Who is Don Gray

Time for someone new in our Who Is Series. Nr 14 already. Wow this is going fast.
If I had not typed them all in, I was not sure I had all read them 😉
Did you? You did not just read the famous people did you? (At least that is what my stats are saying.) And actually some of the most interesting answers come from less famous people.
I’m not sure in what category Don belongs to. He is one of these people that the incrowd knows is very important in the coaching scene. Does that make him famous? I have no idea. I don’t even care. I know he is one of the people that I was happy he wanted to answer the questions. And I am equally happy I will  meet him in November when I go to AYE..) Don was invited by Johanna Rothman
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

While in college, I studied Aikido. I spent hours in the dojo learning how to work with other people’s energy. Blending with it, guiding it, becoming part of it and extending it.

This “meeting others where they are” and not colliding with them corresponds to the first two points in Herbert Shepard’s “Rules of Thumb for Change Agents
* Stay Alive
* Start where the system is

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

I don’t really know. I almost got started in Electrical Engineering. I did get my Bachelor’s degree in Control Systems Engineering. At one point later in life I was invited to apply for the Physcian’s Assistant program at Wake Forest. I was a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician at the time.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

I tend to get involved in many different areas. Engineering, software, systems, teams, communication, problem solving, personality types, NLP. While my immediate focus shifts based on my context, this breadth helps me as I work with others.

What drives you ?

The gap between what is and what could be.

What is your biggest achievement?

Helping create the AYE community. We started in 2000 after Jerry Weinberg said, “If you could have the conference you want, what would it look like?” At the time no other conference (that I know of) had three hour experiential learning sessions, much less ALL the sessions being three hours and experiential. We focus on keeping the “confer” in our conference by limiting participation making it possible to create connections that continue after the trip home.

What is the last book you have read?

Why Software Gets in Trouble by Gerald M. Weinberg. It’s part his work converting the four volume Quality Software Management series into ebooks. I’m currently reading Maslow on Management, Visual Meetings, and re-reading The Fifth Discipline. Did I mention I get involved in many different areas?

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

I’ve heard you have a nice hand with teams. What’s your secret for gaining their trust?
In order to gain trust I have to give trust. I trust team members want to do a good job. If something odd happens, I trust they’ll correct the problem and we’ll move along. I start where the team is, yet create a picture of what the team could be. I provide a positive influence. Additionally I demonstrate I’m trustworthy. Reciprocity goes a long way in establishing trust.

Who do you think I should ask next?

  • Dennis Stevens. I like his approach to introducing managers to both the benefits of improving their work systems and the practical approach of continuous improvement.
  • Peter Saddington has enthusiasm and energy around helping teams become more productive and developers enjoy their craft.
  • George Dinwiddie possesses the rare combination of technical craft and team skills.
  • Esther Derby has breadth and depth of knowledge, experience, and practical tools that add up to insights you can use.
  • And Jerry Weinberg. Like many I’ve had the chance to learn more about myself in his courses. Unlike most, I’ve had a chance to learn from working with him creating the AYE Community. He’s an encyclopedia in a sound bite world.
Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And Don’s answer to the question: What’s Next?