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Can you teach the right attitude?

Is it possible to teach someone how to have to right attitude?

As a consultant working for a company that both delivers software and trains others on how to develop software properly, I’m always searching for the best training and communication techniques. These techniques usually revolve around helping agile novice BAs understand the Agile Way – scoping requirements, writing stories and clear acceptance criteria, etc. We often take for granted that the people we are working with already have the implicit skills of a BA – hunger to understand, clarity of thought, succinct and clear communication skills, and, of course, empathy. In short, attitude. This, as I’ve discovered on a few of my gigs, is not always the case. So how do you deal with those situations?

The most powerful way is by example. People are inspired when they see someone passionately doing what they love doing. It’s infectious. If someone else in the team is putting in 100% and really enjoying it, the other team members will notice, and more often than not, push themselves to try a little harder.

Part of leading by example is explaining what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You may think that what you’re doing is the most logical thing to be doing and that the reasons are clear, but others cont always see this. Vocalizing your steps and thought processes along the way will help others put the pieces together a lot easier. Remember that your experiences have sculpted the way you think and act and gave you the tools to solve problems rationally and logically. Don’t force others to infer – be clear by talking others through your actions.

A second method I use often is simply to ask questions. Most of the time you know the answer, but it isn’t the answer you’re after. You’re trying to help someone understand the right questions to be asking and by doing so, help them see the processes you follow to get to the right answer. The trick with asking questions is being flexible enough to restate your questions in a variety of ways. Your student may not give you the answer you want the first time around, but asking again in a different way may help them understand what you’re getting at.

A third technique I use is just as simple – encouragement. Celebrating the small victories encourages your student, making them want to try harder for more victories. Everyone likes to be told when they’re doing something well, so find something that you can compliment your student about. Stay away from pointing out problems in a negative manner, even if you’re frustrated with a lack of progress or understanding. This will only help to put a distance between you and make it that much harder for any real progress. Remember that not everyone will find this as easy as you may, and they may need a lot more time to even get the basics right.

Attitude problems can stem from a number of factors and are generally a symptom of other issues that can be deeper and more personal than you think. Remember that ultimately, we are all just human with our own unique histories, emotions and perspectives, and that we each need something different to motivate us. Keeping this in mind will help you approach others with the sensitivity and respect they deserve, and that you as a consultant are being paid for.

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