a table. I knew good education was happening when I saw all four butts in the air. (Students often sat with their knees in their chairs, leaning across the table toward each other to discuss.)

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