Archive for April, 2008

I like to improve myself. It’s not that I am unhappy with myself, but I feel that doing nothing to improve myself is like going backwards.

On the projects I worked on, I tried to learn something everyday. I quickly discovered I learned faster by reading non-fiction books. Then I realized that I could learn even faster while following courses, or better practical workshops. I became independent because I wanted to follow more courses. I now spend 20% of my income (not my profit) to books and courses.

Although I was working in IT, I was always interested in the customer, in the relations between the developers etc. 7 years ago, I realized I wanted to learn more about people and their interactions. My father had followed a training for leadership when I was 15-16, so I asked him what he felt about that course. We talked a long time, the one sentence I still remember from that talk was: "I only regret one thing for this course: I regret I did not follow this earlier".
That was the encouragement I needed to know.  So I followed the VTLG (Advanced Training for leading groups).

That one year course blew me away. It changed my life both professional and privately.

Fast Forward a few years: I realized that the lack of communication skills in a lot of IT people when I was working as an MCT

In the last issue of Microsoft The Architecture Journal Joe Shirey said it very nice in his The Softer Side of the Architect:

Many problems stem from the inability to communicate with people in the terminology they use on a day-to-day basis.

I agree when I hear from projects that go wrong, in 80% of the cases it is because of communication and not because of bad (use of) technology.
That is also why I switched from a .NET trainer to become an agile project coach.

After doing a few years of coaching, it felt like I wanted to do this the rest of my life. So if it is really my thing, why not follow another training on coaching. I looked at a lot of training’s, workshops etc about coaching. I did not really see any of these training that jumped out of it.

So I started to think, ok what are the skills I want to learn in this training.

I wanted to improve my communication even more.
Communication is 4 things. Reading, writing, Speaking and listening.

  1. I read 20 to 30 pages a day . I am a great reader
  2. One of the reasons for this blog is writing more and improving my writing skills by doing that.
  3. Speaking is ok. 
  • I have been giving technical training for 5 years. I can talk to IT people.
  • I started my career as a Telephonic software support engineer. I can talk to customers. Both end-users and business people.

On top of that Dr Covey says that 40% of all communication is listening. Ok I think you can never learn enough how to listen. At least learn how to listen empathically.
Where can I learn how to listen?

And then I stroke me: GTT Gestalt Therapy Training (GTO Gestalt Therapy Opleiding). If there is one profession where people need to listen, it would be a therapist. And of all the therapist probably the gestalt therapy is where I will learn most (As they look at the complete picture.)

When I told my father that (He and my mother are now both Gestalt therapists), he agreed with me it was the best out of all the courses I mentioned.

On top of that I don’t know any other training where people learn how to listen. No other.

This training is 4 years. During these 4 years I have

  • a weekend once every month.
  • we have to read a few books,
  • I have an exam about psychology.
  • We have a homework group once every month.
  • We have several practical exercise days on top of the weekends.
  • We have to write a report about every weekend (I should be writing that instead of this blogpost.)
  • Update: it’s considered best to do some learning therapy sessions with a real gestalt therapist. Both to grow and to see how it works in a one-to-one session

The first two years are personal years. The trainers do a lot of personal stuff with us. So we see them working with real people, while still working on ourselves.

The last two years we have to do work as a real therapist. In the beginning I tough I will only do the first two years. Before I started I realized I wanted to do the whole four years. So yes I will be working as a therapist for 2 years.

At this moment I still think I do this to improve myself as a coach. And I will not leave IT. (I might change my mind after I have finished the 4 years.)
One of the reasons is I see people doing dangerous stuff in groups. Someone reads a book and gives a training about that, and does not realize that he /she might go very deep for a participant. That is dangerous. I prefer to create a safe environment.
It is a fine line between coaching and therapy. I have already been accused that I was doing therapy in a company. I knew enough from therapy and from bringing greater results to teams to know I was not doing that. I did not knew enough about therapy to explain the difference to that CEO.

