Design as diplomacy revisited
June 12, 2001
Tog's "How to Deliver a Report Without Getting Lynched" has been making the rounds with good reason. It's ironic that probably the two most important skills in the professional world—communications skills and people skills—and the ones that schools often ignore the most. So how do you learn more about diplomacy?

Infoworld's Bob Lewis also has some good what-ought-to-be-common sense advice. Although Bob writes about information systems consulting, his other columns are worth checking out, since he often deals with issues of corporate politics and how to lead/manage people.

One of the best people skills books I've read is "Akido in Everyday Life" which makes analogies between Akido and conflict management. One of the things I especially liked about it, is that unlike a lot of touchy-feely similiar books, it acknowledges there are times when conflict is appropriate if it's a critical issue. The authors argue there are six possible responses, and each of which is appropriate in particular situations: withdrawing, fighting back, doing nothing, using deception (to buy time for an appropriate time and place to deal with things), bargining and "redirection" (the verbal equivalent of how one redirects a physical attack). The issue is know which tactic is most appropriate given the circumstances.

Another good resource, despite its somewhat homespun appearance, is Jerry Weinberg's SHAPE forum has some good discussions about managing and consulting, mostly among people in the software engineering industry. Jerry's written quite a number of excellent books on those topics over the years, including "The Secrets of Consulting" and "Becoming a Technical Leader," which despite its title is relevant for creative people who get promoted into management. His four-volume "Quality Software Management" series is tougher reading, but one of best set of books on project management I've seen. Don't let the titles of each book scare you, they were purposely "geeked up" to make it more appealing to programmers who might otherwise pass up a book on dealing with that pesky analog element: humans.

Finally, if you're looking for a workshop to improve your people skills Amplifying Your Effectiveness might be a good choice. I haven't attended it myself, but I've been to workshops put on by some of presenters and there are some saavy people involved. ::

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