The video I just posted doesn’t show all the slides. In practice, there isn’t a Powerpoint deck that I can post, because many of the slides are hand-drawn by me during the talk. So, instead of slides, here’s a summary of the key points.

Improving our people skills can

  • Make our projects more successful
  • Encourage gender equality in IT
  • Make us more satisfied in work (who hasn’t felt stressed due to inter-personal difficulties!)

Anyone can learn people skills

  • If a nerd like me can do it, I reckon anyone can!

(Good) Negotiation consists of

  • Separate people from the problem
  • Focus on interests not positions
  • Generate options for mutual gain
  • Use objective criteria

(From the book Getting To Yes)
The two in the middle, about interests and options, crop up again and again in IT.

Getting your idea said

There’s great stuff in the book Crucial Conversations.  Just a few of the techniques that I’ve found useful are:

  • Offer new options (as per Negotiation, above)
  • Tell your true stories
  • Present your concerns, explicitly as concerns.

Helping others get their ideas said

  • Ladder of inference (from Chris Argyris, via the book Discussing the Undiscussable)
  • Ask for their concerns, in a way where the implied right answer is to offer information

(Again, there are many other techniques from sources such as the books mentioned above.  The talk covered only a sample).

You’re not obliged to “win” meetings

To be persuasive

  • Inquire to understand their Interests
  • Inquire to understand their reservations about your proposal (“Debug your pitch”)
  • Be open to the possibility that you might be persuaded (genuinely believing this takes stress off you, and is fun once you get used to it).

Effort to learn

  • It takes about as much effort to learn this stuff as it does to play tennis.
  • Gradual practice works
  • You can get value out of your learning early on (months, years even, before you’ve “finished” learning)

This material is

  • Powerful (“project-saving” kind of powerful)
  • Different (much, much different from the average book or course on people skills – most of which are very poor)
  • Learnable
  • Useful at home too


  • … if employees came to your company because it had a great interpersonal culture.

Follow-up blog posts

  • Here are the follow-up posts which I promised at the end of the video. I’m still posting new ones approximately weekly (resuming Feb 2014)

Summary “slide”

Showing the “arrows of communication” in both directions.


2 comments on “Key points in the video

    • Hi James. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. I’ll remember your suggestion about slides. Can’t do it right now because I’m really busy. But now that you’ve pointed it out I can see it would be a good idea for me to do it when I have time.

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