So if you came on this page because the fact that I am doing a Gestalt therapy training and you wonder why would a project coach, leadership coach do this; I hope I convinced you that I don’t want to do therapy in your company.

Oh I am sure I will run into people that could benefit from a therapist. If that happens I will focus on getting the best results with these people and at max I will propose them to go to a personal therapist. (And I do know 15 future therapist close enough to recommend one that could fit.)

If you like acronyms like GTT & GTO, check out my post on acronyms

Michel and Els brought it up. So many people in IT use words they hardly understand and when they do they don’t take the time to explain the basics.

TMN: stands for This Means Nothing. I use it in meetings where people use 3 letter words all the time and I have the feeling not everyone understands them.
When I get that feeling I say something like.

“I agree with you, but did you think about TMN? “

A lot of people just continue without loosing a beat, yes, that is not a problem because ….

After a little discussion I ask them what TMN means. When I explain it, they get my point.

In other meetings I will just bluntly say I don’t understand this or that acronym, even if I know it but suspect others don’t. In a lot of meetings I get different answers from different persons. Usually when they agree what the 3 letter word means, the other discussions are over.
I don’t mind making a fool of myself if that means I save the face from someone else. In my experience, TMN works better because people realize more there is a problem with using acronyms without explaining them.

That is why on the projects I coach, I ask to make a list of all the abbreviations. It gives a lot of discussions at the beginning of the project, but it saves a lot of anger afterwards.

Tags van Technorati: Acronyms,TMN

As you can see in our family’s newyears video, breakfast at our place is always a “heroes happen here” event.

When my partner has breakfast with the kids alone: it works fine.
When I have breakfast with them it is ok too. The challenges start when we are both there.

We tend to have both our own way of dealing with the kids in the morning. And smart kids as they are (who does not think his own kids are smart.) They take advantage of this. That is, the kids play wih us to have whatever they want.

This results in stressy breakfasts and lot of arguments between Els and me.

We never took the time to become aligned. Until wednesday 19 march. Els and me sat down and discussed how we would organise our mornings. We both were aligned on the fact that we wanted the mornings to be easier. Especially as she had started working again.

So on thursday 20 march, we held our first Family meeting. We asked Joppe (5 years), Bent (3 years) to sit down and we put Geike (5 months) in her relax so she could see us all. We told them the new morning rules. When they tried to change the rules, they quickly realize their parents were both very aligned on the subject.

And yes we have made some changes based on their requirements, after we checked with each other.

So what are our rules:

6:45 Yves & Els get up. We wake the kids, and they have time to become fully awake untill we(Yves & Els) are dressed. Yves takes a shower.

7:00 Yves & Els are dressed. Joppe gets 15 minutes to get dressed on his own.

Bent also get’s 15 minutes, but we help him by telling him what to put on.

They get an hourglass to help them with the time. From the moment they are finished they can go downstairs to play a little.

7:15 Yves & Els leave the boys room. If the boys are not ready we won’t stay. We dress Geike and give her milk. We put the food from the fridge to the table. (The rest Yves has already put in place the night before.

7:30 We go to breakfast. We now use an hourglass of 30 minutes. Joppe & Bent have to say what they want from the moment they sit down. They can not only leave the table to go to the toilet or when they are finished.

8:00 Joppe & Bent put heir trousers and shoes on. They can play a little bit.

8:15 We leave the house.

The Result:
The next day was the best breakfast we had in years. Both Els & me were relaxed before, during and after the breakfast.

Did everything went smoothly?
Depends on how you look at it. Compared to before ==> definitely. They are still kids. And we are very agile. In fact we changed our plans already for the next time. Now we will use 2 hourglasses at breakfast. One of 15 minutes and one of 30 minutes. (based on a tip from Joppe to help his brother) As we see they already understand the law of parkinson. (Everything takes at least the amount of time you have set to.)

Update: A lot of readers ask where I bought the hourglasses.

Small video of Stephen Covey about the Indian Talking Stick.

See my training @BarCamp Gent about "Win WIn Win with a talking stick"