Who is Esther Derby

Time for another publication of “Who Is” answers. This time I chose Esther Derby.  Esther was proposed by Johanna Rothman & Don Gray

Esther has the wisdom of a 90 year old, with the body of a 16 year old. When I write it down, it feels more like an insult than a praise. But when you read her answers, you will see that she worked hard on both parts. Of course her goals were not based on 90 or 16 year old’s. But she had an end in mind when she began and more important, while she worked on herself.  I hope Esther forgives me for talking about her that way.

Esther was the first author I asked for help without knowing her. I no longer remember how she reacted, but I still ask strangers for help 😉
I once saw her doing a 1 (or was it 2) hour presentation with only 3 slides. One of which she had a formula on it and no words. The word presentation is actually wrong as it was more a dialog. Although the content was not new to me, the refreshing style helped me in forming my mind. Her Agile Retrospective book is one of the books I have bought dozen’s to give away.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

My fore-bearers on my mother’s side came to this continent in the 1600s to escape religious persecution in Europe. I’m not sure what their beliefs were….there have been a number of changes in religious affiliation down the generations, all of them sincere.
This history makes me less inclined to hold onto One Truth–and not just where religion is concerned. Our belief systems always involve choices. Those choices play out on two levels. First, there’s the choice of a frame or belief system guides our life. Second, there are the choices that are shut off by our chosen frame and the choices that open up that frame.

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

I have no earthly idea. At university, I studied studio arts and art history. I figured out pretty quickly, though, that

  1. there weren’t many jobs in the field
  2. I wasn’t cut out for the sorts of jobs that were available.

So I thought about what I liked to do, and what I was good at: seeing patterns, solving problems, thinking logically. And I remembered the flow charting template my father gave me when I was 9 years old–perhaps it was all set in motion then.

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

I have this little voice that sometimes asks “Who do you think you are, Sister, acting like something special?” On one hand, this voice can undercut my confidence–if I let it. On the other hand, it keeps me from turning into an egotistical fat head who believes all the praise quotes and press blurbs— and thinking I’m more special than anyone else.

What drives you ?

I don’t know if “drive” is the right word to describe what motivates me. Perhaps “What pulls me” is more accurate.
Many years ago, I spent some time thinking about the life I wanted for myself. Then I set about creating it.

My endeavor is to stay on course with that vision, and think about the choices that will get me there. Those choices are the guide star.

Let me give you an example. One of the choices I made was to maintain fitness and flexibility. Now, I don’t always want to go to the gym at 7:30 in the morning. It’s easy to choose the newspaper and another cup of coffee over the gym. But rather than get hung up on the secondary choice (go to the gym), I focus on the primary choice, maintaining fitness. Once you make a few primary choices, the secondary choices are pretty easy. When the primary choices are clear, both my conscious and unconscious minds are tuned into them.

I check back on my choices from time to time, and my picture of the life I want to live. I may make some adjustments, either in my vision or in my primary choices. But for the most part, I’m living the life I want, and most of the time I’m insanely happy (though since I’m extremely introverted, it might not show).

What is your biggest achievement?

Oh, that voice is is telling me I’m not so special and that if I did it, it must not be a big deal! Shaddup!

Let’s see.

I unlocked the golden handcuffs at a big corporation, walked away from a pile of options that were two years out from vesting and started my own business. I’ve co-authored two books. I’ve written over 100 articles. I learned how to ski at age 38. I’ve got a great life and I’m happy.

What is the last book you have read?

More than I have kept my books, my books have kept me.

I’m currently reading Building Trust by Solomon and Flores (business), Lonesome Dove (pleasure, got sucked in by the mini-series while visiting the in-laws last week), The Bush Tragedy (civic participation), and listening to The Culture Code (while running).

I the last month or so, I read Leadership and Self-Deception, Beyond Budgeting, Cutting for Stone, and The Political Mind.

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

“What brings you happiness when you work with others?”

Ah, interesting question. I don’t always like getting on a plane to go to work, but I do like the people I’m with once I arrive. I enjoy helping people see different options that will help them operate more effectively in their lives, on their teams, and within their organizations. I really get a kick out of helping someone see their organization as a system and discover a whole new range of explanations and possibilities. I find that when I’m not happy at work, it’s usually about how I am choosing to frame something….

Who do you think I should ask next?

George Dinwiddie. He brings a unique set of skills, intelligence, curiosity, kindness, and playfulness to his work.
Rashina Hoda, who has done some really interesting research on self-organizing teams (her PhD work on self-organizing teams is available online).
Jukka Lindstrom, who has boundless curiosity about how people and organizations tick.